Down Cellar with Jim Bryant

Barrington resident Jim Bryant is pursuing his passion and love of wine as an international wine consultant. This follows a 30-year career in senior financial and general management positions at two Fortune 100 companies. He is the owner of James R. Bryant L.L.C.; contact him at


January/February 2016

Chapoutier Vineyards and Wines

On June 25, 2015, after a great tour and tasting at Guigal, we drove a short distance to Maison M. Chapoutier in the town of Tain-l’Hermitage. As I wrote extensively about these two producers in recent Quintessential Barrington issues, I will focus only on the tasting and lunch.
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November/December 2015

Lyon and Northern Rhône, Part 1

On June 24, 2015 we left our hotel by bus and went to the Gare de Lyon. We boarded the Très Grande Vitesse (TGV) midmorning and had an enjoyable twoplus-hour trip to Lyon traversing the bucolic countryside.
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September/October 2015

Wining and Dining in Paris

During the week before the sixth annual Crystal wine and food cruise I organized, most of the participants (25 of 31) opted to go on a Rhône Valley land-based tour. Most of these chose to spend a few days (2- 7) in my favorite city in the world, Paris. My wife and I, as well as most others, spent three days and nights there discovering and/or rediscovering many of Paris’s intriguing sites.
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July/Aug 2015

A Symposium on Chablis and Food Pairings

On April 8, 2015, several friends and I attended a wine and food pairing event at Blackbird restaurant in Chicago. It was organized around the Chablis wines of Domaine des Malandes, a winery with which I have had little experience.
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May/June 2015

A Dinner to Remember

On the first day of spring, my wife Pat and I drove to Nashville, Tenn., where we spent the weekend with our close friends, Denice and Milton Johnson. We met in 1999 when I worked for Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) as a consulting partner with Ernst & Young. At that time, Milton was ‘starting down the wine road’. We dined weekly during that year I was in Nashville—all the while focusing on my passion of marrying wine with food.
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March/April 2015

Amalfi Coast Jewels

After our four-day Tuscan wine and food extravaganza in June 2014, we headed to Rome to board the Crystal “Serenity” for a seven-day cruise from Rome to Venice. While one could make the case that the 23 people who were on the pre-cruise had been over exposed to wine and food, I wanted to offer an extraordinary wine and food discovery to the first 20 of the 43 people on the cruise who signed-up for the limited space event.
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January/February 2015

Blissful Bolgheri

After two days in the heart of Tuscana, our wine group headed west through hill country into Bolgheri. This part of Tuscany borders the eastern shore of the Mediterranean known as the Tyrrhenian Sea, between Livorno and the island of Elba.
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November/December 2014

The Road to Tuscany, Part II

Knowing that it would be hard to measure up to the first day of our Tuscan wine adventure, I felt confident that the visit to Fontodi would meet the challenge. For sure I was correct.
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September/October 2014

On the Road in Tuscany

In early June 2014, a subset (25) of the people on the Crystal Rome to Venice cruise with me went on a 3-night, 4-day Tuscan wine adventure.
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July/August 2014

Top Value Red Wines

This article will focus on the best red wines currently in the marketplace. Many wine writers believe that the best wine values come from spain, and I agree.
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May/June 2014

White Value Wines

It has been several years since I wrote about my favorite value wines. as we finally bid farewell to one of the Midwest’s coldest and snowiest winters on record, I want to profile the best value and high-quality white wines I have discovered since my last such article.
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March/April 2014

The Northern Rhône, Part 2

In The Northern Rhône, Part I, I focused on two producers of my favorite Hermitage. A third renowned producer is Paul Jaboulet Aîné. It is most known for its top wine, La Chapelle, due to its outstanding quality during the years ending in 1991 as well as 1997.
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January/february 2014

The Northern Rhône

In my last QB article, “Que Syrah, Syrah” (Nov/Dec. 2013), I gave a cursory overview of the Syrah grape from origin to notable locations of great producers. Now I want to drill deeper into my favorite region for these wines – the Northern Rhône.
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November/December 2013

Que Syrah, Syrah

Now that the weather has turned colder, there are more occasions for big, bold reds. Many wine historians believe the Syrah grape originated in or near Shiraz, Persia, and is the oldest grape commonly available today. Many wine historians believe the Syrah grape originated in or near Shiraz, Persia, and is the oldest grape commonly available today.
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september/october 2013

Why Cellar Wines? Part II

In the March/April 2009 issue of Quintessential Barrington, I wrote an article titled, "Why Cellar Wines?" Although it suffices as a standalone introduction to this topic, I wish to expand upon this matter. The article categorized benefits in several subtopics, i.e., great wines improve with time, have appropriate wine on hand, capture great buying opportunities, asset appreciation, and joy of collecting.
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July/August 2013

Oak – Friend or Foe?

Chardonnay is one of the most widely grown grapes and popular wines, yet I often hear people say that they hate Chardonnay. And they say it with conviction. How to reconcile these facts? I think the answer, at least to some extent, lies in understanding the role that oak plays in the production of wine. Although oak impacts many aspects of wine for almost all grapes, it probably is most easily understood in Chardonnay.
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May/June 2013

Aldo Conterno, Italy loses another wine giant

On May 30, 2012 the world lost another wine giant. Aldo Conterno, owner of Poderi Aldo Conterno, died and left an immense void in the world of Italian wine. He was born in Monforte d'Alba in 1931, and was one of two famous sons of Giacomo Conterno. Aldo moved to San Francisco in 1954 to start a winery in Napa in conjunction with his two uncles. Soon after arriving in the United States, however, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in the Korean War for two years.
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March/April 2013

Favorite White Wines and Food

Over the past seven years I have written extensively about wines of the world, many of which are among my favorites. As we head into spring, I feel a focus on a few of my repetitive choices along with several of my favorite dishes might be appreciated.
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January/February 2013

Bordeaux, the Right Bank

The last two issues of Quintessential Barrington gave details of our visit to three of the most famous wineries on the left bank of Bordeaux. On Saturday, May 19, we left our ship at 9 a.m. for a visit to a lesser-known château in Saint-Émilion – Château Coutet. Alas, the best made plans go awry.
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November/December 2012

Encore Bordeaux

After our wine group's visit to Château Margaux on the morning of May 18, 2012, we had lunch at Le Lion d'Or in Arcins. This is a well-known restaurant in Bordeaux and after a nice repast, we had largely settled down from our opening experience.
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Château Margaux

On Friday, May 18, the Crystal Symphony docked quayside in downtown Bordeaux. I and 18 others traveling with me were about to embark on an unforgettable wine experience. As many of you who read my columns know, I take a few people who are serious about learning more about food and wine on an annual trip using either Crystal’s Symphony or Serenity as the venue.
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In my article on Chablis in Quintessential Barrington (July/August 2010), I wrote that it is the most misunderstood wine in the world and told why. For a different reason, I believe that Zinfandel is the second most misunderstood wine.
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The Maestro of Veneto - Giuseppe Quintarelli (1927-2012)

On January 15, 2012 one of the greatest winemakers left this world. While this is one man’s opinion, it was consistently mentioned in almost every wine publication and reference book. The wine world agreed that Quintarelli, along with one other, Romano Dal Forno, produced the greatest Amarone.
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Let’s Toast Vegetarian Dishes

For those who have known this carnivore for a long time, it really is the same guy writing this article. As I have often told my wife and others over the past four decades, if I could find more vegetarian dishes that would pair as well with wine as ratatouille does with Châteauneuf-du-Pape, I would eat less meat. Download entire story in PDF format.


A Bordeaux Fantasy

Although I previously wrote an article on Bordeaux for QB (March/ April 2007), I recently had an extraordinary opportunity to taste two different vintages of all five of the Premier Crus Classés-1855 (First Growth Bordeaux). Download entire story in PDF format.




Holiday Wines

As we head into the Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s holiday period, I would like to offer appropriate wine selections for typical foods served at each. Since many people offer some version of the same entrée at two or more of these holidays, I’ll let the food, and not the holiday, drive the wine choices. Download entire story in PDF format.


Refreshing Wine Values

In Quintessential Barrington’s May/June 2008 issue, I wrote about some great value wines in the marketplace, at that time. Since the wine market is constantly changing and we’re still in a sideways economy, it’s time for an update.
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Distilling the Fine Points of Wine

Wine drinking in the United States continues to rise, placing us in first place worldwide for total consumption. I find myself increasingly asked to explain the various wine ratings schema in the marketplace. While parts of this article may be partly redundant for some readers, regardless of the score of the rating publication, I always suggest that the customer pay close attention to the wine’s description, instead of its score.
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Pairing Guests and Wine

Enjoying wine seems universal, yet some wine lovers share unique challenges. I want to tell you about two such common malaises and a solution to same. I have a severe case of “wine acquisition” disease, but admittedly want no cure.
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Just Desserts

Dessert wines in general don’t go in and out of favor as do certain grape varietals. Rather, they tend to be consumed more when life slows down such as vacations, holidays or as the finale to leisurely meals. Yet, for whatever reason, dessert wines are not currently as popular as they have been historically. As a result, prices for these elixirs have not kept pace with similar quality dry wines.
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Wine at Sea

One of the most enjoyable ways to learn more about wine and food is to book a cruise on an upscale ship which focuses on wine and food. While many cruise lines have offered find food and wine for years, the last decade has witnessed further focus in this area. The leading players in this field include Crystal Cruises, Oceania Cruises Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silerveas Cruises and Windstar Cruises. Smaller but also luxurious alternatives include The Yachts of Seabourne and Sea Dream Yacht Club.
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Well Red

Red wine pairing seems more visceral to me, at least with less expensive wines. I love temperanillo, the most widely planted red wine vine in Spain. It produces some of the most food friendly wines I have found. Download entire story in PDF format.


Pair Shaped

As those who read my wine column know, I usually talk about wine and food pairings. However, I felt that a recap of some previous suggestions and the addition of others would be appropriate for an easy reference. Download entire story in PDF format.



I believe Chablis is the most misunderstood wine in the world. While it has been one of my favorite wines for decades, there is considerable confusion about the appellation. Much of the problem originated because the United States did not sign the Treaty of Versailles which ended World War I.
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Wineries and Art

In a previous issue, I attempted to answer whether wine is art. While that article was more philosophical in nature, this piece will focus on several wineries that are art as well as wine centric.
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In “Uncorking the Mystique of Wine Ratings,” (QB, Sept./ Oct. 2007), I pointed out that many tourists return from vacations in wine producing regions certain that wine tastes best when consumed where it is produced. The main reason why this seems likely is that people are generally in a better frame of mind while on vacation and the local wines taste best with regional food.
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JAN/FEB 2010

In Pursuit of Wine Knowledge

As I note d in the Is Wine Art? article (September/October 2009), there are several books that are helpful in building one’s wine knowledge foundation. As noted also, there is no substitute for doing homework and actually drinking wide varieties of wines from all over the world. When you consider that everyone’s palate is somewhat unique, it makes more sense to make your own decisions about your favorite wines than to permit even the savviest writer to overly influence you.
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NOV/DEC 2009

Pinot Noir Wines Holy Grail

Whereas Cabernet Sauvignon grapes can produce excellent wines throughout the world, most wine aficionados believed the only great Pinot Noirs were from France. Most of the worlds greatest Pinot Noirs do come from the Burgundy region of France, but one can buy excellent examples from California, Oregon, and New Zealand.
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Is Wine Art?

Is wine the elixir of life? Some, myself included, think so, but whether you concur or not, a closer examination may be worthwhile. Although there are many students of high quality scotch, bourbon, rum, etc., thankfully, the lower alcohol level of wine permits one to indulge responsibly and still enjoy social settings whether at home or restaurants.
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Argentinas Best

Having recently returned from a three-week trip to South America spent mostly in Argentina, I have to admit that Im a believer. It was certainly one of my all-time experiences. This is a country that elicits strong feelings. From the cosmopolitan and historical European influenced capital of Buenos Aires, to the vast, open unsettled arid high plain desert, to the majestic Andes stretching high into the sky, its almost unbelievable that so much can be packed into one country and be so easily accessed. Read on.
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Summer Wines

As winter finally relinquishes its hold, its time to focus on white, red, and rosé wines that are generally lighter in style than their winter counterparts. Read on.
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Why Cellar Wines?

We in the United States live in an instant gratification society. This is apparent when text messengers seek this option as opposed to cell phone usage. As a longtime wine collector, I find it incredible that almost all wine purchased in this country (95 percent) is consumed within three days. While not in this category, almost all of my wine collection moved here 25 years ago has been consumed. Why do I believe so emphatically in cellaring wine and how did I come to this decision? Read on.
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Winter Wines and Food

As many of you who know me best, I drink almost no wine without food. Fortunately, I have lived most of my life with someone who knows as much or more about food preparation than I know about wine. As I often tell my wife, Pat, if she were not such an outstanding chef, I would not be so vertically challenged, weight wise.
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French Fantasies

Allow me to set the stage for you to discover one of life's greatest gifts. With the approaching holidays, this seems to be a good time to focus on dessert wines. They tend to be consumed more when life slows down with vacations, holidays, or the finale to gourmet meals.
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Wine Tasting Wisdom

I spend much of my life trying to expose others to some of the treasures of the grape vine I've found by venturing off the beaten path. In almost all cases, my greatest enjoyment comes from feedback along the lines of "How did I get to be this age, believing that wine was so important to my life, only to discover that there's so much I didn't (don't) know that gives me great pleasure?"
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Coasting into Central California

Sometimes it's not only about the wine, but the whole package. Last March, my wife and I, together with another couple we've known since college, went to California’s Central Coast seeking such a “whole-package” experience. While the other three people in our party appreciate wine, it is not as important to them as it is to me, so some balance was required.
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Vintage Values

From the perspective of wine heights, I think it is largely true that the greatest wines are expensive. However, as with food, personal tastes in wine often dictate preferences as much or more than the price. Many wine aficionados are able to justify discretionary spending on long-lived items such houses, cars, yachts, and great bottles of wine, especially when these items are associated prominently with the owner's status in the community at large. But because it takes a lot of time and hard work to build a database of favorite wines, others prefer not to invest the time in researching their options. Ergo, most wine buyers are looking for great values - low prices at high ratings.
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Hail a Cab!

For most wine experts, Cabernet Sauvignon represents the Holy Grail of wines. During most of the past three centuries, it most assuredly represented the apex of most connoisseurs' wine game. In large part, this was and still is due to the long history of success growing Cabernet Sauvignon in the Bordeaux region of France. However, Cabernet Sauvignon is relatively easy to grow and accordingly is now available from many parts of the world.
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Drifting into Port

As winter settles in for the long haul, my attention turns to Port, which seems to ease the harshness of the season. Port is one of the easiest categories of wine to understand. Essentially, there are Tawny Ports and Vintage Ports, as well as minor subcategories such as Ruby, Late Bottled Vintage, and Single Vineyard Ports.
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Ah, Tuscana!

While I believe my heart belongs to Piemonte, I've come to believe my soul belongs to Tuscana. As many of you know, I have been going to Piemonte to harvest for more than a decade, and even though I currently import wines from only this region, I realized I always found an excuse to visit Tuscana on these trips.
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Uncorking the Mystique of Wine Ratings

As almost all serious wine consumers know, wines are rated by many individuals and institutions and graded on a point scale. Robert M. Parker conceived the widely used 100-point scale in the late 1970s, and most others have more or less adopted it. I acknowledge the need for reference points, especially for those just starting out on the wine adventure, but I would like to offer some insights.
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Stories from My Wine Travels

One of the benefits of having traveled extensively to vineyards throughout the world is meeting some very interesting people and gathering up some very fond memories and fun stories. One of my closest friends (who has heard all these stories) suggested I relay a few for others’ enjoyment. Lest I forget, anyone who missed my homage to Len Evans in the November/December issue of Quintessential Barrington should reference that article about the wine person who most impacted me.
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Most wine aficionados are well aware that Robert M. Parker is one of the most influential people in the wine industry. Through his publication, The Wine Advocate, he rates various wines on a scale of 50 to 100, and many retailers have a love-hate relationship with him. If Parker rates a wine above 90 points, retailers have a hard time getting the wine, and if it rates 89 or below, they can't sell it.
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The Fine Wines of Bordeaux

While it’s true that there has never been so much good wine available from so many worldwide viticultural areas, the currently available and highly praised 2003 and 2005 Bordeaux varieties now being offered give us a wonderful reason to look at this famous region.
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Jimmy’s Wine Rules

Over the past 40 years of serious studying and drinking wine, I have developed what I call “Jimmy’s Rules,” which I hope might facilitate your own learning curve in the enjoyment of great wine. Santé!
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In Memoriam: Len Evans

While I always enjoy bringing you the latest information on great wines, this month I wanted honor one of the wine industry’s most notable individuals, Len Evans of Australia, who died on August 17, 2006. Len was the most famous personality in the history of Australian wine. He is known to be the person who conceived the strategic plan behind Australia’s significant wine success story of the last ten years. But Len was far more than a successful businessman.
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Exploring Great Barbecue Wines

As the temperatures moderate in September, I spend more time thinking of wine and food matches. Even into early fall, weekends are serious barbecuing time. It’s still warm enough that great shellfish and fish can be cooked outdoors, and they go well with the wines reviewed in our last two issues. Try wild salmon with one of the French Chardonnay wines we’ve discussed, or pick a Pinot Noir as many in the Pacific Northwest do. Alternatively, grilled shellfish go perfectly with any of the “ABC” (Anything But Chardonnay) wines from our last issue.
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Calling All ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) Wine Enthusiasts

Many wine lovers have reacted to the Chardonnay overload of recent years by moving to the “ABC” (anything but Chardonnay) school of choosing wine. And great alternatives to Chardonnay do abound.
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Chardonnay. Earth’s Ubiquitous White Wine

The consumption of Chardonnay in the United States continues to lead all other wines. Yet many sophisticated drinkers and knowledgeable wine enthusiasts lament the current obsession with the grape and lean toward the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) school. Why the great divide?
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The Wine of Kings, and the King of Wines

The cooler temperatures of late winter and early spring beg for a hearty red wine, so let’s take a trip to my favorite wine region, Piemonte. It’s an Italian region that includes Torino (the site of the February 2006 Olympic games) and is the home of Barolo, a robust red often described as the “wine of kings and the king of wines.”
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