Danahey on the Loose at Naperville Wine Festival

10636427_10203629635934539_1675937027085633190_o-1Best fest buddy Tom and I got our passports and documents in order, hit Route 59, and headed to the Naperville Wine Festival last Friday night.

Hey, that’s the impression we northwest suburbanites have of Naperville, that it’s a snooty town that all the other snooty towns aspire to be and where we’d be outsiders.

Hell, there are stories of people living in those big-ass vinyl-sided house subdivisions in Aurora who lie that they are actually from Naperville. And theres “north” Plainfield, which implies ties to Naperville, and “south” Plainfield which means you’re closer to blue collar Joliet. Egads!

But my stereotypes were put in check at the wine fest, held on a soggy grass quad in CityGate Centre, an upscale business park.

First, as we made our way into the grounds, two women handed us a few spare tickets they had as they already were leaving for the night. They said they liked our caps. And no, they weren’t matching. Tom’s was black and mine was blue – to match my outfit, not his.

Maybe they gave us the tickets because they thought drinking would divert our attention from them as they fled. But still, it was a nice gesture.

Then, under a hanging card noting Naperville Magazine, Tom found some wine he liked, The Immortal Zin, a zinfandel from Peirano Estates (www.peirano.com/wines.html). The misnamed location was due to a move because of swampy grass by the intended spot. 

While drinking, some younger women, maybe in their late 20s, struck up a conversation with Tom, who likes to talk about what wines taste like. I usually just not my head or say “oaky” or “peppery” or “grassy.”

I was thinking the women thought we looked like the dads of one of their friends. But still, nice.

While Tom chatted, I hit a booth from V2 Wine Group of Sonoma and learned that table as well as the Peirano one were there through Illinois distributor Louis Glunz Wines (www.glunzwines.com).934824_10203629637934589_6783628801504385791_n

If you don’t know Glunz, you don’t know your history of drinking in Chicago. The 125-year-old company was the big dog for distributing Schlitz – which ruled the Chicago market – on the North Side. It introduced smaller breweries to the Chicago market with Rolling Rock being one example from decades past and the Glunz Beer Expo offering hundreds held each spring for its clients offering hundreds more samples.

Most puzzling for this novice wine drinker was the Cooper’s Hawk had the longest lines. No offense to their product line, but why go to a wine fest and try something so readily available? Plus, Cooper’s Hawk restaurants seem like the Disneyland of winery/eateries with their souvenir shops and waits for the rides – I mean tables.

I also checked out the booth from Celebrity Cruises (www.celebritycruises.com) from whom I got the invitation to this wine festival.

Turns out the line has a 12-night British Isles Cruise among its 2015 offerings that hits Belfast, Dun Laoghaire, and Cobh, and, for some reason, Amsterdam, where there is grass, but it’s not greener, just more skunky.

I’ve never been on a cruise, and, for that matter, can’t even remember the last Tom Cruise movie I’ve seen. I do know that Irish acts host some of these big boat rides during winter, when even pasty Irish people crave sunlight. During sets filled with sad ballads they put up nets to keep the passengers from jumping overboard, Tom has claimed.

10485404_10203629637614581_1379171802904839280_nCelebrity Cruises had booklets and freebies including insulated plastic bags designed to hold wine bottles. And you also could get your picture taken in huge adirondack chairs with cruise-related props, apparently to convince your Facebook friends that Gulliver had invited you on board his luxury liner.1899909_10203629636534554_746141744849180181_n

Anyway, it was a humid-as-a-restaurant-kitchen-dishwasher kind of night, so we grabbed some bottles of water and ate some empanadas before continuing on our merry way.

That way included having a sample glass of a Goose Island brew, then more flirting with cougars at the Cupcake wine setup (www.cupcakewinery.com). Cupcake has a wine called Red Velvet. My dad-like joke was it’s chocolaty with a cream cheese finish.

There, I struck up a conversation with two women, one of whom said when she was in high school her Italian-American dad’s friend in Berwyn didn’t like her hanging around with Irish her. This happened in 1977. She looked younger than her story would indicate.

It was time for a lamb slider – which tasted more like cardboard with bitter lettuce on flatbread.

As the night wound down, Tom struck up a conversation with two young couples, as red wine brings out his gregarious side, if not the color of his eyes. Surprisingly, he hit it off with the cute blonde who looked like any number of actresses – and I say surprisingly because she is a pesco-vegetarian. Make your own fish and meat joke.

High rollers, by this time we were smoking $30 Cohiba cigars as our new friends had us head to the Cass (www.casswines.com) booth. I learned Cass Winery in California is SIP Certified (www.sipthegoodlife.com) which, according to the biodegradable brochure, has a seal that put on bottles of wine that “assures that growers are preserving and protecting the natural environment, treating their employees and community with care, and have sound business practices with a long-term view that protects both the present and the future.”

No wonder that pesco-vegetarian liked the place.

Past that, it was time to go home. But the youngsters said they were heading to Nevin’s Brewing Company in Plainfield (www.nevinsbrewing.com), which combines an Irish look with craft brewing and where Vanilla Ice, of all oldies acts, will be performing Oct. 18.

And they invited us to tag along, yet again dispelling my preconceived notions of Naperville.10639653_10203629637254572_6966292335689087006_n

So there we were, two middle aged guys, out with the kids for the night, having a grand old time, sharing a plate of calamar, as the Bears were getting their HDTV asses kicked on the ubiquitous sets in the place.

Odd thing is I’m not sure if we even got any of the four names, which I guess makes it a platonic one-night stand. We said our goodbyes and headed back to Dundee while they were off to Oswego or some place like that. Those suburbs all look the same to me.

As for the rest of my weekend, it involved attending breakfast for a housewalk, a wake for a waiter who had a drinking problem, an Hibachi-style dinner, watching Little League baseball, and eating mangos and corn on sticks in a Catholic church parking lot after Sunday mass.

Is this what “living the dream” means – or is it just that summer is coming to an end?