A Wine Flight through the Museum

Inspired by the intoxicating exhibition A Case for Wine, this guide treats your artistic palate to a sampling of works—from earthy to fruity—and pairs each work with a wine recommendation from wine expert and author Cathy Mantuano.

Click here for a downloadable version to bring with you on your visit.

After your tour, stop by Terzo Piano to enjoy one of Cathy’s recommendations or pick one up to accompany a picnic on the Great Lawn in Millennium Park.

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MATURE

Gallery 184
Untitled (2007) by Cy Twombly

During the fall of 2006 and winter of 2007, when he was 78 years old, American master Cy Twombly created the six large-scale Peony Blossom Paintings, including this work of blood red flowers on an earthy yellow ground. The giant blossoms, made up of overlapping swirls, are reminiscent of dynamic markings found in the artist’s work since the 1960s. Yet the mature artist recalled working on these paintings with a particular fondness and differentiated them from earlier work: “I [took] liberties I wouldn’t have taken before…. I got all kinds of wonderful effects that I never achieved before. They all have beautiful passages, such large passages, not like those early paintings.”

Cathy’s Recommendation: When I think of mature wine, I think of Barolo. Made from Nebbiolo grapes grown in Piemonte, Italy, this legendary wine is powerful, structured and concentrated, offering unctuous, earthy aromas, and flavors of violets, fruit, leather, and chocolate. By law, Barolo must spend three years in barrel (five years for Riserva) before being bottled. Though now made to be drunk younger than ten years old, Barolo still needs time to develop, and it is best to look at vintages with at least five years of aging before drinking. Barolo is also known as “The King of Wine.” Some of my favorite Barolo producers are Bruno Giacosa, Ceretto, Giuseppe Mascarello, and Luigi Einaudi.

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EARTHY

Gallery 398
Painting (summer 1936) by Joan Miró

The work of an artist who exhibited mostly with the Surrealists wouldn’t normally conjure up ideas of “earthiness.” But this abstract composition by Joan Miró is actually composed of many rough and earthy materials. Instead of traditional canvas, the Catalan artist chose the raw texture of Masonite, a board composed of compressed fibers such as wood. To that, he added oil paint mixed with gravel, pebbles, and sand. Surprisingly, he felt the work could only improve if his rustic textural additions were dislodged during transit, for then, he said, it would “look like an old crumbling wall.”

Cathy’s Recommendation: 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Southern Rhone, France. Garrigue is a French word to describe the arid landscape of Provence and the Southern Rhone, which is covered with dry scrub and wild herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and lavender. Wines from this part of France are said to smell and taste of garrigue, and this 2005 is no exception. But I digress—Châteauneuf-du-Pape, (Châteauneuf, for short) or literally translated “new castle of the pope,” refers to the time in the 14th century when the pope (yes, from Rome) resided in the walled city of Avignon, near these vineyards. This area is fascinating for many reasons; it is only miles from the Mediterranean, many of the vineyards are made up of rock beds with no visible soil (remnants of ancient Alpine glaciers), and by law, Châteauneuf is required to have the lowest yields of grapes in all of France. The wine, which is based on Grenache, is vinified in large cement tanks, and the additional blending wines from Syrah and Mourvedre are aged in large, old barrels. Therefore, when completed, the wine tastes less of oak and more of earth and stone. This particular vintage from Vieux Telegraph is outstanding. I love the tart cherry fruit, the hedonistic personality, and its delightful garrigue that transports me to France.

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COMPLEX

Gallery 140
Mandala of Buddha Amitabha (18th/19th century), Tibet

Used to aid Buddhists in concentrating their minds for meditation and to serve as a dwelling space for the invoked deity, mandalas are filled with complex iconography and elaborate geometrical configurations of prescribed colors. This meticulously detailed example shows nine images of Amitayus, the Buddha of Infinite Life. Each red-complected Buddha sits in the pose of meditation holding the vase of immorality on his lap. The Guardians of the Four Directions stand watch at the four corners rather than in their usual north-south-east-west orientation, a placement likely required by the available space.

Cathy’s Recommendation: 2005 Pinot Noir “Evenstad Reserve” Domaine Serene, Oregon. A ripe, hedonistic vintage, this wine offers a host of late-summer berry fruit flavors, balanced with a heady, floral perfume of violet and lavender and a touch of sweet spice. The palate is a journey from luscious peach and wild strawberry with hints of dark chocolate and tar and finishes with raspberry flavors that linger and mingle back to recall the depth of initial aromas. Supple tannins frame this wine with a gracefully poised structure. Satisfying on its own, this special Pinot Noir is also a fine companion with red meat, strong creamy cheese, and hazelnut-chocolate desserts. This expressive, mouth-filling wine is available in half bottles at Terzo Piano.

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FRUITY

Gallery 201
Acrobats at the Cirque Fernando (1879) by Pierre-August Renoir

This painting of two acrobats who performed at the Cirque Fernando isn't just "fruity"; it has an overall citrus palette, from the lemon-yellow slipper boots and hair ribbons to the yellow and luscious orange grounds of the ring. The tissue-packed oranges tumbling across the ground and practically spilling out of one of the sister's arms were gifts from an appreciative and affluent audience thrown to the girls as they bow. Viewed from the perspective of an audience member looking down upon the performers through opera glasses, the admired acrobats appear smaller and younger than they were at the time. Angelica on the right was 14 while Francisca was 17.

Cathy’s Recommendation: 2007 Falanghina, Dei Feudi di San Gregorio, Campania, Italy. Falanghina (pronounced "FA-lan-GHEE-nah") is an ancient grape variety that thrives in the volcanic soils in this southern Italian region. In fact, it dates back at least 2,000 years to the Roman Empire, when it was used to make Falernum, one of the most highly regarded wines of the Caesars' times. This particular Falanghina has exotic aromas of banana, mango, and pineapple that leap out of the glass leading to a full-bodied wine with bright citrus flavors, hints of minerality, and a long alluring finish. A favorite on the Terzo Piano wine list, Falanghina is excellent with all shellfish, grilled fish, pasta, and vegetables.

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SPARKLING

Galley 247
“Diana” Diadem (c. 1908) by Henry Wilson

Sure, the combination of gold, jewel-toned enamels, moonstones, rock crystal, and sapphires make this tiara sparkle, but what’s truly dazzling is the narrative so exquisitely rendered in the diadem’s three roundels. With the goddess of the hunt Diana in the center with her bow and hunting horn, two hounds on the left, and a pursued stag to the right, the seemingly delicate jewelry tells the powerful tale of Diana’s revenge on the hunter Actaeon. After Actaeon stumbled upon the goddess at her bath, the furious Diana instantly turned him into a stag and let his own dogs tear him to shreds.

Cathy’s Recommendation: The 2005 Wedding Cuvee, from Iron Horse in Green Valley, California is my favorite American sparkling wine. Made with estate-grown fruit, this blanc de noir is from Pinot Noir (87% with 13% Chardonnay) and has a beautiful, pale peach hue. Don’t let the romantic name make you think it’s only for a special occasion. Rich and creamy, this wine is dangerously easy to drink and pairs well with a variety of food—from the usual suspects like oysters and sushi, to poached salmon, sautéed shrimp, all mushroom dishes, and chocolate-dipped strawberries. A first choice for many, (in January, Iron Horse Wedding Cuvée came in "Best of Tasting" of American Sparkling Wines in The Wall Street Journal), Iron Horse is probably best known for this cuvée.

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OAKY

Gallery 158
Music Stand (1964) by Wendell Castle

Hardwoods, such as oak, usually conjure up ideas of solidity, mass, and strength, but this graceful music stand by American artist Wendell Castle transforms both oak and rosewood into a lithe and fluid form. Created through a process called stack lamination in which layers of wood are glued together and then bent into the desired shape, the astonishingly organic structure appears to respond like a supple dancer to the music that would be played before it. Like the artist’s bench and clock that stand nearby, the piece certainly achieves one of Castle’s overarching goals—to create furniture “equal to sculpture.”

Cathy’s Recommendation: 2005 Rioja Reserva, Muga, Haro, Spain. This wine, made predominately from Tempranillo and Garnacha grapes, is aged for six months in traditional Riojan oak vats, then for 24 months in small oak barrels. It is this period of oak aging that is responsible for the distinctive character of traditional Rioja. The color is bright ruby with toasted oak and coffee aromas. On the palate, there is a beautiful balance between the compelling fruit and soft vanilla oak flavor. Elegant with a persistent finish, Muga’s Rioja is easy to drink and also compliments food. Perfect with the delicious cured hams of Spain, roast lamb, potatoes cooked with onions and garlic, piquillo peppers, spring vegetables, and goat cheese. Lunch anyone?

More wine?

Explore the over 300 wine-related works of art on view in A Case for Wine. Plus, don’t miss the exhibition overview led by curator Christopher Monkhouse on August 25 at 12:00.