Most Chicagoans know that, despite the rapid demise of dirty snow mounds and increased bird chirpings (and droppings) that spring usually takes the long way around. Nevertheless, the long-awaited equinox and sunsets-minus-the-shiver aren’t far off. So, it’s a great time of year to experiment with white wines that aren’t retailers’ deplete-the-inventory merchandise or the marketing darling of mega producers.
The market is, in fact, becoming flush with wines billed as perfect for the patio or deck. That’s not to say that they aren’t any good, but the excess of overly branded Pinot Grigio or a fit-for-airline-Chardonnay obscures the more unique and interesting selections. Some are even top-of-mind varietals, but grown in areas often not associated with them—or stylistically different from their more visible brethren.
While many rumble through winter with booming red wines, the toothsome and the tannic become a little tiresome when Chicago temperatures exceed… wait for it… the low 50s. Although actually planning a March or April patio dinner is foolhardy in these parts, the brooding and luscious reds have held forth all winter. It’s now time (especially with an extra hour of daylight in the p.m.), to let enticing whites have their moment in the sun—but placed in an ice bucket. —Thomas Caestecker