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Winemaker for a day

Blending wines is not just for professional vintners these days. This year, Chicago-based restaurant Bin 36 helped guests create their own blends at its second annual harvest festival.

"The Harvest Festival was an opportunity to give people interested in wine a chance to have fun blending their own wine. It's really cool. It is also a way of getting new customers interested in wine to come to our restaurant," says owner Dan Sachs. The restaurant holds about five events per year, including chocolate, cheese, and Champagne tastings, to reach different audiences.

This year's harvest festival attracted about 150 people who designed their own cabernet-based wine and labels, assisted by Sachs and the restaurant's wine director, Brian Duncan. The event cost $36 and included all the wine and food consumed, one bottle of personally blended wine, and a goodie bag with items like a BIN 36 corkscrew and the latest issue of Chicago Magazine. Even though one bottle was included, about a third of the guests ended up ordering half or a whole case of their own blend for the holidays at an extra charge.

While few of the restaurant's events make a big profit, Sachs says that they are a great marketing tool for reaching a broad range of customers. Will they repeat the harvest event next year? "Absolutely," says Sachs. " I think our customers would kill us if we didn't."

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