With the 10th annual UnCork Barrington wine and food tasting event coming up on July 11th, we thought we’d share a closer look at this year’s featured wines and check the 10-day extended weather forecast for Barrington.  According to Weather.com, it looks like Mother Nature will be serving up sunny skies and a high of 80 degrees for Barrington’s most anticipated outdoor wine festival of the year from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday, July 11th!

Uncork Barrington 2013 - Photographed by Liz Luby Chepell
Uncork Barrington 2013 – Photographed by Liz Luby Chepell

UnCork will take place in the tent pavilion at the Metra north commuter parking lot at 201 S. Spring Street in downtown Barrington.  Attendees will be able to taste everything from “Napa Valley Knockouts” to “Old World Wonders” so there’s sure to be something to please every palate!  From the area’s biggest wine enthusiasts to our more strictly social sippers, this year’s guests will be treated to a tasting like they’ve never experienced in Barrington before.

In the past, UnCork wines were categorized by the region in which they were produced, and a passport guided attendees through their tasting travels.  Instead of tasting by region, this year Vin Chicago, UnCork’s Gold Sponsor, will be grouping the wines by categories including: Napa Valley Knockouts * Fantastic Food Pairings * Big, Juicy Reds * White with Everything * Best of the U.S. * Smooth Blends * Great for Grilling * Wine for Entertaining * Old World Wonders and Summer Sippers.

Uncork Barrington 2013 - Photographed by Julie Linnekin
Uncork Barrington 2013 – Photographed by Julie Linnekin

Jen Blair, the sommelier who manages Vin Chicago’s Barrington store, says they decided to regroup this year’s wines based on feedback from their customers.

“People usually come into our store looking for a wine for a specific purpose – they have a menu planned, or need a wine to gift.”  These new categories mirror clients’ needs, and provide purpose-driven groupings that make for easy referencing.

In addition to selecting the event’s 50 featured wines, Vin will provide 10 additional top-shelf wines for guests who purchase tickets to UnCork’s brand new VIP tent this year.  The premium wines included in the VIP tasting are priced from $50 per bottle and up. (GET YOUR UNCORK TICKETS HERE.)

Jen Blair and Jim Matthews, Vin’s two certified sommeliers in Barrington, are pulling out all the stops as they assemble this year’s wine tasting menu.  To learn more about this year’s featured wines, I was lucky enough to have my own private wine tutorial with Jen and Jim at Vin.

Vin sommeliers Jim and Jen with some of their top picks for UnCork Barrington 2014 - Photograph by Susan McConnell
Vin’s sommeliers Jim Matthews and Jen Blair with some of their top picks for UnCork – Photographed by Susan McConnell

We spent some time at Vin’s tasting table, where Jim gathered a few of their favorites. Their passion for wine is infectious, and their knowledge and humor made the tasting process more informative and more fun.

UnCork’s main tasting categories feature wines that are generally $30 and under, with many hovering right around $15 per bottle. “That’s kind of a sweet spot for an everyday wine, and you can get a great wine at that price,” Jen says.

All of the selections can be purchased by the bottle or case during UnCork at Vin’s everyday low price, and will be available for store pick-up the following week.  If you buy a case of a single wine, Vin will give you a 5% discount.  As a bonus, when you buy wine at the event, Vin will e-mail you the write-ups for each wine you’ve purchased.

Uncork Barrington 2013 - Photographed by Julie Linnekin
Uncork Barrington 2013 – Photographed by Julie Linnekin

For those seeking a premium tasting experience, Jen says the new VIP ticket is the way to go.  But they’re only offering VIP access to a limited number of people and those tickets are selling fast.

“For $90 a ticket, you’ll have a chance to taste 10 wines that retail from $50 and up, your own comfortable seating area, and a lush tasting experience.”  And with only 100 tickets available, you’re guaranteed a spot in the shade for sipping wines like Sean Thackrey’s “Orion” Rossi Vineyard St Helena Red Wine 2010 ($99.99/bottle) and Stonestreet’s Alexander Mountain Estate “Upper Barn” Alexander Valley Chardonnay 2011 ($61.99/bottle).

Post - Uncork - Wine Bottle

For a taste of this year’s UnCork Barrington wine groupings, Jen walked me through their selection process for four of this year’s categories, sharing her take on some of the wines.

“We looked for the best examples within every category, and a great price range,” Jen says. “We’re always concerned with the price-to-quality ratio. We also tried to mix it up – we’re hoping tasters will discover some new unexpected favorites.” She says that while they’ve included some recognizable wines in each category, you’ll also find some lesser known boutique wines that more than hold their own.

A Napa Zinfandel: Hendry "Lots 7 & 22" Napa Valley Zinfandel 2011 - Photograph by Susan McConnell
A Napa Zinfandel: Hendry “Lots 7 & 22” Napa Valley Zinfandel 2011 – Photographed by Susan McConnell

Napa Valley Knockouts

“Napa Valley is the most well-known wine region in the U.S., and there’s a prestige that goes along with that in the wine world,” Jen says.

“It’s the price-to-quality ratio that we get really excited about: This Hendry is available at $29.99, and it’s single-block, two different lots, and a gorgeous, balanced Zinfandel that gives you that happy, jammy fruit but doesn’t blow you away with alcohol. It’s a perfect example of what a great, well-balanced Napa Zinfandel can be.

And of course the Napa category has to feature a Chardonnay and a Cabernet, the most well-known wines from the region.

Artesa Carneros Chardonnay 2011 is “creamy, and features flavors of baked apple and spice.” And Jen loves Educated Guess, the featured Cabernet: “To find a Cab out of Napa for under $20 is pretty outstanding – this is a great wine.”


Fabulous Wine Pairings

Jen says the South African Simonsig Chenin Blanc 2012 is a perfect food-pairing wine: “It’s great with Thai food, or taken to a BYO, or anything that’s spicy. You don’t see a lot of single-varietal Chenin Blanc unless it’s out of South Africa or France – with Vouvray and Savennieres, for which you’ll pay more money.”

Vin recently co-hosted a dinner at Barrington’s NEAR Restaurant, and the wine maker Marramiero attended. “My new obsession is Marramiero’s Dama Cerasuolo 2012,” Jen says. “It’s a Rose of Montepulciano, and I can’t say enough about it. It’s a dry Rose that’s perfect with food: I love it with salmon, spinach salad – or all by itself just sitting on the patio enjoying summer!”

Marramiero’s Dama Cerasuolo 2012 will be available for tasting at UnCork, and can be purchased for Vin’s everyday low price of $13.99.

Jen's summer obsession: Marramiero "Dama" Cerasuolo 2012 - Photographed by Susan McConnell
Jen Blair’s summer obsession: Marramiero “Dama” Cerasuolo 2012 – Photographed by Susan McConnell

Big Juicy Reds

For the Big Juicy Reds category, Jen says they look for wines that “aren’t overly tannic, have lots of fruit on the palate, and burst with berry-cherry happy goodness.” They’ll show everything from Taittinger’s Domaine Carneros to Montes’ “Classic Series” Colchagua Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2011. “Some people complain that red wines make their mouths feel really dry,” Jen says. “The Shingleback ‘Red Knot’ McLaren Vale Shiraz 2012 is an example of a wine that’s just really smooth, and not at all astringent.”

White With Everything

In the White with Everything category, Vin features five extremely versatile, gift-able wines. “You can bring any of these to a picnic, or a graduation party, and it’s going to work out well.” Charles Smith’s “Kung Fu Girl” Columbia Valley Riesling 2013 is featured in this category, and made Wine Spectator’s top 100 wines last year. Vin’s review says “this oh-so-refreshing, food friendly Riesling gives flavors of citrus, apple, peach and white blossoms, capped off with zesty lime finish. BYOB sushi here we come!”

Uncork Barrington 2013 - Photographed by Liz Luby Chepell
Uncork Barrington 2013 – Photographed by Liz Luby Chepell

And there are still six more categories and many wines left to explore – your new favorite wine awaits!

For the full 2014 UnCork wine list, CLICK HERE.

If you prefer to enjoy your wines by the glass instead of sipping, there will also be several wines available for purchase by the glass at UnCork Barrington this year, including:

  • Veramonte Colchagua Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
  • Bogle “Essential” Red 2011
  • Jaume Serra “Cristalino” Brut Cava NV
  • Villa Maria “Private Bin” Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013
Uncork Barrington 2013 - Photographed by Julie Linnekin
Uncork Barrington 2013 – Photographed by Julie Linnekin

Behind each tasting table, there will be a Vin staffer, a distributor, and a volunteer – all ready to pour and answer any questions you may have.  (If you’d like to become a volunteer, CLICK HERE.)

Intimidated by wine? Jen says this is the perfect place to taste and figure out what you like. “It’s impossible to know everything there is about wine – that’s what makes it so interesting. You don’t need an encyclopedic knowledge of French varietals to enjoy wine – you just need to know what you like.”  Jen also loves that, at a tasting, you don’t need to feel committed if you don’t enjoy a wine. “If you love it, you love it.  If you don’t, you move on.”

TICKETS to taste Vin’s 50 fabulous selections at UnCork Barrington are just $40 if purchased before 12 p.m. on Thursday, July 10th or $50 thereafter. (There’s also a combination ticket available for UnCork & BrewFest, which is held the following day.)

Guests will receive a tasting passport to guide them through the event; a souvenir wine glass etched with the 2014 Uncork Barrington logo; hors d’oeuvres from many local restaurants; and wine information from Vin’s expert sommeliers. Tickets can be also be purchased at the door, and $25 designated driver tickets are also available for those who don’t plan to taste the wines.

To purchase tickets online, CLICK HERE.  You can also purchase your tickets in person at Vin Chicago (311 E. Main Street) or Heinen’s Grocery. (500 N. Hough Street).  For more information about the event, visit UnCorkBarrington.com.

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