These are—let’s face it—grim days for wine drinkers. Sure, there are great neighborhood wine stores and a few devoted sommeliers, but when a restaurant hands you a leather-bound binder of beers, you’ll be lucky if a half-page toward the back is spared for the wine selection. Conversations about which wine bar to go to often are really just multiple people opining on the current state of Rootstock (though said opinions nearly always skew positive). And why bother with a sommelier when you can hire a high-profile bartender?
And so there couldn’t be a brighter development for people who love wine than the opening of a place like Telegraph, a Logan Square wine bar and restaurant from the owners of Webster’s Wine Bar. Telegraph’s wine list is smaller than Webster’s and focused on wines produced “naturally.” That term is so loose it often means nothing, but here it means that even if you get one of the cheaper sparklings by the glass ($9), it’s going to come from a small biodynamic grower-producer (Philippe Bornard) in the Jura region of France, and it’s going to be lovely and gentle and just the slightest bit funky (in a good way). There is a beautiful, elegant Austrian sparkling from the Wimmer-Czerny winery ($16/glass); there is cheap, tart, sparkly Basque txakoli ($6/glass); there is a lush gamay ($9) that pairs quite well with a special of housemade sausage and baked rigatoni.
About that rigatoni: It, and the rest of the food, comes from John Anderes, who came to Telegraph from Avec. And like Avec’s cuisine, the food here is so good it instantly turns what could easily (and pleasantly) have been just a wine bar into a serious restaurant. There are four tartines on the menu, and I’ve eaten three, and whether topped with cannellini-bean puree, ham balanced by coriander mustard, or salmon that pops with a sprinkling of salmon roe, they are the world’s perfect wine-bar food. The more dinnerlike dishes are a showcase of the season: baby cucumbers grilled and paired with strips of Pleasant Ridge cheddar for a salad or a fillet of salmon set on a bed of black rice accompanied—innovatively, if not totally successfully—by Nichols Farm melon.
It’s food that is effortless to enjoy, thanks to the kind and experienced servers, to the warm and low-key setting, and to the—let’s be real here—allure of wine, which has never felt less grim.