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Get to Know Your Local Wine Guy - Matt Kluchenek of Mind's Eye

By Carrie Becker in Food on Dec 2, 2010 9:20PM

In his day job, Matt Kluchenek is a lawyer, but his passion is his wine. A Hinsdale native, Matt and his wife, Maria, make the trip to Napa Valley no less than half a dozen times a year to tend to their budding wine label, Mind’s Eye. The couple tapped into the trend of celebrity winemakers bringing on board winemakers from the famed Opus One and Clos Du Val to make what that land is known for best - big red wines, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon.
We sat down with Matt to get to know him, his wine and how his wine life intersected with his real life.

How did you get into the wine business?

Well I have to give credit to my wife. Maria is Italian and when we were dating she was like "we’ve got to go to Italy." We both enjoyed wine at that stage but once we were there we really just explored wine through and through and I think that’s when I really got hooked. I mean, you are driving along through Montepulciano and Montalcino. It was great to immerse ourselves in the culture, the food and the wine. After Italy we did a number of wine travels to France, Finger Lakes, NY, Napa, Central Coast, Canada. As part of that process and over the span of seven or eight years, in our Mind’s Eye we started to develop an idea of the type of wine we wanted to produce and share with others. So that’s really where we got the name and also that wine is about exploration. We wanted our wine to develop and evolve as it sits in the glass.

Tell me a bit about your wine.

Almost all our grapes are grown in Napa. We produce Syrah from vines in Oak Knoll, Cabernet Sauvignon is grown on Howell Mountain and Merlot and Petite Verdot is grown in Coombsville. Not a lot of people have heard of Coombsville but that area really produces luscious Cabs and a phenomenal Merlot.

We are on our second vintage this year. When we launched last year it was interesting for us; the recession was horrible and especially with restaurants. Everything I read was premium wines are not just down they are just not there, but we had really good feedback. We ended up selling out. We bottled in Sept and sold out by the Holiday. We were able to get into Gibson’s Steakhouse, Blackbird, Ditka's and il Poggiolo.

So all your grapes are from California and your home is in Hinsdale, any reason why you have decided not to tap into the Illinois terrior and join the local wine movement?

Wonderful effort but the grapes for red wines are just not here. They are not the grapes that we have in our mind’s eye for making our wine. There are some very nice whites I have had, especially Rieslings in Michigan. L. Mawby in Northern Michigan produces some great sparkling wines that are really cool. But, Cabernet Sauvignon doesn’t grow here and that’s our grape. At some point it might be fun to feature an Illinois wine but we’ll consider a white.

Why do you think the trend to drink local wine been slow to pick-up?

Some consumers are parochial and just drink what they know. But if you are going to tout a wine, it better be pretty good. I’ve had a lot of the reds here and they don’t meet our expectations. People don’t think of Illinois as wine.

What’s a good tip for novices who are trying out wine?

Be adventurous and explore. Don’t confine yourself to what you hear from critics or wine scores.