Joelen Tan Tells us What’s Pouring, Chicago!

Joelen Tan of What's Pouring, Chicago

For the last few years, I have participated in several Chicago area Meetups. These are the social activity groups organized and summarized on this website. Almost any esoteric interest you can imagine has a sponsored Meetup, but if, for example, no one has a pottery or bird watching event on the calendar, it’s easy to create that group, and make some new friends in the process.

Not surprisingly, greater Chicago has several Meetups dedicated to wine. Most of the groups are suburb-based, but one of the longest running focuses on city-based activities. I’ve attended dozens of events sponsored by the group now called What’s Pouring, Chicago, and have made great friends and learned much about wine by sharing wine and opinions with others. Hertha Meyer, the group’s leader, recently stepped down after five years of excellent service to our group, and its new organizer, Joelen Tan agreed to share her ideas for the Meetup with Chicago Pinot:

1.)  How did you first become interested in wine?

After a trip to the wine country of Sonoma & Napa, CA, I was inspired to learn more about wine. I love researching about food and sharing what I’ve learned with others. As a result, I started hosting ‘Wine & Dine’ events where friends come over to learn about specific wine varietals and enjoy tasting many of them over paired foods of a certain theme/cuisine. When those events were successful, it fueled my motivation to learn more about wine.

2.)  What kinds of events have been done with the group in the past, what would you like to add?

We do quite a few wine events and are continually adding more events to the mix. Some of our events include:

Wine Flights
– Wine Flights are where we get together at a local restaurants/wine bars that offer affordable flights of wine. We all order a flight of wine, share our thoughts on the selections and enjoy the wine over small plates.

Perfect Pair – wine & cheese tastings – Perfect Pair are paired cheese & wine tastings where a wine varietal is chosen and attendees bring a paired cheese to the event. At the event, you’ll learn more about the cheeses and wines, along with pairings.

BYOB Ethnic Dinners – BYOB Ethnic Dinners are where we get together at a local ethnic restaurant that’s BYOB friendly. We all bring a beverage that compliments the cuisine and enjoy an ethnic meal with paired drinks together.

Wine & Dine Dinners – Wine & Dine Dinners, where we prepare a potluck dish around a specific cuisine theme and pair them with a specific wine varietal tasting. If you’d like to host a Wine & Dinner dinner, you select the cuisine theme and/or wine varietal for tasting! The organizer of the event will provide the wines while attendees bring a pot luck dish to share. For a sampling of previous Wine & Dine dinners we’ve hosted, check out this link.

Chocolate Grapes – wine & chocolate tastings – Chocolate Grapes are events where we explore the combination of wine and chocolate together. We’ll consider the depth, fragrance, fruitiness, nuttiness, and the origins of fine chocolate just as wine lovers do and pair them with wine.

Budget Pours – Budget Pours are events where members gather together and each attendee brings a bottle of wine less than $10. We share our offerings, discuss the wines and the host/hostess of the event provides appetizers and/or accompaniments such as cheese, crackers, fruit, etc.

Winemaker Spotlight – Winemaker Spotlight are events where members gather together to learn about a specific winemaker. From grapes on the vine to bottling time, you’ll learn more about the winemaker, their wines and how they acquire their unique traits. We’ll enjoy a wine tasting of various wines from the specific winemaker with accompaniments and light appetizers as well as explore the subtle nuances of wine and every step involved in cultivating distinctive, delicious vintages.

Winerd Nights – Winerd Nights are events where members gather together for a fun evening of wine sipping, noshing nibbles and learning about wine through the wine trivia game, Winerd. Attendees bring a bottle of wine to put towards the winner’s gift basket. The winner of the game wins all the bottles brought in by the attendees!

Cultural Wine Tasting – Cultural Wine Tasting events are where members gather together to taste wines from different exotic countries that are not normally tasted, like South Africa, Chile and Greece. Attendees bring a bottle of wine from exotic countries and we’ll pair them up with hors d’oeuvres from each country.

Winetails – Winetails events are where members gather together to play mixologist with hands on, interactive fun in the kitchen. Wines will be used to create cocktails, or ‘winetails’ and we’ll enjoy them with assorted appetizers and hors d’oeuvres.

Monthly Pours – Monthly Pour events are where members gather together for a wine tasting based on a different theme each month. Some themes we will explore through tasting and learning include:

Same Color, Different Varietals
Select wines that are the same color but different varietals then compare and learn how different varietals can vary.
Red: Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc
White: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Viognier

Same Varietal
Select wines of the same varietal and compare how different winemaking techniques can create subtle differences in the same varietals.

Same Region, Same Varietal, Different Wineries
Select wines of the same varietal from a specific wine region and compare how the winemaking techniques can affect the same varietals from the same region.

Same Varietal, Different Regions
Select wines of the same varietal from different wine regions and compare the differences that make the wines unique to that region.

Blind Wine Tasting
Select one of the above themes and cover all labels before serving. By doing so, all pre-conceptions about the wine based on maker and price are removed. Enjoy the fun of trying to determine the varietal and region and discovering the many aromas and flavors.

Vertical Tasting
Different vintages of the same wine are tasted. Discover how the aging of a wine can affect flavors and aromas as well as the differences in the vintage growing seasons.

A past Wine Meetup, taking place at The Wine Consortium

3.)  How have you found that tasting with a group has aided your interest, knowledge of wine?

Learning with friends in a group allows me and others to have fun while sampling various wines. We’re able to talk through what we see, smell, taste, feel and enjoy the whole wine tasting process together.


4.)  When you’re hosting a wine event, what questions have guests asked you (particularly first timers)?

Questions include what to look for, how to taste wine, how to pair wine with food.

5.)  What are some details involved in managing a Meetup group that maybe non-organizers don’t see?

The back of the house costs, time and effort in planning events and preparations for the events hosted from servingware, venue, menus, and all the other entertaining logistics.

6.)  Are there any BYO places you are anxious to try that might become events?

There are quite a few but given that I haven’t drank any alcoholic beverages in the past 8 months, names of the BYO places have escaped me at the moment!

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