CHICAGO Entertaining a group of oenophiles? Here's a look at three close-to-the-Loop wine shops—and one champagne bar—that host group tastings.
1. Noble Grape, which opened in West Town earlier this month, is a 900-square-foot wine shop with a design that incorporates eco-friendly paints and sustainable cork floors. Selling international wines, beers, and spirits (most bottles go for less than $30), the space can host receptions or wine tastings for 40. Hosts can bring in caterers of their choice; the venue can also provide cheese plates or contemporary American fare, or arrange for deliveries from neighboring Italian or Asian restaurants. Noble Grape offers Wi-Fi access, and staffers can assist with audiovisual equipment rentals.
2. The Lincoln Park wine shop Poison Cup, open since April, hosts receptions or wine tastings for 50. Catering can come from the shop's restaurant partners, fondue spot Geja's and Dee's Asian restaurant; the venue also works with a small list of personal chefs, and hosts are welcome to bring in their own caterers. Co-owner John Witte, a professional photographer, can shoot events for no additional cost.
3. Just Grapes, a four-year-old wine shop in the West Loop, houses a private wine cellar on its lower level. With a mounted LCD projector, a 6- by 8-foot screen, nine seminar tables, microphones, and Internet access, the cellar can host meetings for 42 or receptions for 60. The entire venue can accommodate receptions for 250, and Just Grapes staffers can lead teambuilding activities and wine tastings, bringing in food pairings from preferred caterers such as the Entertaining Company.
4. Pops for Champagne, a nearly 30-year-old Chicago institution, moved from Lakeview to River North in 2006. On its lower level, the champagne bar and restaurant houses a1920s-style jazz club that can host receptions for 75 or seated dinners for 50. On street level, the Pops Champagne Bar has a chandelier that comprises four 42-inch glass panels which can broadcast pictures, videos, or logos. The main bar area can be bought out for groups of 80 or more, and can host receptions for about 200. Just off the main bar, a tasting room with cathedral doors can seat 50 or host receptions for 75. Executive chef Andrew Brochu oversees the restaurant's seasonal menu, which includes items such as barbecued soft shell crab with lime puree and lemongrass-marinated watermelon.