Sunday, April 13, 2008
Here Comes the Wine ...
This month I reached a professional milestone when a story I wrote for the food section of the Sun-Times was published. Even though I've had my name at the bottom of a story in the paper before, as a contributor (thanks to Steve Patterson), this was my first sole byline, which was kind of thrilling. The only bad thing about the whole experience was that the story (and accompanying sidebar) did not appear in the North Zone papers, just those that went to the (I presume) South Side and south suburbs. So none of my friends on the North Side or north burbs got to see my story in print, unless they happened to buy that day's paper down south. No matter, I got a few copies which I can photocopy and send to anyone who wants to see the story in all its glory.
Or you can just click on this!
The idea was to do something fun with the new NHL Alumni wines that have come out in six cities. I thought instead of having wine "experts" give their opinions, we'd get together some people who are more into hockey than wine or who like wine as well as hockey. Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley, and CBS2 news anchor Rob Johnson, who both play hockey, graciously agreed to take part in the tasting, as did Tom Moro, who owns Johnny's Ice House, the Near West Side ice rink where recreational players play, in addition to where pro hockey teams practice. We weren't able to snag a sommelier, however, which I wasn't too disappointed by. I e-mailed a relatively well-known Chicago sommelier, who never got back to me. Little did we know, though, that Rob Johnson was actually quite the expert on wines, which was very cool. I worried though that the panel was a bit too male, so the editor, Janet, suggested we get Sun-Times sportswriter/columnist Carol Slezak to take part, suggesting she'd even twist Carol's arm if need be. Slezak, even though she apparently doesn't ever need to be in the office, agreed to be part of it and set aside time for my silly little wine tasting, on an otherwise busy Friday afternoon.
I was really nervous about the whole thing, especially since I was asking people who have some pretty important things to do in the late afternoons to take an hour out of their day to hang out and drink and talk about wine. If they were worried about missing some other appointment or being late for a meeting or a news broadcast or anything, none of them let on in the least bit. The panel may not have had a lot to say about the wines, but they all talked as if they had been pals for years and the hour was a pretty enjoyable experience for me, and I hope it was for them, as well. I just feel badly that the pictures that were taken weren't bigger in the paper, especially since Mike Quigley wore a Blackhawks jersey that the team had given him. Rob Johnson also gave the other panelists a mini lesson in how to hold your wine glass and how to get the full taste and aroma of the wine, which was way cool.
It's weird that the two stories I have so far written that have had a hockey angle to them -- this story about the NHL wines for the Sun-Times and the story I did a bunch of years ago for the Chicago Free Press on the Chicago Gay Hockey Association -- have kind of spotlighted stereotypes which are not necessarily true -- gays don't care for hockey, hockey fans would rather have a beer than a glass of wine -- but I really do love the sport and if I think there are any misconceptions about it or its fans, I don't mind being the one to have a part in dissolving those misconceptions, even if it people (or I) might want me to get to a point where I can just write about the sport without pondering the sociological aspects involved.
As for food writing, if it's as much fun as this story was, I can't wait to do more of it.