Shebnem Ince

Sommelier

Chicago

As the daughter of an avid wine collector, Shebnem Ince got hooked on wine after her first sip at the young age of eight. Thanks to her father, she was exposed to the classic French wine regions that only deepened her love for the vine. Ince spent nearly two decades in the restaurant business working with well-known chefs such as Tom Douglas (Dahlia Lounge), Paul Kahan (Blackbird) and Michael Kornick (MK). Her most recent restaurant post was as the wine director at The Gage and Henri in Chicago, where she spent six years. In 2013, the sommelier moved on from the stressful restaurant world. Ince joined Craig Perman at Perman Wine Selections, an independent wine shop in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. She continues to work as a private restaurant consultant and freelance wine writer.

  • On April 8, 2013
    Shebnem Ince answered the question: Shebnem Ince

    What are the best bars in Chicago?

    I don’t really drink spirits, so I won’t go places that just have cocktails or beer. But Rootstock, Telegraph, Au Cheval — just around the corner from us here at Perman Wine Selections — they actually stock a few good wines. I go to Au Cheval a lot. At The Purple Pig, you can always get a great glass of wine and a bite — that’s on Michigan Avenue a little bit north of The Gage.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Shebnem Ince answered the question: Shebnem Ince

    What are the best Chicago restaurants for wine?

    I think Urban Union has a great wine program. Spiaggia, it’s always had a great wine program, great somms. There’s a Belgian place called Leopold that has a startlingly good list. My partner in crime here at Perman Wine Selections, Craig Perman, just did the wine list at a new place that opened up in Logan Square called Fat Rice. That’s a fabulous wine list, of course, because he’s got great taste. Then there are places like Telegraph and Rootstock; they’re both wine bars but they have good food and great wine lists.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Shebnem Ince answered the question: Shebnem Ince

    What are the best neighborhoods in Chicago?

    There’s a lot going on in Lincoln Square right now in terms of nightlife and cool bars. There are some interesting high-end restaurants that have opened there recently. One’s called Elizabeth; the chef is a forager. Chris Nugent opened Goosefoot. He named it after a beet. It’s getting a lot of acclaim, and it’s a BYOB tasting menu.

    I also think that Logan Square, which used to be a pretty marginal neighborhood, is beginning to get a lot of interesting things there. The Loop is really cool; it’s busy and bustling. I don’t know if it’s a neighborhood, but it’s definitely some place to be. You know, Berwyn is another interesting place that’s beginning to come into its own.

    And then there’s a West Side neighborhood called Pilsen that’s highly Hispanic, so there’s a lot of really great regional Mexican cuisine that can be had down there. You know how neighborhoods go — first an ethnic group will move in, then the artists. Then it gentrifies. It’s kind of in that pre-gentrified state.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Shebnem Ince answered the question: Shebnem Ince

    What are the best restaurants in Chicago?

    I’m a big fan of Yusho in the Avondale neighborhood. Then I have to plug my old place of work, The Gage, because I just think it’s an excellent restaurant. You can go in there with anyone —your mother-in-law, kids, people who are really snobby — and everyone can get something that they want. There’s a really good beverage program, beer, cocktails, wine. I really love Café Spiaggia. I’ve eaten there for years. And it’s the same quality of food you get in its expensive restaurant, but it’s a little more casual. You still get the beautiful lakefront views on certain tables, not all of them. Blackbird is a classic, wonderful restaurant that’s been around 10 or 15 years. Paul Kahan is always amazing. Those are among my favorites.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Shebnem Ince answered the question: Shebnem Ince

    What are the best hotels in Chicago?

    One night I had to stay at the InterContinental because there was a blizzard, and I couldn’t get home — that was pretty nice. I would imagine that the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago is awesome here because they’re awesome everywhere. There’s also a little inn connected to a restaurant that has quite a bit of critical acclaim in one of those marginal neighborhoods; it’s called Longman & Eagle. I’ve heard from people that that’s a great place to stay, but it’s small.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Shebnem Ince answered the question: Shebnem Ince

    When is the best time to visit Chicago?

    It’s definitely autumn. It’s cliché, but it’s really beautiful here. There are tons of deciduous trees that change color, and then they start raining the leaves everywhere. There are a lot of trees here. It’s just really vibrant red, orange, yellow. The afternoons can be super, super warm, and it’s a little bit cooler in the mornings. It’s just really beautiful.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Shebnem Ince answered the question: Shebnem Ince

    What are the best things to do in Chicago?

    We have incredible architecture here, so you can kind of just walk around. But you have to look up. There’s a lot of fascinating relief work on the buildings. People just aren’t building things like that anymore. There’s also a lot of modern architecture here, with the influence of Mies van der Rohe coming from Germany from the Bauhaus after World War II. There’s just a huge amount of fascinating buildings to look at. The buildings are not all together; some are clustered. We have Frank Lloyd Wright’s works. You can go see some of his architecture in Oak Park; it’s just a train ride away. There’s a lot of really fascinating architecture.

    We also have this public lakefront. You cannot purchase lakefront property here; it’s for the public. It runs from the south edge of downtown all the way up to practically the city boundary with Evanston. There are bike trails and an aviary. There’s all this really beautiful stuff; there’s public beaches, parks. It’s pretty cool.

    I think the restaurant scene here is pretty profound and varied now. In the past 10 years, I’ve just seen incredible growth. You can get anything from a very exclusive experience at Alinea down to a workingman’s bar where you can get Pabst Blue Ribbon and a shot.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Shebnem Ince answered the question: Shebnem Ince

    What does Shebnem Ince think distinguishes a $10 bottle from a $100 bottle?

    It depends. In the United States, it’s usually about how much you pay for the real estate. In Europe, it’s usually about the yield — how much fruit you’re getting per hectare. The lower the yield, the more concentrated and dense the wine, the more expensive it’s going to be.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Shebnem Ince answered the question: Shebnem Ince

    What is Shebnem Ince's favorite food-and-wine pairing?

    There are so many different ones. Dry sherry with a little bit of fried fish, like a fried smelt or something like that, should be one of those things that everyone tries at least once in their lives. I think sherry makes the most sense in that context. When you taste it alone, it can be a little bit alienating because the flor is such a foreign, strange smell. When you taste those together, there’s a click that makes a lot of sense.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Shebnem Ince answered the question: Shebnem Ince

    What keeps Shebnem Ince passionate about wine?

    I just think there’s ancillary attachments to wine — geology, history, gardening, farming, whatever. Jeremy Seysses from Domaine Dujac always calls it gardening, but some people call it farming. It’s just fascinating histories and stories that go along with it, and it’s just so much more than just a bottle of wine. That kind of keeps me going.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Shebnem Ince answered the question: Shebnem Ince

    What does Shebnem Ince find most satisfying about her job?

    We’re providing pleasure to people. Hopefully, wine is a happiness that people bring to their lives. We’re not dealing with a lot of tragedy, sadness and drama here. I mean it’s a little drama, but mainly it’s a profession that’s providing something that theoretically should be pleasurable to people. So that’s nice.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Shebnem Ince answered the question: Shebnem Ince

    What does Shebnem Ince suggest for those new to wine?

    I would think being open is a good tip. Do not lock yourself into what you think you like because that’s probably going to change as you become more experienced. If you’re smelling or tasting something that’s unfamiliar, or even something that you think you’re not sure you like, just remember that it may be something you like in the future. So just be open to the experience.

    I think it’s really, really important to forge a relationship with a small, reputable wine merchant. Because that person will remember your progress and what you like and what you don’t, and can open doors for you that you wouldn’t be able to open yourself. And don’t be afraid. I feel like a lot of people are afraid to try things that they don’t know. I think if you approach wine with fear, you’ll be limited in your experiences.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Shebnem Ince answered the question: Shebnem Ince

    What's the best wine Shebnem Ince has ever had?

    That’s a hard question for me to answer because it’s always about the context. In 2012, one of the most fascinating wines I’ve had was the 1949 Frédéric Esmonin Ruchottes-Chambertin Grand Cru. It was just really astounding to taste Burgundy from the ’40s that was in such great shape. That was definitely a highlight.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Shebnem Ince answered the question: Shebnem Ince

    What does Shebnem Ince think about the screw top?

    I think for simple wines — especially if there’s a really busy bar and it’s doing a by-the-glass program and it’s going through a lot — it’s definitely easier for a bartender to unscrew a cap. I think the simple, young-drinking wines, there’s not really a huge difference between that and a cork, other than that a cork sometimes can fail. But the screw cap has its own issues. There’s no oxygen going in, so sometimes when you first open it the wine can be a little agitated and spritzy. But they’re fine for everyday wine.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Shebnem Ince answered the question: Shebnem Ince

    What up-and-coming labels is Shebnem Ince watching?

    I go to Sonoma quite a bit. I think there are three producers who are doing really interesting stuff right now. One is Matthew Rorick at Forlorn Hope. There’s a small Sonoma Coast syrah producer called Bodega Rancho. And then Steve Matthiasson has his own label, and I think he is doing some really interesting wines in Napa.