French wines, American food, and an Airstream trailer


One of the frequent complaints I hear from friends concerning wine is the huge culture of pretense and snobbery that sometimes permeates the wine community.  Happily, I recently attended a wine dinner that took the pretense, threw it out the window, and focused entirely on the concept of enjoying fine wine as an accompaniment to great food without bothering to focus on nose, finish, terroir, or any of the other wine terms that can be inexplicable to the average diner.


Urban UnionWines of France has embarked on a tour of the Midwest promoting the joys of French wine, starting off in Chicago, with stops in Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Dallas and Houston, before rolling in to New Orleans on the eve of the Tales of the Cocktail.  The major difference on this particular wine tour, however, is that Wines of France has rented a vintage Airstream trailer and is hitting these cities to promote not only the great wine, but the concept that great French wine can be paired easily with quintessential American food.  They are taking the pretension out of the process and focusing entirely on having fun, eating excellent American food, and teaching people just how friendly, accessible, and affordable French wines can be.


Last week, I attended the kick-off event on this funky wine tour, an evening of delicious wines paired with food from Urban Union’s chef, Michael Shrader, hosted by Laura Levy Shatkin (veteran food and wine critic for the Chicago Reader) and Michael Bottigliero (the Windy City Wine Guy).


Tomato and Avocado salad at Urban  Union

During the course of the evening, an intimate group of diners was treated to five courses, each paired with a superb French wine.  We started the evening enjoying the Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose, a perfect light wine to start on a hot summer evening.



The first course was a Tomato Salad with Avocado, paired with Muscadet Sevre et Maine, a surprisingly dry and light muscadet which paired perfectly with the richness of the avocado and the citrusy dressing.


Faro and Arugula salad with sparking rose'

The second course was a Dandelion Green Salad with anchovies, paired with an excellent white Bordeaux.  This was a great complement and definitely helped smooth out the bitterness of the greens and the saltiness of the anchovies.


Course number three was another salad, this one with Faro and Arugula, paired with Sables d’Azur Rosé.


Braised oxtail with Chateauneuf du PapeFinally, we had two meat courses.  The first was braised rabbit and the final course was an unbelievably tasty oxtail braised in red wine.  These were paired with Domaine du Vieux Lazaret Chateauneuf-du-Pape, our one red wine for the evening.  Truly excellent and a perfect pairing with the rich meat courses.


What did I take away from this tasty and super fun event?  Three major points:


  1. Excellent French wine is affordable, delicious, accessible at any price point, and can pair wonderfully with any type of cuisine.  The wines we tasted at Urban Union are all available in Chicago and probably nearly anywhere.  Try them out!  Wines of France continues their exciting Airstream journey!  Follow their adventures at: 
  2. Visit Urban Union.  The food is superb and they have a seasonal menu that changes frequently based on what is fresh and available.  Of all the “farm to table” restaurants I have tried recently in Chicago, this is one of the best.  Check out their website at and you will see what a superb menu they have, both for food and cocktails.
  4. Follow the Windy City Wine Guy on Twitter, on Facebook, and at his website.  Michael is tremendously knowledgeable and passionate about wine.  Best of all, he truly understands that the secret to getting people to become wine lovers is to break past that psychological barrier about “snobbery” and teach them that wine is for everyone.  In his own words, “I am ready to break down the barriers.  I want to show that wine is for everyone: the golf pro, gym teacher, construction worker, corporate executive and police officer.  If a southside Chicago guy can love this tasty beverage, so can you!”







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