There’s nothing like good friends and good wine
You may recognize the person I’m featuring in the recipe column this week. His name is Dennis Kohl and once a month he writes a column for Trig’s Cellar 70, usually about different wines and their heritage. His column and picture are always featured next to my column on the food page of the Star Journal.
I am privileged to say I have known Dennis for close to 20 years. We were co-workers at Trig’s back in the early 1990s and became fast friends as soon as we met. I consider Dennis a very special person, and his concern for others and fun-loving personality were instant draws when we would chat during breaks. But there is one personality trait of Dennis’s that has always fascinated me, and that is his deep, enduring respect for and knowledge of, wine. In fact, it is safe to say that it is his passion and I love people who have such enthusiasm. In fact, it his love of wine and a great desire to educate others about this subject that brought Dennis to the Northwoods of Wisconsin.
He grew up in Chicago and started his career as a sign painter for the city there. “We painted everything from street and stop signs to signs for the fire departments,” he said.
Then in 1974, Dennis received a book about wines and was fascinated by the subject. “That’s when I knew I really wanted to know more,” he said. “I wanted to make it a career.”
About that time, he was laid off from his sign painting job and applied at several liquor stores in the Chicago area. He worked for Sam’s Wine Warehouse for 10 years as a beverage consultant during a time when wines were really gaining popularity throughout the country. And while Dennis enjoyed his job in Chicago, he longed to find a way to move to the Northwoods. As a youngster, he had come to the Lac du Flambeau area on many vacations and loved the area enough to make it his permanent home.
Through business contacts, he met Trig Solberg and proposed to this savvy entrprenuer that expanding his beverage department to include more wines would be a smart move. “The people I knew were bringing wines with them when they came to vacation up here,” said Dennis. “I proposed to Trig that expanding his liquor department to include more wines might be a smart move.” Trig agreed and Trig’s Cellar 70 was born, with Dennis at the helm.
On my breaks as a florist working at Trig’s, I would often saunter over to Cellar 70 to chat with Dennis. It’s very interesting to talk with someone who has a passion and over time, Dennis did his best to educate me about the fascinating world of wine. Then one day, I needed his expertise.
My friend, Sandi Gundlach, had invited me for dinner. Sandi is a superb cook and on the menu for that evening was her outstanding tuna casserole. “Bring a bottle of wine,” she told me. And so I headed over to visit Dennis.
I’ll never forget that conversation. I told my friend I needed a bottle of wine as I was eating at a friend’s house. “Oh, what’s on the menu?” he asked. Not wanting to appear like a total hick, I told him fish. “What kind and how will it be prepared?” he asked. “Broiled, fried, baked, pan-seared?”
I then admitted it would be tuna in the form of a casserole and after he got over his surprise, he suggested just the perfect wine. Sandi and I both agreed it made the meal.
For a few years, I lost track of Dennis but I found comfort whenever I saw his picture on the food page. And then the other day we had a chance to reconnect, and I am glad. We had a long visit and I came to this conclusion: Good friends are like a fine wine-they may age, but they only get better with time.
Chicken in Wine
1 cup flour
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. pepper
1 chicken, cut into pieces
1/3 cup salad oil
2 Tbs. butter
1 tbs. rosemary
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vinegar
1/2 cup wine (white or red)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, paprika and pepper together. Dredge chicken with this mixture. Cook in melted oil and butter until light brown. Add rosemary and garlic, and continue cooking until golden brown. Add vinegar and wine, and cook a few minutes more. Then transfer to a baking dish, cover and bake for 30 minutes.