2018 Chicago Rising Star Sommelier Andrew Algren of Cherry Circle Room

2018 Chicago Rising Star Sommelier Andrew Algren of Cherry Circle Room
May 2018

Cherry Circle Room
12 S Michigan Ave
Chicago, Illinois 60603


Andrew Algren attended the University of Kansas to pursue a degree in music theory composition, but left with a passion for food and beverage. To boost job prospects, he earned his Sommelier Certification, but as it turned out, demand for beer and wine geeks wasn’t all that high in Kansas. Algren packed his bags for Chicago in 2010 with the intention of attending the Siebel Institute. But it was juice not suds that ultimately won the day and Algren’s heart. 
Algren roved the floors and cellars of some of Chicago’s most beloved restaurants, opening Owen & Engine, running the wine program at The Purple Pig, and moving onward and upward to Brendan Sodikoff’s Maude’s Liquor Bar, and then Alinea, where he was part of a collaborative team of sommeliers for more than two years. During that formative time, he found mentors in Conrad Reddick, Craig Sindelar, and Steve Morgan.

As head honcho of wine for Land and Sea Dept.’s Cherry Circle Room, Algren managed a 1,400-label list that included some of the city’s deepest stock of Champagne and Riesling. Under his direction and care, Cherry Circle Room became a destination for oenophiles and his sommelier peers. He died in late 2018 at the age of 32.

Interview with 2018 Chicago Rising Star Sommelier Andrew Algren

Caroline Hatchett: How did you get your start?

Andrew Algren: I moved to Chicago from Kansas eight years ago after passing my Certified Sommelier exam—there aren’t a lot of sommelier jobs in the state of Kansas. I also wanted to be a brewer and go to the Siebel Institute. I ended up opening Owen & Engine, and from there went to the Purple Pig to run the wine program. I worked with Brendan Sodikoff at Maude’s Liquor Bar and then at Alinea for two and a half years. My last service there was a Thomas Keller buyout—it was a pretty amazing experience.

CH: Who do you consider a mentor?

AA: The team at Alinea. There were three people who were the most formative for me: Conrad Reddick, who came from Charlie Trotter’s; Craig Sindelar, who’s now at Band of Bohemia; and Steve Morgan, who’s now on importing side. 

CH: What level of sommelier are you?

Right now I’m a Certified Sommelier. I will be sitting the Advanced Sommelier exam in July.

CH: How many labels do you have on your list for Cherry Circle Room?

AA: 1,400 to 1,450. Our service area holds around 1,800 bottles. White wines and Champagne are all on this floor. I have the majority of my storage in the subbasement. As the program started to grow, we went downstairs. It’s such an old building—we jiggled door knobs and found an empty room. Voila.

CH: What’s your most important pairing rule?

AA: I think about texture in addition to flavor profile. A wine might have complementary flavors, but weight, acid, sugar, alcohol, etc. need to be part of the match, as well.

CH: You’re the guy with the $100 Krug, right?

AA: We’re known for our Krug…and it’s $120. We’re also known for our Riesling program. Riesling was first wine to draw me into being a sommelier. I kick off our “100 Days of Rielsing” event on the first day of the summer solstice every year. We feature one Riesling a day, three bottles of each, and sell 10 to 15 glasses a day. 

CH: What wine trend do you think is overrated?

AA: Rosé can be delightful, but I haven’t worked in a restaurant with windows or a patio in over six years, and I don’t understand the obsession with having dozens available at a given time. I think it’s a style that’s more driven more by the place it’s consumed than what’s in the bottle. Obviously, there are always exceptions, but the glut of rosé in the market right now seems a little silly.

CH: What’s your five-year plan?

AA: I’ll still be in the group. I really like what Land and Sea Dept. does. I came out of uber fine dining but got to keep the parts of it that I like. Eventually, I would love to have a chance to own a retail shop; it was my first industry job. I would also love to do a five-course pre-fixe concept with an all French wine list. It would be similar to what Rebelle [in New York] was doing: five courses, pick a few items for each course, and pay $65.