Wine tasting your way at Trifecta Grill
Mary O'Neil demonstrates the wine dispensing machine at Trifecta Grill. | Photo by Natasha Wasinski
Updated: December 9, 2012 6:06AM
Unleash your inner sommelier.
Some crisp, fall evening when you’re craving a heart-warming red wine but don’t know if it’s a fine cabernet, a mellow merlot or something more exotic you want, treat yourself to a wine-tasting.
Better yet, suggests Trifecta Grill proprietor Mary O’Neil, stop by to create and serve that tasting for yourself. Or bring friends and make it a party.
An adults-only lounge, the 21 Club, in O’Neil’s urban-chic restaurant at 501 Chestnut St., Winnetka, provides a unique style of wining. It’s self-serve dispensary carries 28 varieties of wine you can sample in three tasting sizes.
While personal tabletop beer and liquor taps made the rounds in Chicago a few years ago, wine had been overlooked. Trifecta has the remedy for that.
To the best of the O’Neil’s knowledge, her self-serve wine dispenser is the first and only one in the area. The concept was new to village officials, too, who only narrowly approved a special liquor license the past spring.
The instant service is an obvious perk, she said, but so too is the ability for novice drinkers to feel comfortable.
“It’s a very non-pretentious way to educate yourself about wine,” O’Neil said. “You can read it, you can taste it, you can sample it.”
Seven computer-driven units house temperature-controlled bottles of wine that dispense full- and half-glass servings as well as one-ounce tastings.
Imbibers load money on a special club card which they will insert into the vending machine holding the wine of their choosing. Then they select a serving size and watch the wine pour.
With the exception of needing prices programmed and emptied bottles swapped out, the system does most of the work. Its smart technology measures and charges the appropriate amount for a bottle’s pour down to the last drop.
New reds and whites from around the world are offered every two to three weeks.
“The beauty of the machines is we can change the bottles out any time,” said restaurant manager Stephanie Strauss. “We’re not stuck with certain types of wine.”
Some wines run upwards of $50 a glass. Six-ounces of Belle Glos Pinot Noir, a top seller, costs $28.40. A taster serving of the red is $4.70.
While most glasses are priced near the $15 mark, those thirsting for more can indulge as they will, without breaking the bank.
As Strauss put it: “Where else can you try a $150 wine without buying the bottle?”
Interest in the do-it-yourself drink machines has spilled beyond the suburban borders.
“We thought we were just going to keep some of the locals from going downtown (to Chicago),” O’Neil said, “but now we’re getting some city folks as well.”
She said she found a niche with Trifecta Grill by developing a sophisticated restaurant with an urban feel minus the commute and congestion of the city. “We wanted to experience that type of fun dining experience, not just the experience of eating somewhere,” O’Neil said.