This week, Laura and Joelle are joined by Jarran Conger. Jarran is the owner of In Fine Spirits where every wine, spirit, and craft beer they offer is crafted by people who share their passion for quality and has been curating Andersonville’s drinking needs since 2005 at 5418 N. Clark. In Fine Spirits has also curated most of the wines for this weekend’s upcoming Andersonville Wine Walk on Sunday, May 19. Tickets still available!
“I think the best part that I’ve come to love about this shop in Andersonville is the relationships that I’ve formed with the residents… I love being able to not only figure out what they like in terms of wine but also to know what is happening in their life”
– Jarran Conger
Listen to Episode 60 with Jarran Conger!
Here are some references from Episode 60 that you may want to check out:
- Jarran was born in Chicago and raised in the suburbs. He studied theater at Illinois State University and found himself working in the restaurant industry upon graduating, where he discovered and began to develop his passion for wine, cocktails and beer.
- A few years later, Jarran got married and was in the process of starting a family. He realized the long hours in the restaurant industry would no longer work for him so he decided to open a wine shop to stay connected to his passion for wine and to be able to be more available for his family.
- Jarran was one of the original IFS team with Shane and Jill, the former owners of the In Fine Spirits Lounge in Andersonville. He started working for Shane and Jill eight years ago when the In Fine Spirits Lounge was still operating. He split his time between the bar and the wine shop, and upon discovering that they were relocating to Michigan, Jarran and his wife decided to buy the shop.
- IFS always has at least 75 wines under $13 as well as a 3, 6 and 12 month wine club as well. Jarran’s goal with the 75 wines under $13 is to make wine more accessible and to give people an opportunity to try something different, yet still easier on the pocketbook than taking a chance on a bottle that’s $50 or more.
- For the wine clubs, he likes to look for small productions of maybe 1,000 cases or less so that it gives the drinker the ability to try something different and unique. He may choose a wine from an obscure region in Spain or France, to a couple of international grapes like Chardonnay and Cabernet from Slovenia or Croatia.
- You can find some of these hand selected wines at their two tables located in the center of the IFS floor. They have one white table and one red table and everything on those tables will be priced at $13 and under. These selections will change with the season or change if the staff finds something that is drinking great at the moment.
- Jarran tells us a little bit about a beloved local favorite among the Andersonville residents dubbed as the “cat wine” after it was featured for the Andersonville Wine Walk on the Chamber’s Instagram page. Jarran explains that it’s a really, “easy drinking, accessible wine that is a crowd pleaser and hails from the south of France. It is 100% Grenache Blanc, which is not your typical international grape like a pinot grigio. It just has a little bit more texture, but not as big, buttery and oaky as a Chardonnay can be sometimes. It just hits that nice sweet spot.”
- About a year ago, Jarran began selling different cheeses as well, and says he treats his cheese selections just as he treats his wine selections. He tells us about one of their most popular cheeses, Big Ed’s Gouda where they get from a place called Forage and Foster. Just as they do for their wine, IFS looks for small production farmers who are hands-on during the cheese making process.
- In Fine Spirits also offers custom made cheese flights that pair well for both red and white wines!
- Jarran goes more in depth about what tannins are in wine and how they can affect the taste of the wine.He explains that they act as a preservative and that the larger the tannins, the longer a wine can last. He adds that acidity can help in that as well.
- Jarran has been curating the wine selections for Andersonville’s Wine Walk since its inception 13 years ago, and will be once again participating for this year’s event that takes place on Sunday, May 19. He talks about his experiences in curating for the wine walk every year and he finds that plenty of variety is a very important factor in his decision making, as well as weather! He likes to keep a variety of white wines and roses for when the weather is nice, but is always sure to have plenty of red varieties available for the red lovers.
- This year, Jarran is very excited to feature an Italian red varietal called Schioppettino. He says it’s drinks like a Pinot Noir in terms of the texture but the flavor profile has a nice peppery sensation along with cherry notes as well. It’s very food friendly but it’s an obscure grape that’s not really planted throughout Italy, but he feels it’s a varietal that bares merit and should be more well known.
- In Fine Spirits is also happy to host wine tastings from 3-6PM every Saturday year round, as well as other added tastings on different days of the week. For more info on their upcoming tastings or to join their mailing list, click here.
- There is a wine walk booklet that each attendee will receive upon check in for the upcoming Wine Walk on May 19 that will feature a few tips on how to taste wine. Jarran shares some of his tips which include not wearing any perfume, cologne or scented lotions while tasting wine because you really want a blank slate, especially in your nose so you can really immerse yourself in the wine.
- Getting air into the wine is also important which is why you will see people swirl the wine. It releases the esters and makes it more aromatic because a bottle of wine only sees a tiny amount of air when its been bottled, and once you open it up, air needs to go through it to open up more of those esters and the smell to make it more identifiable
- He says Alpana Singh, a master Sommelier and host of “Check, please!” says you should think of lighter bodied wines like a skim milk, medium bodied wines like whole milk and fuller bodied wine, like heavy cream.
Jarran’s hopes for the future of IFS are to simply continue listening to the community’s wants and interests. He hopes to keep bringing new, exciting products to the market that people may not have heard of, but are willing to take a chance on, and remaining a staple in the community that people trust.
For people that are interested in traveling to explore wines, Jarran says there are opportunities all over the world to learn more. He recommends one in Oregon called Pinot Camp that happens every year where you can learn the process of making wine firsthand.
Like anything, practice makes perfect. Every Monday, Jarran likes to get together with fellow Sommeliers in the Chicago area to taste through and discuss six different wines.
- Wine isn’t the only thing you can find at IFS. Craft beer is also a hot commodity in the shop as he says Chicago has grown to be the number one beer city in the nation in the past year, with now over 180 breweries calling Chicago their home. He prefers to focus solely on bringing in only Chicago and Chicagoland area breweries to the shop.
- In terms of spirits, he also prefers to bring in craft made local distillers as well. Every year they buy single barrels of Buffalo Trace (who also partook in Andersonville annual gift guide last year) and Weller 107 Antique barreled specifically for them.
- If Jarran could swap with any Andersonville business for a day, he would choose Transistor (5224 N Clark) and Rattleback Records (5405 N Clark) because he’d love to explore music all day and genre jump from classic rock to classical to jazz.