I know you’re not supposed to “judge a book by its cover” but I have to admit, when I buy wine, I judge the grape by its label. I know enough about wine that I can order a glass from a restaurant menu without embarrassing myself, but when it comes to retail, I like to buy something that will look pretty in my refrigerator.
Shallow? Superficial? No, just the perfect excuse to shop at The Poison Cup, a hybrid wine and art boutique in Lincoln Park that stocks small production wines at all price points. Along with California Cabs and Chilean Sauvignon Blancs, the walls of the shop are lined with works from local artists that owners John and Erica Witte source from nearby galleries.
The shop is small, cozy and stocked with popular wines – from light, sparkling wines to sultry dessert wines – including a Quintay Clava Sauvignon Blanc from Casablanca Valley in Chile ($12.00), Claiborne & Churchill Pinot Noir from the Edna Valley in California’s Central Coast ($25) and Frank Family Cabernet from Napa at ($48). The Poison Cup also stocks a selection of craft beers, artisan cheese and gourmet foods from local vendors.
“Wine is a very social, friendly and neighborly thing – meant to be enjoyed by everyone, everywhere, every day of the week,” said Erica Witte. “Our favorite wine changes like the wine, but currently, [John and I] are loving COHO Michael Black Vineyard, a gorgeously dark and dynamic Merlot.”
With over 100 wines, The Poison Cup sources quality wines made from passionate wine artisans, but they advise their customers to “ignore the score” when it comes to the popular points systems used to rate wines.
“There is great wine out there that simply hasn’t been rated. There are also plenty of highly ranked wines that are pedestaled for no perceptible reason,” said John Witte. “Buy by region or grape and get to know the wines you like through comparison. When in doubt, ask your trusted local wine shop or a friend for guidance in finding the style of wine that you like.”
The shop, which doubles as a private event space for alumni, nonprofit and corporate groups as well bachelorette, birthday and bridal shower parties, offers regular wine tastings that are free and open to the public. Local wine distributors offer complimentary tastings on Fridays from 6pm – 8pm and if you struggle to pair the perfect wine with your favorite eats, a new soon-to-launch series will offer wine pairings with food from local restaurants for just $25 per person.
If you prefer to take home artistry on a canvas instead of a bottle, you can also shop the local art hanging throughout The Poison Cup. The Wittes, art enthusiasts themselves, make it a priority to frequent art shows around Chicago.
“A few we have found by happenstance as we just happen to stumble on an exhibit at other galleries,” they said. “One of our favorite artists, Michael Van Zeyl, just happened to be showing at the county treasurer’s office as we went into to pay a tax bill and we soon featured his work.”
In addition to wine tastings and food pairing sessions, The Poison Cup offers a paint night series, great for anyone who wants to sip wine, enjoy light appetizers and pcreate their own masterful work of art with a local art instructor.
The Poison Cup, 1128 W. Armitage. For more information or to sign up for classes, call 773-935-1325 or visit www.thepoisoncup.com.