Derrick Westbrook, The Pour 02/22
Joy in a Glass
Sommelier Derrick Westbrook’s new Chicago wine shop shines a light on Black-owned vineyards—but what it’s really about are the bottles that bring him joy.
After shaping his perspective at restaurants like NEXT and Elizabeth, sommelier and self-described “wine-culture curator” Derrick Westbrook is bringing a new approach to the Chicago “slashie.”
Just before the pandemic, I took over a bar and wine shop in Chicago’s West Loop with two partners. Juice @1340 is what Chicagoans call a “slashie”: part-bar, part-shop.. Buy something and take it home, or drink here—that’s the real heart of what a slashie is. We’re a neighborhood joint, and definitely a stylish one. What we sell is a reflection of what we like.I rotate by-the-glass pours that reflect what I’m currently excited about: say, a sweet Malbec or a skin-contact Pinot Grigio. Typically when you build a wine list, you’re beholden to making the highest margin or finding wines with the broadest appeal. By-the-glass options give me freedom to be whimsical, unbound by the barriers of business.
If distributors lead with the fact that a wine is Black-owned or woman-owned, I get annoyed because I don’t want that to be the barometer. The way I can do minority-owned, woman-owned, Black-owned wines is that I focus on it and I don’t care about it at the same time. There needs to be representation and I’ll bring it up when it’s pertinent. But I didn’t decide to sell Black-owned wines; I decided to sell really dope wines. The highest show of respect you can pay a wine is to judge on the merits of yummy or nah. Here are five bottles that fall into the yummy category, and just so happen to come from Black winemakers.
5 Bottle Recs
Brown Estate Chaos Theory, $40 – This earthy, dry blend from Napa Valley was the first Black-owned wine that reflected my palate and love for beautiful, bold Napa reds.
Maison Noir Wines New Noir, $25 – Michelin-level beverage director-turned-winemaker André Mack is the gold standard for every sommelier. His much-anticipated New Noir takes skin-contact wine to another level.
Bodkin Wine Cuvee Agincourt, $25 – This wine was the first sparkling Sauvignon Blanc produced in the U.S. It’s everything you’d want from a dry sparkler.
Michael Lavelle Rosé, $25 – This screams Black boy joy! Many think rosé is just for the summer, but this one works year-round because its acidity and brightness cut through hearty meals.
Aslina Sauvignon Blanc, $20 – This is a new gem out of South Africa that underscores simplicity as a pillar of quality. It’s easy to drink and zippy.