The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

A Wine Bar From The Men Who Brought You "Smut And Eggs"

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Jan 10, 2006 2:30PM

Think of a wine store in this this city. Usually the first thing that comes to mind is a superstore like Sam's or Binny's. You've also got Randolph Wine Cellars and the Wine Discount Center if don't want to get lost in a warehouse; or smaller boutique shops like Que Syrah on Southport if you don't want to immerse yourself in the cultivated haughtiness of a wine bar.

Now you can add Lush Wine and Spirits to the mix. Located in the University Village Marketplace on South Halsted, Lush is the latest offering from Mitch and Cliff Einhorn, the tongue-in-cheek proprietors of the Twisted Spoke and Pie Hole. When Chicagoist found out who owned Lush we had a hard time grasping the idea of a wine store owned by the guys who brought us "smut and eggs Saturdays" and a spirited stab at barbecue called "Bone Daddy" with the catch phrase "I've boned me a lot of pigs!!" But in the often-stuffy and overly serious world of wine the Einhorns' ability to not take themselves seriously is a welcome relief at Lush. It turns out that they're big wine buffs. Mitch Einhorn admitted on our Monday visit to the store that the Twisted Spoke once had a progressive wine program, but jokingly said that "we had a hard time getting folks to pronounce anything other than 'red' or 'white.'"

Lush focuses on boutique vineyards, with a selection of about 150 wines. Forty-eight of these wines are priced at ten dollars or less for us frugal shoppers or bargain wine hunters. Our two visits to Lush yielded us some wonderful finds. Saturday we left with a bottle of Tobin James "Liquid Love": a late harvest zinfandel that can be drizzled over ice cream and pies or savored by itself ($19.50 for a 375 ml bottle). Monday we left with a bottle of Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel ($10.50) Renaissance Brut French sparkling wine ($9.50), and a wish list item for future purchase, Red Zeppelin Syrah ($18.50).

And yes, we said tasted. Under the gentle but exuberant guidance of Erica Feldkamp, an oenophile and history buff whose evident love for her job is palpable and contagious, Lush has tastings of their selections throughout the day to allow for more informed selections and a relaxed selling approach. "We don't want to just hold tastings on the third Thursday of each month," Einhorn said. "We taste food every day. Why shouldn't we taste wine every day?" A corner seating area is stocked with wine guides- including the highly touted Sotheby's Wine Encycopedia- so that customers may research varietals or blends you may want to purchase. In upcoming weeks Einhorn and Feldkamp hope to have a computer station installed with a software program allowing customers to keep their tasting notes in the store for future reference.

2006_01_Lush.jpgLush carries a select inventory of craft beers and spirits- you'll find an emphasis here on bourbon and armangac. That isn't surprising coming from men who have Jim Beam on tap at the Twisted Spoke. If you visit you'll also want to make note of the chandeliers above the tasting bar. They double as wine glass racks; if you really like them the folks at Lush can order them for your home.

After years of watching the the slow construction of University Village it's nice to finally see it start to come to life. Lush Wine and Spirits is a welcome, offbeat addition to the near south side. Lush Wine and Spirits is located at 1306 S. Halsted. They're open daily from noon through 10 p.m. and the phone number is (312) 738-1900.