Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Celebrate National Wine Day May 25 at Benny's Chop House

Wine has been an important aspect of human culture for thousands of years. Archaeologists in Speyer, Germany discovered the oldest bottle of wine in existence while excavating two Roman stone sarcophaguses in 1867. The bottle dates back to at least 325 AD. It is now on display at the History Museum of the Pfalz in Germany.

In spite of wine's longevity as a worldwide cultural staple, one might think that National Wine Day on May 25 was created with Benny's Chop House in mind. Benny's, a modern and sophisticated take on the traditional American steakhouse (444 N. Wabash, Chicago; 312-626-2444) has made its wine program one of the finest in Chicago.

Many restaurants like to boast about their Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. Yet Benny's Chop House surpasses them-it is one of a select few restaurants in Chicago that has earned the Wine Spectator "Best of" Award of Excellence.

According to Wine Spectator, the "Best of" designation gives "special recognition to restaurants that clearly exceed the requirements of the Award of Excellence. These lists typically offer 400 or more selections, along with superior presentation, and display either vintage depth, with several vertical offerings of top wines, or excellent breadth across several wine regions."

"We have succeeded in creating an exceptional wine list that wine lovers will truly appreciate," said Mitchell Schmieding, Benny's Director of Operations. "Nothing makes a wonderful dining experience more memorable than an excellent, enjoyable glass or bottle of wine. Since our menu includes a great variety of dishes in addition to our USDA Prime Natural steaks, Prime Dry-aged steaks and Prime Wet-aged steaks, we have built a wine collection that complements many different foods while catering to a wide range of wine preferences."

Benny's also has a unique wine locker program that enables frequent guests to purchase wines from the wine list by the case and store them on-premises in climate controlled lockers.  

Benny's Wine List features many hard-to-find New World and Old World wines, by the glass or bottle, at a variety of price points. "We search for wines that are excellent values at whatever price level," said Schmieding. "Quality and variety are our most important criteria, and we make sure that all of our guests are given excellent guidance from one of our Sommeliers in picking the wines that fit their mood and choice of meal."

Wines by the glass range in price from $11 to $35.  Benny's will also serve a 3-ounce "half pour" serving of any wine by the glass. The pinnacle of the wines by the glass is the collection of Fine & Rare Selections, stored using the EnoMatic® preservation system which keeps the wines in their most pristine condition through the use of argon.  Benny's also offers two outstanding private label red house wines by the glass which are delicious and exceptional values: Benny's Chop House 2006 Merlot and 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, both from Howell Mountain, California and priced at $17 per glass.

Benny's wines by the bottle are extensive and wide ranging-more than 1,200 labels are on hand.  Bottles range in price from $34 to an eye-popping $4,500 for the exceptionally rare and prized 2003 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti en Magnum, Èxchézeaux Grand Cru. Benny's stocks more than 200 white wines by the bottle, covering numerous styles and points of origin. Guests can choose from Champagnes and sparkling wines, including the increasingly popular Brut Rosé. Other white wines include Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Rhône Varietals, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, Gewürztraminer, Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois, Spanish Varietals, Mediterranean Varietals and Rosé.

In keeping with its status as a top-tier steakhouse, Benny's stocks nearly 1,000 red wines that comprise a world-class collection from across the wine spectrum. The Pinot Noirs emanate from the Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune and Côte Chalonnaise regions of France but there are also selections from Germany, Austria, Slovenia, South America, New Zealand, Oregon and California.

Benny's Rhône wines originate in the Northern and Southern Rhône Valley of France as well as from the Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence regions, plus Australia, Washington and California. The Bordeaux wines come primarily from the Pauillac and Saint-Èstephe, Saint-Julien and Margaux regions of France, but there are also Bordeaux-style wines from Italy, New Zealand, Chile, South Africa and domestic versions from Washington and California.

The Cabernet Sauvignon collection comes primary from the United States, including the Napa Valley region and Washington. Other excellent selections originate in Australia, while there are some delicious Cabernet Franc wines from the Loire Valley of France. Merlot selections are domestic, from California and Washington, while the Malbec wines are from France, Australia and Washington.

Benny's wine list continues with an extensive collection of interesting Spanish red wines. Tempranillos are primarily from the La Rioja and Castilla-León regions, with a few domestic versions from Oregon and Washington. Wines made from the Spanish Garnacha grape are from Priorat and Catalonia regions of Spain.

Italian wines are well represented as well, with Sangiovese wines from Toscana; Barbera and Dolcetto wines from Piemonte; Nebbiolo wines from Piemonte and California; numerous regional wines from Barbaresco, Amarone della Valpolicella, Sicily, Umbria and Calabria.

Zinfandel lovers will find a varied collection of wines from California and Washington, and there are some interesting varietals including Lagrein, Gamay, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Pinotage from both the Old and New World that are not to be missed.

Of special note is Benny's global and domestic collection of half bottles (375 ml) including Champagnes, white and red wines, and dessert wines.  Other notable bottles include large format bottles from Burgundy, Bordeaux, California and Italy.  Benny's is home to the only magnum bottle of Quinta do Crasto Vinha Maria Teresa, from Portugal, in the entire state of Illinois.

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Photos courtesy of Benny's Chop House

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