Collin Moody still has a Houston mobile number, though he’s been in Chicago for nine years. A veteran of Red & White and Perman Wine Selections, two venerable Chicago wine stores, he opened Income Tax Bar in 2016, five days before Christmas. “You know, you get your license, and you just go,” he says. Named for a classic cocktail, Income Tax Bar has become a destination for wine, the list focused on France but ranging as far out as the Republic of Georgia, with short stops in Austria, Italy, Spain and the US. Moody’s wine sales have continued on an upswing since he opened, but he’s shy to take credit for it. “Chicago’s having a moment with wine right now,” he says.
Cocktails vs Champagne
Our list is bare-bones, not Terroir-style in terms of editorial [like Paul Grieco’s list style in NYC]. But whenever I think of Champagne, that’s when I want to put in scrawled red letters across the list “Champagne is wine! It’s the most food-friendly wine on planet and you should drink it with everything.”
When we have that old-school customer, a four-top of two couples, they’ll ditch a round of cocktails at the beginning of the meal, and that’s the replacement for that Champagne moment. But it’s even hard to sell some of my wine-loving regulars on Champagne: I have one who will come in and go through six, seven bottles [of still wine] and then ask for something bright and refreshing to wake up his palate. Last night, I said “Let’s do some bubbles.” And he said, “Yeah…we’ll do riesling instead.” Even if you’re talking the same price point, they think, Oh, I’m not celebrating.
Syrah as a variety has been constantly overperforming—particularly syrah blends. Recently, I put a Faugères on by the glass, and it was the highest performing by-the-glass placement in a single day that I ever saw. Another workhouse glass pour that moved to the bottle list was Fontanès Pic St-Loup from Kermit Lynch—that was a runaway hit. Northern Rhône syrahs, too: right now, we’re working with Texier; before that, Equis, from the son of Alain Graillot. Those are selling, seemingly without the sort of fervor from staff that usually accompanies sales like that.
Grüner has done really well. People seems to have basic familiarity with it; they understand they can swap it with sauvignon blanc, for instance—that it’ll be similarly herby, high acid.
Older good buys
We’ll occasionally find a ten-year-old bottle of Burgundy we can price under $100—people will always buy that. And I always want to sell great Bordeaux—people think it’s lame but it’s not; there’s really great stuff being made, and I work with auction houses to pepper list with older stuff. It’s a bit of a roulette: There’s always the opportunity for loss through corked or damaged wine, but people really appreciate having access to older wines. Even if they aren’t expensive—it could be a ten-year-old Muscadet for $50—people notice and appreciate the chance to taste it.
is W&S’s editor at large and covers the wines of the Mediterranean and Central and Eastern Europe for the magazine.