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Vin Chicago Blog


Meet Advanced Sommelier Michael Matonte!

Vin Chicago Bio!

- Michael Matonte –



A wine guy to the core, Mike Matonte has a major passion for Italian wines and will totally flip out over a great Barolo. He joined us in 2007 at our Elston Avenue store and now manages the Naperville store and our social media. When Mike's not at the store, you'll find him studying for the Master Sommelier Diploma exam (he's already passed his Level III Advanced Sommelier test!), conversing with wine lovers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or hanging out with his wife and new baby!



What is your first wine memory?


My journey into the world of wine began in 2000 as a server at Timpone's in Urbana, my first serious restaurant job. I didn't have any knowledge of wines and remember the chef/owner, Ray Timpone, coming up to the dining room to taste us out on a couple of new additions to our by-the-glass list. He was asking the servers what they smelled in the wine. Answers started flying around like cinnamon, violets, cedar, tobacco and more. Not able to pick out anything like that in the wine, I stood in awe. That's when I knew I wanted to learn more, so I could talk about wine just like those experienced professionals.

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Meet Our Barrington Manager Jennifer Blair!

Vin Chicago Bio!

- Jennifer Blair –


We often wonder what type of background best qualifies someone to work for Vin Chicago. Being a wine lover is a must. We've also found that people who thrive in the restaurant business are likely a good fit for our fast-paced, customer-driven atmosphere. Not only does Jennifer Blair meet these criteria, she also worked for many years as an officer in the DuPage County juvenile detention center. The last few years have been eventful for Jen. Like so many folks at Vin Chicago, she is working her way through the Court of Master Sommeliers' certification program. She aced her exam to become a Certified Sommelier with the highest grades in her class earning a scholarship towards her Level III certificate. Even more exciting she and her husband welcomed a baby girl into the world last year! Jen now manages our Barrington location – a well-earned promotion while still on maternity leave. Jen's knowledge and capabilities are exceptional, and her enthusiasmis utterly infectious.


What is your first wine memory?

When I was in my early 20s, I worked evening shift at the juvenile detention center. We'd get out around 10pm and go over to a friend's house to have a drink and play some cards. My co-worker/friend was very knowledgeable regarding food, wine and beer. He introduced me to aged cheeses, like 5 year old Gouda and 10 year old Hooks Cheddar, and the different Prädikat levels of Riesling. I had no idea that Riesling could put out such levels of quality or that there was such a thing as Eiswein! The crisp, clean Riesling with the crumbly aged cheese was an "Aha" moment for me. It was the first time I really considered drinking anything other than beer!


What do you do outside the wine world?

I love spending time with my family, they are the most important thing to me. I have a baby daughter and a fantastically supportive husband. We frequently attend Sunday dinner at my parents' house to hang out with my extended family. When the budget allows I love to travel! There is a great big world out there and I want to see it all! Anyone who works with me will tell you I love to eat (is that a bad thing?). I love to try new restaurants. I also enjoy bike riding and pilates.

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