The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2011

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Page 92 of 128

ON-PREMISE PATTER Meet Mark Molitor I photos by Tori Soper Mark Molitor is Corporate Wine Director for Harry Caray's. Since 1987, Harry Caray's Restaurant Group (HCRG), has proven to be one of Chicago's most dynamic and success- ful restaurant management companies. The enterprise currently operates six restaurants and an off-premise catering company. t was Christmas 1978 that Mark Molitor received a gift that would be the impetus for his present-day career. He was 19 years old, and his parents bestowed on him a book that would prove to be his primer for a future education. "It was Hugh Johnson's World Encyclopedia of Wine," he recalls. "I think they bought it because I had an interest in geography." Less than ten years later, Molitor and a friend looked into a liquor store that was for sale in Elgin, a suburb about 40 miles outside Chicago. "We were just a couple of greenhorns," Molitor confides, "but we were determined to give this business a go. I knew that the sales reps didn't think we'd survive, but at 25, I actually developed a liking for wine and wanted to learn more." Turning a drive-in liquor store into a fine wine shop was a feat in 1984. Molitor eventually impressed his reps, and by the time he sold the business five years later, he began working for one of the top distributors in the area, Heritage Wine Cellars. "I learned so much more about wine from selling it," he claims. He eventually began working with restaurateur friends to build their wine lists (Bistro Banlieue in Lombard and Philanders in Oak Park, respectively), which would eventually help earn awards. "At that point, I felt there was not much left to do to help them," he notes. So, Molitor turned to the want ads. "It was Sunday at 2 a.m. and I saw the job description: Wine Director wanted for Harry Caray's in Chicago. I sent in my resumé an hour later and got a call Monday morning." Harry Caray's Italian Steakhouse, named "Best Steakhouse in Chicago" by the Chicago Tribune Dining Poll and Best of Citysearch Poll, is named for the radio and television voice of the White Sox and then, the Chicago Cubs, until he passed away in 1998. The restaurant is home to a museum-quality collection of sports memo- rabilia, original newspapers and photographs. Tasting with Mark Although Mark convincingly sells a majority of red wines to match with Harry Caray's notable steaks, he finds the occasional white wine that is good enough to be a "two-glass" wine-by-the-glass. "We're bombarded with wines to sell, so I have to really choose the wines that will please my guests and encourage the sale of that second glass." He found that in the Roth Sauvignon Blanc, Alexander Valley. "It's a mouth- watering style with tropical undertones," he offers. "I find it crisp and bright with grapefruit, lime and underlying melon—and the finish goes on and on." Roth 2010 Sauvignon Blanc is paired with Harry Caray's "Best Chicken Vesuvio in the City," an honor documented by Chicago Tribune restaurant critic Phil Vettel. 92 / the tasting panel / october 201 1

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