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December 22nd, 2006

Doing a 1031 Exchange on Vacation Homes

Black and White Plus Shades of Gray
Internal Revenue Code Section 1031 allows for the tax-deferred exchange of real property
that is held for investment. Perhaps no exchange issue is more controversial than the question
of what constitutes an investment. Vacation homes or 2nd homes sometimes will qualify for a
1031 Exchange. However, such qualification depends on the circumstances of property use.
In analyzing whether a vacation home qualifies as an investment for 1031 Exchange purposes,
it is perhaps best to categorize the uses of the property into three separate categories. First,
the home is used exclusively for personal reasons without any rental activity. Second, the
home is used exclusively as a rental without any personal use. Third, the home is used both personally and as a rental.When a home is used exclusively for personal, non-rental purposes
it is well established that the property does not qualify for tax-deferred exchange treatment. Conversely, if a home is used exclusively for rental purposes, the property almost certainly
qualifies as an investment that can be exchanged. The third category, mixed personal and
rental use, requires the most analysis and is the least clear when determining exchange qualification.Current exchange tax law does not provide a clear test for determining whether
a mixed-use property qualifies for exchange treatment. Many tax attorneys have looked to
other sections of the internal revenue code for guidance. IRC Section 280A provides that a
taxpayer cannot deduct losses or mortgage interest on properties that were personally used
by the taxpayer for more than 14 days or 10% of the days the property was rented,
whichever is more. Using this standard, if a property is rented out for less than 140 days per
year, the taxpayer should not use the property personally for more than 14 days per year.
However, if personal use is 14 days or less, exchange qualification is not assured. Although
there is no definitive guidance, the following guidelines can be informative when determining
whether a property qualifies for exchange treatment.
  1. Personal use is more than 14 days: Exchange qualification is unlikely unless rental
  2. activity is more than 140 days per year.
  3. Personal use is 14 days or less but rental days less than personal use days. Exchange qualification is again unlikely but more likely than scenario 1.
  4. Personal use is 14 days or less and rental days are more than personal use days.
  5. Exchange qualification is more likely although not assured. Whenever real property is
  6. used for personal purposes, exchange treatment is not assured.

Along with the unofficial guidelines listed above, rental should be reported on tax returns,
along with depreciation. Failure to report income and depreciation will cloud any claim of
investment motivation and exchange treatment. In addition, property rentals should be at or
within fair market rent range to help further establish income motivation. For example, renting
a property to your son or neighbor for $10 per night is not good evidence that your primary motivation for owning the property was rental income and capital appreciation.

When a property has both personal use and rental use, a definitive answer as to exchange qualification is unfortunately not possible. The individual facts and circumstances should be
closely examined. The more rental activity and the less personal use, the more likely the
property is to qualify for tax-deferred exchange treatment.

Please note that all 1031 Exchanges should be planned with the assistance of experienced tax
counsel. This is especially true for complicated exchanges involving business entities as
described in this article. This article has attempted to briefly survey the issue discussed and
does not portend to be an all-inclusive analysis of the subject matter.

By Adam Skarsgard, Esq, CPA

December 16th, 2006

Wine & Champagne events

1) ChicaGourmets! and Chicago Cultural Center Proudly Present

Winter’s Song Madrigal Dinner

Preston Bradley Hall
77 East Randolph, Chicago
Sunday, December 17, 2006, 2:00 P.M.
$75.00 per person

Illinois State University Madrigals celebrates its second annual event in Chicago. With each trumpet fanfare you will experience a musical and visual celebration in the Renaissance style of Merrie Olde England. Join the King and Queen, Court Jester, and the Wench for a holiday feast, while you are serenaded by seventeen Lords and Ladies singing traditional holiday madrigals.

Special thanks to Judith Hines & Brad Thacker, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and ChicaGourmets! Host Don Newcomb

The Whitehall Executive Chef Virginia Benke’s Menu

Hot Cider, Red & White Wine & Iced Tea

First Course
Salad of Mixed Greens

Entrée
Queen Elizabeth Chicken Wild Rice Wellington
With celery root puree and roasted root vegetable medley

Dessert
Royal Figgie Pudding
English Tea or Coffee

E-mail: donaldnewcomb@comcast.net
Web Site: www.chicagourmets.org
Tel: 708-383-7543 Fax: 708-383-4964

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2) Alpana Pours at Schaefer’s

Join us on Saturday, Dec. 23, 11:00-2:00, as Alpana Singh comes to Schaefer’s to taste some seasonal favorites and sign her new book, Alpana Pours: About Being a Woman, Loving Wine, and Having Great Relationships. Perfect for last-minute gifts, Alpana Pours is a unique lifestyle book with wine as the centerpiece.

As the youngest woman to be a member of the exclusive Court of Master Sommeliers, Singh brings her extensive knowledge of wine to a new generation of wine drinking women. Singh’s quirky writing makes reading about the correct wine and food pairing more fun than it should be, with titles like, “Wine Tasting Your Way to Mr. Right,” “Shoes You Never Wear and Wine You Never Drink,” and “White Flight,” about men’s avoidance of white wines. “From the Alpana Files,” periodically interrupts the shop talk and traces Singh’s personal history of her love of wine, including how she broke her career decision to her very surprised mother (she expected Singh to pursue medicine).

Alpana is uniquely qualified to talk about wine, contemporary women and relationships. She spent five years as sommelier at the world-famous four star restaurant Everest, where she closely observed the sometimes humorous, sometimes absurd, social interactions between men and woman at all stages of their relationships. Since American women purchase and consume more wine than American men, 77% and 60% respectively, her voice is a wonderful addition to help women (and men) understand that their busy professional and social lifestyles can be well paired with wine.

Schaefer’s is located at 9965 Gross Point Rd. (at the corner of Gross Point and Old Orchard Roads), Skokie. Free parking is available. For more information, call 847-673-5711.

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3) ChampagneFest at Schaefer’s

A festive event that has become a holiday tradition on the North Shore will take place again on Thursday, Dec. 28, when Schaefer’s Fine Wines, Foods and Spirits hosts its 26th annual Champagnefest.

Between 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., Schaefer’s will open one bottle of every sparkling wine they stock, and guests are welcome to stop by and sample the more than 100 bubblies, ranging from Cava to Dom Perignon. The wines are from France, Italy, Spain and the U.S., and include a number of top-rated French Champagnes that sell for more than $100 a bottle.

The tasting allows guests to learn more about Champagne and sparkling wines from around the world, and it’s a fun way to decide just what the right bottle is for New Year’s Eve and other special occasions.

Schaefer’s gourmet Food Department will offer a variety of caviars, cheeses, patés and hors-d’oeuvre to complement.

Champagnefest is a way for Schaefer’s to say “thank you” to everyone who shops at the store during the year.

There will be a $10 donation for this year’s Champagnefest, with 100 percent going to the Skokie Fire Department Benevolent Fund to help needy families in the area. The Schaefer family is proud to support its community and is aware that the holiday season is a special time to reach out to those less fortunate.

Schaefer’s is located at 9965 Gross Point Rd. (at the corner of Gross Point and Old Orchard Roads), Skokie. Free parking is available. For more information, call 847-673-5711.

Courtesy of Patrick Fegen and the Chicago Wine School, wineschool.com

December 15th, 2006

Latest Cost-Value Remodeling Report Just Published


In any given year, in any given housing market or geographic location, certain types of remodeling projects demonstrably return more of their installation costs at the time of resale.  A higher percentage of those installation costs can be recouped in a strong housing market, of course. But, you get the picture. 

 

Knowing what types of home improvements are most likely to return the highest amount in YOUR area, can help you make more informed choices about where to invest your remodeling dollars.


Call or email me and we can discuss how you may benefit from home improvements to your house.

While the data presented here can help set expectations for homeowners contemplating remodeling work, some figures will appear too high or too low simply due to the leveling effect of averaging. It’s also important to acknowledge a variety of factors that can affect both the cost of remodeling and the resale value of homes.

Here are the general data for improvement projects from Remodeling Magazine. To get real specific, you can order a report for a few dollars from Remodeling Magazine. You can get a report for one of 60 areas.

courtesy of Chicago Association of Realtors and the National Association of Realtors

December 13th, 2006

Existing-Home Sales to Trend Upward in 2007

Existing-home sales are expected to rise gradually in 2007 from current levels, with annual totals slightly lower than 2006, while new-home sales will continue to slide, according to the latest forecast by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

David Lereah, NAR’s chief economist, says market conditions will vary around the country next year.

“Roughly three-quarters of the country will experience a sluggish expansion in 2007, while other areas should continue to contract for at least part of the year,” he says. “Most of the correction in home prices is behind us, but general gains in value next year will be modest by historical standards.”

For Buyers, a Window of Opportunity

“Buyers, especially first-time buyers, with the combined benefits of seller flexibility and an unexpected drop in mortgage interest rates, have a window of opportunity,” he adds. “These conditions will persist in many areas until early spring when inventory supplies are likely to become more balanced.”

Existing-home sales for 2006, finishing the third-best year on record, are projected at 6.47 million, a decline of 8.6 percent from 2005. For 2007, sales expected to rise steadily to an annual total of 6.40 million, which would be 1 percent lower than this year’s total.

“By the fourth quarter of 2007, existing-home sales will be 4.6 percent higher than the current quarter,” Lereah says.

Mortgage Rates Seen Rising to 6.7%

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is forecast to gradually increase to 6.7 percent by the fourth quarter of 2007. Last week, Freddie Mac reported the 30-year fixed rate dropped to 6.11 percent.

The national median existing-home price for all of 2006 is projected to rise 1.4 percent to $222,600, with another 1.0 percent gain next year to $224,700. The median new-home price should ease by 0.5 percent to $239,700 this year, and then rise by 0.8 percent in 2007 to $241,700.

“Keep in mind that overall home prices were still appreciating at double digit rates in the first quarter of this year — prices in this buyer’s market are temporarily a little below a year ago when we were in a strong seller’s market,” Lereah says. “This correction is one of the factors drawing buyers into the current market, but most sellers are still seeing very healthy long-term gains.”

December 13th, 2006

More fun wine tastings thru 17 Dec. 06


1) Artisan Cellar Champagne Tasting

Our annual in-store Champagne tasting with importer Heinz Harke of Orange Imports. Mostly grower-bottler, many Grand Cru bottlings. First tasting of beloved Jacquesson, out of the Chicago market for a few years.

Free of charge, the tasting is on Thursday, December 14, from 4:00 to 6:30 at the Artisan Cellar, Merchandise Mart (Kinzie and Wells) on the first floor.

Call 312-527-5810 for more info, or e-mail artisancellars@earthlink.net

The Artisan Cellar
Fine Wines, Artisan Cheese, Espresso Bar
222 Merchandise Mart Plaza
Chicago 60654
312.527.5810

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2) ChicaGourmets! and Chicago Cultural Center Proudly Present

Winter’s Song Madrigal Dinner

Preston Bradley Hall
77 East Randolph, Chicago
Sunday, December 17, 2006, 2:00 P.M.
$75.00 per person

Illinois State University Madrigals celebrates its second annual event in Chicago. With each trumpet fanfare you will experience a musical and visual celebration in the Renaissance style of Merrie Olde England. Join the King and Queen, Court Jester, and the Wench for a holiday feast, while you are serenaded by seventeen Lords and Ladies singing traditional holiday madrigals.

Special thanks to Judith Hines & Brad Thacker, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and ChicaGourmets! Host Don Newcomb

The Whitehall Executive Chef Virginia Benke’s Menu

Hot Cider, Red & White Wine & Iced Tea

First Course
Salad of Mixed Greens

Entrée
Queen Elizabeth Chicken Wild Rice Wellington
With celery root puree and roasted root vegetable medley

Dessert
Royal Figgie Pudding
English Tea or Coffee

E-mail: donaldnewcomb@comcast.net
Web Site: www.chicagourmets.org
Tel: 708-383-7543 Fax: 708-383-4964

Courtesy of Patrick Fegen and the Chicago Wine School, wineschool.com

December 9th, 2006

Chicago’s Cornucopia of Champagne Brands: a look at what lucky drinkers we are.

Champagne is my favorite wine. Maybe it’s because there’s an ancestral link on my mom’s side with a western Champagne town. Maybe because it doesn’t make me feel full like beer does even though Champagne has three times more gas than your average brewski. Maybe, like Madame Bollinger basically said, I like to drink it with everything. And I like to try new ones.

So, just out of curiosity, I did a quick survey of Champagnes in town and I came up with 105 brands. As there are about 10,000 brands of Champagne registered, it may not seem like a lot. But, to put it simply, neither you nor I will be out of luck for the holidays.

Of late, that has been a no-brainer as a whole slew of labels have regularly been available in Chicago. First, there’s the mainstream “Négoçiant-Manipulants” (NM) examples: Moët et Chandon, G.H. Mumm, Veuve Clicquot, Bollinger, Krug, Pol Roger, Pommery, Roederer, Laurent-Perrier, the Heidsiecks, Deutz, Taittinger, Salon, Ruinart, Perrier-Joüet, Joseph Perrier, etc., or firms that make Champagne mainly from purchased grapes. They send us the vast majority of Champagnes (almost 90% of all Champagne exports are by these and the other NMs). Holiday pricing for the Brut Non-Vintage versions from these houses will start at $25 and go skyward.

But there’s also a collection of recently imported or lesser-known, usually smaller NM’s. These include Drappier, Henriot, Besserat de Bellefon, Delamotte, Delbeck, Mandois, Legras, Nicolas Feuillatte (actually a “CM” or a “Co-operative-Manipulant”), Comte Audoin de Dampierre, Gosset, Billecart-Salmon, Jacquesson, Bricout, etc. Of those 105 brands in town about 50% were made by NMs. Look at the bottom or side of the front label: you’ll see (in VERY small print) the letters “NM” followed by their company code. Don’t be afraid to try any of these as there’s not a dog in the lot.

But many of the newer entrants to our market make what are known as “Récoltant-Manipulant” Champagnes (these “RM”s represent over 40% of my total) which are basically estate-bottled bubblies (Gints Brencis, wine director at Sav Way in Oak Brook, refers to them with the catchy “farmer’s fizz” name-tag). Unlike the big houses who buy most of their grapes from a collection of contracted growers and then blend the lot, “RM”s are growers who do not usually blend their grapes or wine with anyone else’s. That doesn’t mean they’re better: in fact, the guy may be a great grape grower but a lousy winemaker (or he or she may make very atypical examples: see below). But it certainly means they will be more distinctive. Gaston-Chiquet, Th. Fluteau, José Dhondt, André Clouet (actually a “Société de Récoltant” but it amounts to the same thing), Chartogne-Taillet, Tarlant, Diebolt-Vallois, Michel Turgy, Michel Arnould, Waris-Larmandier, Mandois, Pierre Gimonnet, Marguet-Bonnerave and Larmandier-Bernier are just a few examples worth seeking out. In these cases, the label will sport the letters “RM” plus the code. (Right now, although almost half of all the Champagne that the French themselves drink is made by RMs, they make up less than 5% of Champagne imports to this country altogether; but that small base has been growing over the past few years). Most of them also blend, using base-wines from the parcels they own in one village or the other. But some only have land in one village and will usually put that name on the label (Bouzy, Cramant, Avize, etc.). PS: as they don’t have national advertising expenditure monies built into their costs, they tend to be better values.

While not an RM, the NM Brice offers a neat way of comparing 4 of these “terroirs”: Aÿ, Cramant, Bouzy and Verzenay ($30 each).

Taking the specificity angle a step further, there are the rare “single vineyard” Champagnes. In a region famed for the importance of the blending process, these are a very different approach to the wine. Probably the two best-known are Krug’s “Clos du Mesnil” ($700 plus) and Philliponnat’s “Clos des Goisses” ($125). They have been on the market for a while if at a price a bit high for most. And a few years ago, none other than Moët et Chandon released three single-vineyard Champagnes with mixed success. Less well known and more of a cult wine is Drappier’s “Grande Sendrée” ($100). It’s actually a two-fer in our category of distinctive wines: not only is it a single-vineyard Champagne, but that vineyard lies in the Aube region of Champagne, an area usually looked down upon by many and are hence not often seen here. And then, at last, there’s Cattier’s “Clos du Moulin” ($80-90) which I have tasted in France but have never seen in Chicago before. The vineyard lies in the village of Chigny-les-Rosés in the Montagne de Reims and is a non-vintage Champagne, made as a blend of three years’ wines. Jean-Milan’s “Terre de Noël” is from a single site in Oger. Varnier-Fannière makes the “Clos Saint-Denis” from very old vines in Avize. Billecart-Salmon just released their premier vintage of “Le Clos Saint-Hilaire ($350). From a vineyard of 2.5 acres in Mareuil-sur-Ay, they only make a few thousand bottles a year. This one’s a three-fer: it’s a single vineyard, a Blanc de Noirs (only Pinot noir) and it is non-dosed (see below).

Wood-fermented and/or wood-aged Champagnes are turning up more and more. It might seem counter-intuitive to put the base-wine of a beverage that is usually so fruit-driven into a barrel because the wood tends to cover the fruit. There is, of course, a history of barrel use here because, well, what did they use before stainless steel tanks? But the needs for improved cellar cleanliness and the change in taste towards the cleaner and fruiter styles saw barrel use decline. But if cellar practices can be modernized and the raw material is of good structure, why not? High-profile NMs like Krug, Roederer and Bollinger have been using barrels for all or part of their production for years without saying so on their labels.

Now, however, there is a greater drift woodward. Feuillatte has introduced a barrel-aged and –fermented blend called “Cuvée 225”. The 225 refers to the number of liters in the barrels used (approximately 60 gallons). The result is a seamless integration of the fruit and the wood in a complex but very delicate format (the 1997 is due in after the 1st of the year). Vilmart et Cie.’s “Coeur de Cuvée” (“heart of the blend”: the 1998 is $85-100) is entirely fermented in new French oak barrels; but the oak never takes charge unless you drink it too young (it usually needs 10 years to develop into a spectacularly integrated and complex wine). A very small NM – Henri Giraud – turns out a few barrels of a cuvée called “Fût de Chêne” (“vat of oak”) which is incredibly rich and needs about 30 minutes’ aeration to really show its stuff (1996 is $180)

However, other producers, most of them RMs, have gone a step or two further allowing the wood to take more of the stage. Jacques Selosse is in the forefront of this movement where the oak is definitely noticeable for better or worse. Jean Milan’s “Cuvée de Réserve”’s base wine spends some time in small oak. Diebolt-Vallois, Jacquesson and Michel Turgy all play around with oak for some or all their cuvées, or blends. And Françoise Bedel, also an organic producer from the western fringe of Champagne and using over three-quarters Pinot Meunier, ferments a portion of its wine in small oak.

For the very bored, jaded or whatever the term may be, there are also a few very different Champagnes out there. For instance, Egly-Ouriet, an RM out of the village of Ambonnay, makes a 100% Pinot Meunier Champagne. This grape, while making up more than a third of all the plantings of the region, does not have a stellar reputation for making great Champagne. Rather, it is used in those cuvées that are meant to be light, fruity and unlikely to improve with age. But every dog has its day, as they say; so if you are adventuresome, catch this one soon (it is called “Brut Premier Cru Les Vignes de Vrigny”: very tight availability).

Also, L. Aubry, another RM but based in Jouy-les-Reims, makes a couple of wines called Le Nombre d’Or. The one called “Campanae Veteres Vites” (“old vines of the countryside”) is an unusual blend of grapes. Prior to the application of the Appellation Contrôlée system in 1938, there were several hundred acres of land that were planted to grapes like Arbanne, Meslier, Fromenteau (Pinot gris), Gamay, Pinot blanc, etc. When the new legislation came into effect, only Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier–by far the most widely planted– were thenceforth the only grapes allowed to be planted for the production of Champagne. What happened to those orphaned grapes? They got grandfathered. Growers who had some of these grapes could use them until they got old and the vineyard needed replanting. Then, only the three permitted varieties could be used if the vineyard was replanted (but as usual, this being France, there are loopholes that allow for the re-planting of these orphaned grapes). Aubry, among others, had or found some of these vineyards and rescued them from oblivion. According to Stephen Tanzer’s “International Wine Cellar”, the blend for the 2000 is 25% Pinot gris, 20% each Arbanne and Petit Meslier with the remaining 35% being the three biggies. According to the distributor, only three cases have been brought into Chicago.

Lastly, the latest trend, probably more of a mini-trend or, even better, a squeak on the market, is the super-dry Champagne, labeled “Extra Brut”, “Non Dosé”, etc. As most Champagnes retain a high amount of acidity, coming as they do from one of the world’s coldest climates for grape-growing, it’s usually necessary to tame it, otherwise few would enjoy its rasp-like mouthfeel. This taming process is called the “dosage” and is done after the wine has been cleared of its sediment, shortly before it is to be marketed. The process begins with the “dégorgement” (disgorgement, coaxing the built up sediment out of the bottle’s neck, or “gorge”) in which some of the wine is blown out of the bottle with the sediment by the built-up gas pressure. To replace it, the winemaker adds a little reserve wine from previous years along with some cane sugar both of which tend to soften the acidity. If done right, the sugar is completely integrated into the wine and helps in the development of the wine’s aromatic and flavor profile. “Brut” Champagnes have the least sugar added (legally up to 15 grams per liter but usually less) while the “Doux” (or sweet) versions have the most (over 50 g/l). As the less sugar is added the more time is usually needed for the integration and taming process, most commercial wines get a healthy dosage and only spend 2 to 3 years ageing before release.

But, IF a grower has great raw material, and IF he makes a superb blend which he is willing to age for the many years it takes to soften without adding any or minimal sugar, the producer can turn out that rare bone-dry version. If you have a low tolerance for tart foods or drinks, these are not for you. But if you are the person at the bar sucking the life out of that lemon or lime in your drink, give one a try. Some of the bigger NM’s—notably Laurent-Perrier (“Ultra Brut”), Piper-Heidsieck (“Sauvage”)—have been doing this for years, but without much consumer acceptance. Maybe the entry of interpretations from the smaller guys will change some minds and palates. Egly-Ouriet’s “Cuvée Brut Non Dosé ($50), André Clouet “Silver” and Tarlant’s “Brut Zero” are examples.

As for getting these wines retail, the two biggest sources in Chicagoland are the ones you would expect: Sam’s and Binny’s. Charles Edward Stanfield holds court at the former (in Chicago) and is worth the trip just to listen to. Both operations offer over 50 brands of Champagne. But Randolph Wine Cellars, Wine Discount Center, Sal’s Beverage World and Sav Way come in at a couple dozen each, while Knightsbridge, Schaefer’s, The Wine Seller, Howard’s Wine Cellar, Fox & Obel, Artisan Wine Cellers, A Taste of Vino & Wine Expressions each offer between 10 and 20.

In terms of restaurants and/or bars, Pops for Champagne – for nearly 25 years a Chicago sparkling jewel — is the place for French fizzy. They carry just over 40 brands of Champagne with over 100 variations on the theme. They just recently relocated to new digs at State and Ohio.

Where can you taste? There will be many opportunities for tasting Champagnes and other sparkling wines before Christmas. See the listings above for specifics. Merry Drinking!

Courtesy of Patrick Fegen and the Chicago Wine School, wineschool.com

December 8th, 2006

Chicago Wine School events thru 14 Dec. 06

1) Chicago Wine School and House Red present “Little Known Reds – Great Cold Weather Drinking” (12/12/2006) These grapes–Nebbiolo, Grenache, Barbera, Tannat, Moristel, Sangiovese, Nero d’Avola and Petite Sirah– are world reknowned, yet they rarely get the attention that the Big Four do. But they have the power and structure and flavor that helps them go wonderfully with the meals we enjoy during the fall and winter. We’ll try them all and learn a little along the way. $60 This seminar will take place at House Red (7403 W Madison in Forest Park–5 minutes from the Harlem exit off Eisenhower). It starts at 6:30 PM and lasts approximately 90 minutes. The fee for this seminar covers the wines, the handouts and the use of proper glassware. Registration by pre-payment is required (check, cash or online payment) Make your checks payable to Chicago Wine School and send them to the address below; or pay on-line at the site. ************

2) Bella Bacinos Italian Bistro Save Time for a Trip to Piedmont Holiday Barolo Wine Dinner – Downtown LaGrange Tuesday December 12th as we welcome Nicola Abbona of Marchesi Di Barolo One of the great names in Piedmontese winemaking, Cantine dei Marchesi di Barolo dates back as far as the 12th century, when the land-owning Falletti family of Piedmont’s Barolo district was granted titles of nobility. Today the estate owns about 100 acres of vineyard in Langhe, including some of the finest vineyards in the district. The Marchesi di Barolo cellars have been owned since 1929 by the Abbona family, who make their home in the large, yellow-fronted villa overlooking the terracotta rooftops of the picturesque village of Barolo. Like their Falletti predecessors, the Abbonas are committed to conserving the estates time honored reputation. Date: Tuesday, December 12th Time: Reception 6:30 pm. Dinner 7:00 pm. Place: 36 S. LaGrange Road, Downtown LaGrange RSVP to: bacinos@comcast.net or with Dan @ 708-420-9600. As is our tradition, Marchesi Di Barolo wines will be available at special pricing as will as Riedel stemware. Menu and pricing for our five course paired wine dinner to follow. ************

3) Randolph Wine Cellars “Annual Cab Shoot Out” Tuesday, December 12 6-8pm Over 30 wines for $30 Typically, in our annual Blind Tasting of Cabernet Sauvignon wines, we serve up a heavy dose of magnificent California examples, season them with competitors from Bordeaux and Washington State, and throw in a few outsiders for good measure. This year, all bets are off! We’re opening our doors equally to all parts of the globe for Cabernet contenders, making for a much needed blend of wine styles and origins in our search for the perfect Cabernet. This tasting will be first and foremost about Cabernet Sauvignon the grape. All wines will be veiled during the tasting, their identities concealed until the tasting is complete. On the night of the event, there will be discounted retail pricing on featured wines. Contact Information email: info@tlcwine.com phone: 312-942-1212 web: http://www.tlcwine.com ************

4) If you’re worried that your bubbly collection isn’t quite up to holiday-party-season par, don’t miss “Bubble Bath VII ” Sample more than 100 champagnes and sparkling wines while enjoying holiday-inspired dishes presented by BIN 36 executive chef John Caputo. And be sure to check out the silent and live auctions and the raffle, which features concert tickets, gift baskets, and of course, champagne, wine and much more. All proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society. Wednesday, December 13, 6 to 10pm Bin 36 (339 N Dearborn St) For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.bin36.com. ************

5) Private Champagne Tasting at UnCorkIt! Wednesday, December 13th, 2006 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM $30.00 per person You are invited to join us for a special Champagne & Sparkling Wine Tasting! Sample bubbly from around the world while enjoying gourmet cheese, crackers and appetizers. We will be closing the store early for this exciting event. Come and taste the different flavors and characteristics of Champagnes and Sparkling Wines from all different regions and countries of the world. Learn from the experts who will be pouring their products. This is a private tasting so sign up early. Names will be checked at the door. Sorry no walk-ins. To purchase your tickets call 312-321-9400 or stop in at our Customer Service Desk. ************

Courtesy of Patrick Fegen and the Chicago Wine School, wineschool.com

December 8th, 2006

Take Advantage of the Winter Home Buying Season

“Wait . . . did you say the winter home buying season?”


We sure did. Many home buyers like to wait until the trees are budding and the flowers are blooming to start shopping for a new home. But the best time to shop is when the “stores” are stocked and there are fewer customers…welcome to the winter home buying season!

5 Great reasons to pull on your boots and start shopping.

1. TIME. The winter market moves a little slower (less buyers) which leaves you more time to consider multiple listings simultaneously without having to make instant decisions. Great time to avoid bidding wars.

2. PRICE REDUCTIONS. Motivated sellers want to sell their homes before the spring market gets moving and buries their listing within thousands of others. They will offer lower prices and sometimes even buy down your mortgage rate to make their listing more appealing.

3. PERKS. If you’re considering a purchase this winter, know that many developers are looking to move as many units as possible – giving you individual purchasing power through the negotiation of extra discounts or “perks” such as paint, crown molding or even a free plasma TV.

4. LESS STRESS. Have you ever tried to get a moving truck for the first weekend in April? Nearly impossible. But if you find a new home in the winter, moving is a breeze. Moving and utility companies aren’t very busy in the winter and can work around your schedule.

5. BEST DEAL. Get in before the prices go up in the spring while taking advantage of current low rates. This will help you get the more house for less money.

BONUS! Clients interested in purchasing second homes or investment properties should know that purchase prices are typically less in the winter months – and contracting and servicing agencies are more readily available for immediate home improvements that may be necessary.

This article compliments of Mary Markis, Senior Loan Officer, Perl Mortgage, 312.651.5357, mmarkis@perlmortgage.com

December 5th, 2006

Keep an eye on your personal credit

RISMedia – Residential Real Estate’s Largest Independent News & Information Service – Immediate access to industry news,top real estate professionals,and the nation’s most respected product and service firms real estate referral,real estate tr: “Most of us are mindful of protecting our credit card numbers and pin numbers although so many are still stolen every year.

Here are some suggestions on how you can protect yourself: “

December 5th, 2006

Scammers… Believe it or not!

Could it be true? Microsoft and AOL have merged…and all you need to do to help them with their market research is to forward an email? And then Bill Gates will send you a huge check to reward you for your services? And this time, it’s definitely real, because the person at the beginning of the email chain named “pdiddy234″ really did receive a check! It’s true!Whoa. If you believe this one, there are all kinds of unsavory folks out there waiting to dish you more of the same.

It’s just like Mom and Dad used to tell you – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers, spammers, phishers…they’re out there in full force, and waiting to jump into your inbox, hoping they can rope you, your friends, and your family into their nasty corral. They pull at your heart strings with notes about missing or sick children or money needed for seemingly good causes…but then may attempt to nab your personal information to take advantage of your great credit. And worse yet, they often do it so well that you feel the need to pass this “important” or dramatic information along to all of your friends, family members, colleagues, and sometimes clients. But what if you passed along information that created a financial hardship for someone you know? No matter how legitimate an email looks, it pays to do a little research and get the facts about emails before you hit forward.

Let’s take a look at two easy sites you can use to check those emails out…or just visit to see some of the funny, interesting, and downright scary spam emails currently floating about the net.

You can get all of the dirt on the emails that you are receiving with just a few clicks of the mouse. You can visit www.truthorfiction.com to check the story out quickly and easily. Categories of topics are clearly listed, along with their determination of if the email story is indeed Truth…or Fiction. This site also lists many of the current viruses and worms traversing the internet, and gives you tools and information to help remove them.

Another great site is www.snopes.com, helping you easily find out if the email you received is the truth, a hoax, or something in between. Simply hit the “Inboxer Rebellion” Inboxer Rebellion Icon icon, then choose the topic that the email may fall under (e.g., boycotts, charity, missing and sick children, petitions, phishing expeditions, etc.), and each claim listed under that category will be marked with a color-coded indicator. For example: green green dot identifies true statements, red red dot identifies false statements, and yellow yel  low dot identifies statements of undetermined or ambiguous veracity. Treat the findings like driving a car, green means go and red means stop. So, if the email you receive is marked with a green dot, feel free to forward on, if red trash it, and if yellow, do a bit more research before passing it along…or do your email list a favor and just delete it.

Additionally, think twice before sending the poems, stories and clips that tell the recipient to send on to more people within a certain period of time, so that they will enjoy good luck, prevent disaster, meet the person of their dreams…etc. Do your friends really appreciate receiving these? And how does this reflect back upon you? It may be all in fun, but think twice before blindly hitting forward.

We all like to share valuable, interesting or funny information, or attempt to help someone who appears to be in dire need. And it is so easy to go into your address book, choose the emails of recipients and just hit forward. But taking the time to do a little research first and think twice before forwarding will save you money, time…and perhaps even a friendship.

Compliments of Jon Miller Chicago Bancorp

Lincoln Park News

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