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Chicago’s Top Sommeliers Recommend Their Favorite Wines

From budget buys to splurges, these wines are top picks

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Wine bottles in a cellar.
BOKA’s one cellar.
BOKA [Official Photo]

Walking into a wine shop can feel daunting even for the most avid imbiber. It seems that the more one learns about wine, the less one knows. 10 of Chicago’s top sommeliers are here to help with their picks for their favorite budget and splurge red and whites, as well as bottle recommendations for online purchases. Their selections are below, offering a range of excellent bottles for all budgets.

Richie Ribando, sommelier at Smyth & The Loyalist
Smyth & The Loyalist

Budget Reds

Vietti, Barbera d’Asti, Tre Vigne, 2016 ($17) “Barbera’s wines are very food friendly and pair well with a range of cuisines from all over the world. They can usually be found for $15 or under, and even a longer aged Superiore that shows more richness and depth can be found for under $25. Vietti Tre Vigne 2016 is a great example.” — Ryan Berry, Acanto

Christian Ducroux, Exspectatia, 2018 ($20) “Full of truth and vibrant fruit, this old vine gamay from Christian Ducroux in Regnie, Beaujolais reflects his careful attention to soil health, promotion of biodiversity in the vineyard, and intelligent cellar work, resulting in a wine that is both focused and completely additive-free. Exspectatia sits in the coveted position of wine that is both delicious and complex, and all for a price that belies the quality.” — Kat Dennis, Red & White Wine Bar

Tenuta delle Terre Nere, Etna Rosso DOC, 2017 ($20) “I love mountain wine! Tenuta delle Terre Nere wines come from Mount Etna in Sicily. When the wines are young, they display minerality, hints of smoke, and freshness. Made from nerello mascalese and nerello cappicio, the wine feels like pinot noir decided to get dirty.” — Christy Fuhrman, Yugen

Radford Dale, Thirst, 2017 ($22) “This wine is a ‘porch pounder’ red that drinks like a rosé. I would suggest chilling this before drinking. This gamay is light, fruity, and refreshing, but not simple. In the cellar they use a method called carbonic maceration, which extracts less tannins. The grapes are picked a little early, so the wine has nice acidity and lower alcohol. This is the perfect Thanksgiving wine, and a great alternative to Beaujolais nouveau.” — Anna Regan, Elizabeth

Anne Pichon, Sauvage, Ventoux, 2017 ($15) “I am always a fan of Rhône blends, and especially Côtes du Rhône for their often high quality, yet budget-friendly price tag. This wine is beautifully rich and textured, with aromas if black cherry, currant, dried herbs, and integrated soft tannins.” — Rachael Lowe, Spiaggia

Rachael Lowe, beverage director and sommelier at Spiaggia
Spiaggia [Official Photo]

Budget Whites

Domaine de la Pepiere, Muscadet, 2018 ($13) “As winter approaches, I can pretend it’s beach season with a bottle of Muscadet. With notes of wet rocks and a saltiness that hints of the sea, this wine is a perfect foil for oyster and ceviches. It hits hard with a freshness and tartness that breathes life into my palate. A steal in a sub $20 bottle.” — Aaron McManus, Oriole

L’Ecole 41, Old Vines Chenin Blanc, 2017 ($14) “Chenin blanc has always flown a little under the radar, but is a varietal that can appeal to almost any palate. It has the energy and acid that sauvignon blanc drinkers love, and the texture and flavor that chardonnay drinkers seek. Although it can be made in a sweet style, this particular bottling from L’Ecole is dry and packed with orchard fruits, mouth watering acid, and a long, weighty finish. Washington wines offer some of the best value for domestic juice, not only for whites, but cabernet sauvignon and syrah as well.”— Kimberlee Beeler, BOKA

Famille Paquet, vin de Bourgogne, Chardonnay, 2018 ($15) “Wines from the Mâconnais can tend towards round and flabby, especially at the entry level. This producer is focused on minerality and precision, and their Bourgogne blanc has an incredible amount of depth and a very long finish for its modest price point.” — Richie Ribando, Smyth & The Loyalist

Kruger-Rumpf, Estate Riesling, 2018 ($15) “The versatility of dry riesling is undeniable, and this is a great representation from the Nahe. Fresh and easy to love, this wine will make believers out of those who think that this varietal only comes in the sweet (yet also delicious) form. Pick this up and take it to your next dinner party. It will be a sure hit.” — Jennifer Wagoner, Sepia and Proxi

Red Tail Ridge, Estate Riesling, 2016 ($17) “Riesling is always a sommelier go-to. Great value and quality is coming out of the Finger Lakes region, in upstate New York. My favorite producer is Red Tail Ridge. Nancy Irelan’s 2016 Estate Riesling is a thing of beauty.” — Charles Schneider, Webster Wine Bar

Anna Regan, sommelier at Elizabeth
Elizabeth [Official Photo]

Splurge Reds

Prunotto, Barolo, Bussia, 2010 ($90) “When it’s time for a special bottle of red, I love finding a Cru Barolo that has at least five years of age. These wines show great structure and minerality with notes of dried red fruits and firm tannin, spices, rose, and leather.” — Ryan Berry, Acanto

Uccelliera, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, 2012 ($130) “Sangiovese is one of my favorite Italian grapes, but specially the Brunello clone is one of my happy places. Uccelliera is produced in the southwest portion of the Montalcino region, and consistently produces beautiful, nuanced wines. This drinks well now, but would definitely benefit from being laid down for a while. Aromas of raspberry, brambly strawberry, licorice, smoke, and dried violets finish with dusty tannins and bright acidity.” — Rachael Lowe, Spiaggia

Domaine Clusel-Roch, Les Grandes Places, Côte-Rôtie, 2015 ($139) “When I want to splurge for a nice dinner or a special occasion, the Rhône Valley is often where I go. Complexity is the name of the game with this wine. Violets, black pepper, and bacon fat top black fruit. I can spend half of the night with my nose in the glass just smelling the wine. It’s enchanting.” — Christy Fuhrman, Yugen

Domaine de l’Octavin, Commendatore, 2016 ($140; magnum) “For the lovers. At the risk of sounding loony, the words I find myself using when I present Alice Bouvot’s wines often include those such as joyous and mysterious, musical and hydrating, mouth-watering and unpredictable. When the wines are singing, they exhibit freedom and fresh energy, tempered by a soft and nourishing spirit. Like many of the Octavin wines, Commendatore is from one of the great vineyards of Arbois in the French Jura, but vinified into a wine that eschews prestige and embraces ethereal lightness.” — Kat Dennis, Red & White Wine Bar

Domaine G. Roumier, Chambolle, Musigny, 2014 ($180) “This is Roumier, one of the greats. Effortlessly elegant, floral with intense fruit characteristics. Acute and complex in the best way. If you really want to splurge, go for their premier or grand cru bottlings — but sit on them.” — Richie Ribando, Smyth & The Loyalist

Charles Schneider, general manager and wine director at Webster’s Wine Bar
Webster’s Wine Bar [Official Photo]

Splurge Whites

Domaine Weinbach, Schlossberg Cuvée Sainte Catherine, Riesling, 2017 ($68) “I go to Weinbach when I’m looking for wines that I know will be fantastic. In my opinion, this is the best estate in Alsace. They have entry-level wines that are more affordable, but for my splurge, I’m choosing their Grand Cru Riesling. Among non-wine folks, riesling is very misunderstood. It’s the best white varietal to pair with food, and is one of the only white wines that can be cellared for decades. Many high quality rieslings are bone dry, with soaring acidity. This wine is no exception.” — Anna Regan, Elizabeth

Pierre Paillard, Les Mottelettes, Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, 2013 ($70) “If you’re going to splurge on a wine, bubbles are a great way to go. This small production Champagne from Pierre Paillard is unique in that most grapes planted in this area are red, so finding a blanc de blanc (100 percent chardonnay) from this area is a rarity. The winery uses organic farming practices and produces less than 650 in total, each year. The wine is pure and bright with orchard and tropical fruits with tight bubbles and a complex, lengthy finish. Perfect way to start off any celebration.” — Kimberlee Beeler, BOKA

Von Winning Forster, Pechstein Riesling, 2015 ($95) “Pechstein is one of the most highly regarded German Grosses Gewächs (GG) Riesling sites, not just from Pfalz, but from Germany as a whole. If you’re not familiar with GG, this is Grand Cru for dry wines in Germany. I think these wines are some of the most exciting in the world right now. They are electric, full of life, and have incredibly focused minerality. Exceptional now and even better in 10 to 20-plus years. I am all about that GG life.” — Richie Ribando, Smyth & The Loyalist

Domaine Vincent Dauvissat, La Forest, Chablis Premier Cru, 2017 ($130) “Incredible with some age and still expressive of the Appalachian in their youth, these wines are the epitome of the Chablis region. At home, I find the minerality enormously complements roast chicken baked with lemon and in my restaurant, I would happily pair this with langoustines in a lemongrass sabayon.” — Aaron McManus, Oriole

Domaine Leflaive, Puligny-Montrachet, Premier Cru, Les Pucelles, 2017 ($420) “Let’s be honest, this is beyond a splurge. However, I do like to dream, and when I do it’s generally of white Burgundy. Domaine Leflaive was my first introduction to the region years ago, and the beauty that their wines exemplify is difficult to deny. From one of Puligny-Montrachet’s top vineyards, this is a splurge that won’t give you buyer’s remorse.” — Jennifer Wagoner, Sepia & Proxi


18 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603


1729 North Halsted Street, , IL 60614 (312) 337-6070 Visit Website

Webster's Wine Bar

1480 W Webster Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614 773 868 0608 Visit Website


661 West Walnut Street, , IL 60661 (312) 877-5899 Visit Website

Websters Wine Bar Chicago

2601 North Milwaukee Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 292-9463 Visit Website


123 North Jefferson Street, , IL 60661 (312) 441-1920 Visit Website


177 North Ada Street, , IL 60607 (773) 913-3773 Visit Website

The Loyalist

177 North Ada Street, , IL 60607 (773) 913-3774 Visit Website


652 W. Randolph Street, Chicago, IL Visit Website

Red & White Wine Bar

1861 North Milwaukee Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 486-4769 Visit Website


565 West Randolph Street, , IL 60661 (312) 466-1950 Visit Website


980 North Michigan Avenue, , IL 60611 (312) 280-2750 Visit Website


4835 North Western Avenue, , IL 60625 Visit Website