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Apr 26, 201710:54 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

Do Whatcha’ Wanna

There is a movement afoot – or maybe, if we are lucky, we are at the tail end of the movement – where so-called “experts” in flavor and aromas tell you what to enjoy with what.

I am all in favor of suggestions and approaches based on experience and chemistries, but when it comes down to insisting that a third-party knows what your preferences are in your mouth and in your nose, then we need to take a longer look at whose body is doing the work.

There are, of course, some natural pairings of what to eat and drink together. The big items are steak, potatoes and a big red wine, like cabernet sauvignon; or a poached fresh salmon and a rosé or light pinot noir; or just about anything on the planet and champagne.

These pairings are starting points, and, in fact, none of them are absolute. You may like olives and Dr. Pepper – have at it. You pair Diet Coke and 15-year old Scotch? Not my speed, but it’s your glass.

There are, as you well know, arbiters of good taste in higher-end restaurants. They are known as sommeliers. And at a reasonable level, they can guide you through certain decisions. What a sommelier brings to your table is a knowledge of that particular restaurant’s offerings.

Just walking through the door, you have no reason to know the details of a restaurant’s wine list, the subtleties of the dining menu, nor the real skills and product offerings of the bar area. You are on the sommelier’s turf here and listening to his/her counsel can’t hurt. The advice may be spot-on and you can be in for a real treat.

But when a somm (short-term indicating false familiarity between all the parties) puts on airs of arrogance and speaking as if from atop the mountain, then I start mentally backing off our initial cordiality and look to strike out on my own with the lists and menu items.

The big rub, from my viewpoint, is that while the somm brings knowledge and experience to the table, what he/she does not bring are my taste and aroma preferences. In other words, what I like. They have no way of knowing what flavors work for me. And while certain wines contain the right amount of fruit, alcohol, tannins and acids, I may not have an appreciation of all those aspects working together, nor may I be particularly fond of the grapes involved.

We have learned something in the beginning of the 21st century unknown to previous generations: white wines may not be the best pairing with fish; red wines and big red meat may not make the room burst into song; and chocolate and heavy red wines are not a marriage necessarily made in heaven.     

The “rules” have changed because cooking styles and ingredients have changed. Wines have changed. And we modern diners have the sensual confidence of our individual humanity, not to mention the desire to control our own bank accounts.

I bring all this up because finally someone has expressed rational ideas for an irrational act, which should actually just come naturally. Bianca Bosker’s new tome, "Cork Dork" (Penguin Random House LLC, New York, 2017, 329 pages), can assist in putting all of these fleeting life-decisions into reasonable context.

I don’t think Ms. Bosker will ever again fearlessly be able to set foot in a fine dining restaurant which offers sommelier service but those are the chances one takes when exposing one of life’s inequities.

The book is direct, no-nonsense, a playground of observations, and it’s an indicator as to how much pretense can be in the equation that made it necessary for her to state the situation and make the valid points she hammers home.

The volume reinforces two of my caveats about dining out and drinking wine:

1) Many restaurants, thanks to unreasonable and outlandish price mark-ups, are terrible places to experiment.

2) Some restaurant personnel take themselves and their opinions way too seriously.

We are back to the basic truth: put in a little research work and then drink what you like with what you like to eat. If it works for you, then it’s right….for you. ‘Nuff said.




Read Happy Hour here on myneworleans.com every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed, as well as stored, at www.wgso.com. Also, check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature every month in New Orleans Magazine. Be sure to watch "Appetite for Life," hosted by Tim every Thursday evening at 7 p.m., and Sundays at 5 p.m., on WLAE-TV, Channel 32 in New Orleans. Previously broadcast episodes are available for viewing at http://www.wlae.com/appetite-for-life/


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Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans


In New Orleans, when the subject is wine and spirits, it is very difficult to leave Tim McNally out of the discussion. He is considered one of the “go to” resources in the Crescent City for counsel and information about adult beverages and their place in the fabric of life in this great city.


Tim is the Wine and Spirits Editor, columnist and feature writer for New Orleans Magazine; the Wine and Spirits Editor and weekly columnist, Happy Hour, for www.MyNewOrleans.com; creator and editor of his own website, www.winetalknola.com; all in addition to his daily hosting duties on the radio program, The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, on the air at WGSO – 990AM, every weekday, 3- 5 p.m, and streamed live on www.wgso.com.


Over the years, Tim has proved to be an informed interviewer, putting his guests at ease, and covering tactile and technical information so that even a novice can understand difficult agricultural and production concepts. Tim speaks with winemakers, wine and spirit ambassadors, distillers, authors, people who stage events and festivals, and takes questions from listeners and readers, all seamlessly blended together in a program that is unique in America.


Tim’s love of wine actually came about many years ago from his then wife-to-be, Brenda Maitland, a noted journalist in her own right, and together they have traveled to the major wine producing areas in the US and Europe, seeking first-hand information about beverages that give us all so much pleasure.


They were instrumental in the founding of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, a major national and international well-regarded festival of its type. They both continue to be involved with the planning and staging of this multi-venue, five-day event now over twenty years old.


Tim is also considered one of the foremost professional wine judges in the US, being invited to judge more than 11 wine competitions each year, including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (the largest competition of American wines in the world, with more than 6,000 entries), the Riverside, CA International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition, Indiana International Wine Competition, Sandestin, Florida Wine Festival Competition, the State of Michigan Wine Competition, the U.S. National Wine Competition, and the National Wine Competition of Portugal.


Tim is a guest lecturer to many local wine and dine organizations, and speaks each year to the senior class in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama.


Staying abreast of the news of the wine and spirits world is a passion for Tim, and he is committed to sharing what he knows with his listeners and readers. “Doing something I love, with products that I truly enjoy, created by interesting people, coupling the experience with culinary excellence, and doing it all in the greatest city in America,” are the words Tim lives by.


It’s a good gig. 




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