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by guest blogger and New York writer Seanan Forbes

Doug Frost holds a rare combination of titles. He is one of three people to be both a Master of Wine and Master Sommelier. That's worldwide, thank you very much.

He's also a founding partner of Beverage Alcohol Resource (a killer program for high-end bartenders). Frost has forgotten more about wine, spirits and cocktails than most of us can ever hope to learn.

It's not surprising that he thinks in original terms -- and occasionally lets loose with a phrase nobody else would utter. Consider this recent one on the subject of cocktails: clarity of flavor.

"What is that?"

Wednesday Wines: Hugel call

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By guest blogger and New York writer Seanan Forbes

Watching former Chicagoan Belinda Chang taste wine for the Modern in New York is a little bit like watching a fencing match when you don't know a sword from a shovel - even if you do know a glass from a grape.

Chang processes information and makes decisions while anybody else would still be assimilating the flavor of a wine. It's not a small responsibility. In a major restaurant, we're talking tens of cases: not small change.

This is definitely the Olympics, and not a college fencing team. The houses that court Chang's attention are the top ones in the world. Their wines set the standards for elegance and quality.

To call Hugel a firm that produces some fine wines is to call Barack Obama a politician who makes some tough decisions. Head to Hugel's Web site and you'll note that the timeline starts in 1639. That's job experience.

Jean Frederic Hugel looks like an undergraduate student and speaks of wine with knowledge and fervor, as if 370 years of winemaking were cellared in his brain.

In the course of fifteen minutes, Hugel pours eight glasses for Chang: Pinot Blanc Cuvée les Amours 2006, Gentil 2007, Riesling 2007, Riesling Jubile 2007, Muscat 2005, Gewürztraminer 2007, Pinot Gris Homage a Jean Hugel 1998 and Gewürztraminer Vendage Tardive 2001. Along with the wine come adjectives, suggestions and an occasional note about history or production.

Pouring Pinot Blanc, Hugel remarks, "The wine is never in contact with the wood. Every ten years, we go into the barrels and clean them."

Those are some big barrels.

By guest blogger and New York writer Seanan Forbes

As temperatures drop, chilled white wines begin to lose their appeal. What's a good grape for the cool-shifting months? Belinda Chang, former Chicagoan and wine director of the Modern in New York City, remembers writing the wine notes for Charlie Trotter's Meat and Game. She liked Cabernet Franc then, and she likes it now.

Chang views Cabernet Franc as an exceptional red "for transition times."

She's not just talking seasons. It's an excellent wine, Chang says, "for transitioning in the meal. It's great when you're going from lighter wines in a meal to a heavier, richer red wines."

Another asset: "It's one of the few red wines that goes well with vegetables. If you have a lot of green in a dish that can pose a problem for a Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, for Syrah - but Cabernet Franc is pretty amazing."

Red wine with greens -- it makes sense, once Chang explains it. "If you look at the classic descriptors for Cabernet Franc, it's invariably described as being leafy, sappy or herbaceous ... green. With that, you find that it pairs with any dish that has a strong green component. That's part of its brilliance as a red wine grape varietal."

By guest blogger and New York writer Seanan Forbes

In the bustle of The Modern, the restaurant attached to New York's Museum of Modern Art, Belinda Chang is a sanctuary in comfortable heels, carrying an easy air of smiling calm.

Seeing her in passing, you might think she was someone's guest, about to be spoiled with an elegant meal. You'd never guess that she was the hard-working wine director of the high-end restaurant.

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Chang is more than up to the task. She's worked her way around the country, from San Francisco to -- now -- New York. Chicago is Chang's hometown, and she's served in some of the city's finest. She was a sommelier at Charlie Trotter's, corporate director of wine and spirits at Rick Tramonto's Centinare, and wine and service director for some of Tramonto's other Chicago restaurants, including Osteria Via Stato and Osteria di Tramonto.

If you ask Chang, hers is a fabulous job. "I'm having," she says, "the time of my life. For each point in time, there's a right place to be. Right now, for where I am in my career and in my personal life, New York is the most amazing place I could be."

Chang's been in New York for a year "and a few months". How has her life changed since moving to New York?

Her daily commute is a lot easier. In Chicago, she had a daily drive to the city from Buffalo Grove. Now, she has a five-minute walk to work. In fact, just about everything in her life is within walking distance of home.

The walk to work may be short, but Chang puts in the miles underground -- not in the subway, but below the restaurant. The cellars are a trek from the restaurant -- and there's a lot of wine. The Modern's current list runs 43 pages, and some of the bottles bear the restaurant's label. Next door, in MoMA, art may hang on the walls. Here, it's in the glass and on the plate.

What are Chang's choice wines of summer? She likes Edelzwicker, although "like" may be too weak a word.

About the blog

Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Sommeliers category.

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