Go Natural

Tastes of nature at The Gage

Ed.'s note: As of September 2013, Jason Wagner is leaving The Gage to work on a new project in New York, Fung Tu.

"Naked juice just tastes better," writes sommelier Jason Wagner in his new wine list at The Gage.

On a January trip to the Loire Valley, Wagner was captivated by the region's natural wines, produced without additives or manipulation.

He returned to Chicago and overhauled the lists at The Gage and Henri, where he recently took over as wine director (after building the wine programs at Nellcôte and RM). We sat down with him to discuss the merits of the hands-off, natural approach which, at its best, produces wines that are bright and refreshing, with notable purity and complexity. 

Look under the "Natural Wonders" headers on The Gage's list to find four of his favorites, like the 2011 Jean-Paul Dubost Moulin à Vent ($55 for 750 ml), a red Beaujolais that's at once juicy and earthy, and inspires Wagner to use words like "fresh" and "real" as we taste it.

Citrusy 2011 Domaine Guiberteau Chenin Blanc ($48) from the Loire is another natural option lurking on the list of whites. Amphora-aged 2010 Foradori Teroldego ($63 for 750 ml), from Alto Adige, is a softly tannic, sophisticated red.

Tentative drinkers can start with a glass of ?2010 Forlorn Hope's Dexter Lake ($13), a juicy California red blend, to sip alongside a venison burger ($15) or house-made pâté ($17).