Bright energetic and detail oriented, Lyle has proven himself a versatile and passionate member of the team. As is the case with so many Vin Chicagoans, Lyle was a customer for several years before making a break from the banking world to join us full time.
What is your first wine memory?
I came late to the game. I had a strong beer background energized by my Father’s interest since the early 1990s in artisan-crafted beer from home and abroad. Expeditions across multiple counties to source something new and exciting and the little tastes I might get from time to time stuck with me and fueled a life-long curiosity in food and drink. The birth of a glutton it would seem. My great-grandfather was a Calabrian immigrant who made wine at home up until the 1970s, the younger generations helping him along the way. Unfortunately, my exposure to family wine was no more grandiose than those eerily long-lasting jugs. Intrigued by the impact of cool-climate Sauvignon Blanc, my glaring lack of knowledge and a new home with space to gather a collection — I jumped in head-first and have not looked back.
What is the first wine that blew you away?
So, while the ever-electric “Savvy” had an initial grab on me — it was the complexity and savory grandeur of aged bottles that smothered me with the wine-geek pillow. When you start in wine it is easy to fall in like with the intense, obvious, immediate and identifiable. Love is a more complicated matter; it is nuanced, deep, challenging and at times fickle and fleeting. From my humble origins, gaining access to complex, world-class, mature wine was not immediate. Which leads to…
What is your favorite wine region?
I’m usually not good at choosing favorites, but from my first taste of La Rioja Alta’s “904” Gran Reserva, I think my answer has been Rioja. This region’s classic producers provide routine availability to unique, aged wines. No other region does this, much less at the completely accessible price-tags they wear. It won’t be to every taste, but every taster should at least try a taste. I also love Muscadet’s versatile, somewhat neutral, salty, bone-dry, underdog features. Ultimately, I enjoy wine together with food most; they elevate one another and can be a simple enjoyment of life. A producer’s winegrowing style also increasingly matters every bit as much as its place of origin.
What is the best part about your job?
I love the holistic nature of wine. I love selling refreshment, pleasure, intrigue, trophy, celebration, tangible, today, tomorrow. I prefer to specialize in versatility. First and foremost I am an observer of people, a listener, and an analyzer. Having a social science degree a love of geography and a decade of direct face-to-face service has been very helpful for me in working with a mishmash of art & science that is so deeply experiential and intertwined with people. I see the many approaches: novice, experienced, collector, investor, hedonist, intellectual, romantic, curious, puritanical. I adore challenging, and the challenges — it is humbling. It is fascinating and I love it, every single day. It matters so much to me.
The most important thing on your voyage as a consumer of wine is to truly understand what wines you like and do not like. It sounds simple, but it is a real journey. Use all the help you can find along the way — which includes most importantly — us here at Vin Chicago!