A's List: Why I'm Really Trying to Make #SummerofChablis Happen

#SummerofChablis is just getting started. (Photo: Domaine Pascal Bouchard)

by Audarshia Townsend

#Roséallday is everywhere. From quaint neighborhood cafés to sleek, downtown lounges, you cannot go anywhere in the city without being bombarded by the robust, blush-hued vino on menus.

But with so many other great wines out there, it would be a shame to miss out on them because you’re ordering rosé during every outing. That’s why I’d like to make a case for #SummerofChablis, and get folks appreciating it in all its golden glory this alfresco season.

If you were around during the 1980s, you’d remember it well—especially if you watched “Dynasty.” The word “Chablis” rolled off Alexis Carrington’s tongue as easily as “Champagne” or “diamonds,” which lets you know that this is some high-class stuff.

But there’s more to Chablis than throwing it around like a status symbol. It boasts a fascinating background. It’s a tiny wine appellation in Northwest France’s Burgundy region that’s best known for superior Chardonnay grapes. It’s also near the Champagne region, which means that it shares the same climate and limestone soils.

That’s a very good thing, says prominent food and beverage author/journalist Rowan Jacobsen, adding that the Burgundy and Champagne regions share a “penchant for making some of the most beautiful and long-lived Chardonnay based wines in the world.” And like Champagne, the Chablis wines are great drinking wines that can stand on their own or easily pair with most foods. Wine collectors, sommeliers and others who fancy themselves as wine connoisseurs are rumored to obsess over Chablis.

Jacobsen recommends looking for young vintages (2014-15) with “fresh, citrus aromatics, austere stylings and a tightly wound structure” or older vintages (four-plus years) that are “richer, with the profile shifting towards hazelnuts, golden pear and a denser, more widely knit palate” for the best selections.

At Chicago’s top bars and restaurants, Chablis can be a bit elusive. When offered, it’s rarely by the glass, and by-the-bottle choices are typically more expensive than other Chardonnays. Here’s where to go around town to make #SummerofChablis happen.

404 Wine Bar. The serene backyard garden patio of this longtime Lakeview wine lounge is prime for indulging in a bottle of William Fevre’s Champs Royaux, a young vintage from 2014. Jacobsen says its grapes are sourced from all over Chablis, making it crisp and refreshing. He recommends it as a great entry-level wine.

Ada Street. Those looking to avoid the scene-y rooftops and patios for a more discreet venue should head to this low-key lounge frequented by Bucktown types. Ada Street’s patio is perfect for sipping the elegant J-M Brocard Premier Cru “Vau de Vey” (2014) by the bottle when a special occasion doesn’t call for Champagne. It boasts long length and a fresh finish.

Bistronomic. The chic French bistro in the heart of the Gold Coast carries one of the best Chablis finds in town. Seguinot Bordet (2015) produces one of the most popular wines from the region, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s crisp and offers a lighter finish than its competitors. It’s sold by the bottle, and is good for drinking on Bistronomic’s semi-enclosed patio that attracts many shoppers from the Mag Mile.

The French-style sidewalk patio at Maude's Liquor Bar (Photo: Hogsalt Hospitality)

GT Prime. The modern River North steakhouse boasts a new patio with seating for 32 under large umbrellas. We love that it’s surrounded by lush, gorgeous planters, making this space a fabulous find for those who can jet out early from the office. GT Prime features three Chablis by the bottle (Domaine Bernard Defaix, Vieilles Vignes, 2014; Domaine Servin, “Vaillons,” 2014; Louis Michel & Fils, “Séchets,” Chablis 1er cru, 2014), plus one by glass (Domaine Bernard Defaix, Vieilles Vignes, 2014).

Maude's Liquor Bar. You’ll also find Chablis by the glass at this dark and sexy French “divey” eatery in the West Loop. Domaine de Long-Depaquit (2015) may be enjoyed along the narrow sidewalk patio underneath generous umbrellas and a vintage-looking awning. There’s also Jean Paul & Benoit Droin (2015), which is by bottle only. While it shares the classic characteristics of Chablis (light and crisp), it is slightly fruitier.

Mon Ami Gabi. The classic French eatery is across the street from Lincoln Park Zoo, and on a beautiful day nothing beats sitting on its patio. Three phenomenal choices for Chablis Chardonnay are offered by the bottle and glass: Maison Simonnet-Febvre, Simonnet-Febvre 1er Cru Vaillons and Albert Bichot “Les Vaucopins.”

See previous A's List columns right here.