I've been busy on the tasting circuit this week. Last night I hit up another tasting, this time at Viva Le Vine in Libertyville.
I've been going to tastings at Viva Le Vine since I moved to the area 4 years ago. The shop has a strong focus on Northwestern (Washington/Oregon) wines, and a good all around selection as well. Their staff is very personal and good at finding a wine that meets your tastes. Their wine tasting host, Craig, is very knowledgeable, and had personal experiences with the wineries he would serve wines from. In fact I was starting to get the impression that Craig had visited every winery in the Northwest.
I've always liked the shop, and so it came as a surprise when they closed up back in February. I was very disappointed, and missed the monthly tastings. Recently though, the shop reopened, and last night I got an opportunity to stop in and taste some wines.
In the past tastings were once a month for 3 days over a weekend. The tasting was always themed around something: Spanish Wines, Holiday Wines, etc. This tasting was different though. Viva Le Vine has made every Wednesday a tasting night. In addition they are keeping the monthly tastings, but it is unclear if there will be themes to any of them. The tasting consisted of 7 wines with no clear theme tying them together. Wines came from Alsace, South Africa, Roselle (yes the Chicago Suburb), Australia, and Oregon. All of the wines we tasted fell into what I consider the "value" range. $10-$20. Most of them were good. There was a Cherry Wine thrown in there that didn't seem worth opening, and an Australian sweet rose that failed to impress. In the end there were a couple of great value reds including a "Sincerely" Shiraz from South Africa. One other thing to note about the tasting was that it wasn't put on by Craig, but by someone who I gathered was his daughter. She was very friendly, and happy to tell us about the wines, but the knowledge didn't seem to flow quite as readily when we asked about some of the bottles.
The store was pretty much the same, though it had been reorganized and expanded a little bit. I still feel like the store is set up more for an employee to find you something, rather than for browsing, but the employees seem good at this, so I don't mind too much. There is an expanded section in the back and the new "Reserve Room" is in the space that used to be the tasting room. In the very back there is a table set up for tasting. Its a little disappointing that they lost that nice tasting room ,but sometimes you need more space for inventory if you're gonna stay afloat.
For me, the jury is still out on the shop. It doesn't feel quite as quaint as it used to, and I'm not sure about the tasting format. I'll have to see how a weekend tasting goes before I make any judgements. If you're looking for something to do on a Wednesday Night in Libertyville, head in, you can't beat a free tasting.