The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2012

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Page 131 of 140

THE WHO'S WHO Forceorces Driving W hen people mention "Chicago" and "alcohol" in the same breath, the images of Prohibition and Tommy Gun–punctuated mayhem might come to mind. Although the Windy City still has blowhards and brawlers, things have calmed a bit on the beverage ramparts. Still, there are restaurateurs, wine directors and buy- ers who pistol-whip old and tired beverage programs, blasting away with more edgy initiatives. Sure, there's a consistent market for watery beer, insipid Merlot and Maraschino-muddled Manhattans. But the recession, technology revolution and selective consumers are driving the market in all directions. Some Chicago purveyors have a more keen sense of anticipation: They preside over huge hotel properties, conduct fi ne dining, brandish cool gadgetry or embrace a neighbor- hood atmosphere. THE TASTING PANEL had a chance to visit with some captains of Chicago's imbibing programs— people who set a high bar in the heartland: Daniel Freedman, THESE BUYERS ARE AT THE HELM OF CHICAGO'S BEVERAGE MOVEMENT by Tom Caestecker, Jr./photos by Jay Schroeder Beverage Manager, Certifi ed Sommelier: Fairmont Chicago/Millennium Park The Fairmont is no street-corner boutique. It's one of Chicago's top convention hotels, with the 680-plus rooms pampering a well-heeled clientele, and the wine program repeatedly wins awards and plaudits. So Daniel Freedman has no small task: Ensure that exquisite Piedmont Barolos, Napa Cult Cabs and Bordeaux have top billing on the wine lists—but exalt the virtues of Cava for bubbly, or an obscure Roero instead of Sauvignon Blanc. "It's crucial to have things from off the beaten path," Freedman says. "Even though price can be a big factor in a guest's purchase, we want to provide something to remember. That builds a rapport. Guests might really enjoy a less-expensive South American Chardonnay. It's about the experience—something memorable the guest can take home. This helps to drive sales and return visits." Freedman knows Chicago and January mean trouble. That's when he'll pop the cork on something special—and not inexpensive, either. "During the winter, I'll look in the cellar for something off the charts and pour it by the glass at $20," he said. "By getting that in people's hands, it creates a lasting connection." Daniel Freedman is the Beverage Manager— and a Certifi ed Sommelier—at the Fairmont Chicago/Millennium Park. november 2012 / the tasting panel / 131

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