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Aug 19, 201012:00 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

Smugly Self-Righteous

No doubt it has always been so, but it seems we of the Homo sapiens persuasion have a piece of our DNA devoted to being –– and this is a scientific term –– snotty.

Somewhere in each of us is a body of knowledge that we take personal delight in possessing. We are more than happy at any given moment to trot out our topic-focused education, holding forth over fellow humans who are unhappily in proximity of the reach of our voice.
There are so many specialty areas of knowledge in our daily lives that each of us can easily be made to feel inferior on a wide variety of subjects. The entire field of computers and their operation immediately comes to mind. The Internet, politics, automobiles, smart phones, world travel, cooking, child-rearing, sports of all kinds and history are just a few more of the niche topics with which friends and acquaintances can wax extemporaneously without us able to get a word in edgewise, not that we would know what to say even if the opening presented itself.

Even now, my heart goes out to each of you because through the miracle of instant publishing, you are subject to my weekly rantings about wine and spirits and all manner of information and attitude toward same.

The only thing keeping me in balance on this topic of liquid knowledge is the fact that you, no doubt, personally know someone who is more smug with information than me. Hard to believe.

Knowledge of wine and spirits is not in itself a reason for smugness. These topics are happy pursuits, with the ultimate goal of pleasing our friends in a delightful way through new sensory experiences, awakening sensations never before appreciated or utilized.

Someone hands you a glass of wine and tells you to smell from within the vessel flowers, the earth and fruits. Those suggestions cannot be a bad thing. Or you receive a perfectly made cocktail from a friend who personally infused the spirit, muddled the mint, squeezed the fresh citrus and placed the garnish on the finished product. Now that’s quite a nice series of gestures.

Actually it is … unless the gesture is made not out of friendship or love but rather with a subliminal message, “Look what I can do and you cannot.”

It’s not a mean message –– after all, we are the beneficiary of the largesse –– but in the delivery, there is an air of superiority. If you are among those knowledgeable and talented people who wear your mental and physical booty like a crown: Stop it, please.

Intimidation, even when delivered with a gift, is still not pretty. Oh, sure, we are all smiling and happy for the drink, but deep down, your approach to the topic is resented by your audience.

The perfect example is a lover of wine knowledge who is more than willing to let you know that they know and you don’t know.

These in-every-other-way-lovely people undergo a mental and a physical change whenever they are proximate to a wine label. Watch them, and you will see the expression on their face change ever so slightly and their body language mutate into something resembling a game show contestant who has just realized he cannot lose.

What is even more maddening is that sometimes these let-me-tell-you-what-I-know-right-now friends have turned their backs on other occurrences that are equally as interesting.

Do you have friends who will not drink white wines? Why is that? There are some incredibly amazing experiences to be savored with white wines from all over the world. What a terrible line to draw in the sand by ignoring more than half the wine made.

Maybe you have some friends who simply will not even consider drinking anything from New York state or northern Italy or New Zealand or Canada. The incredible work being done at this very moment in out-of-the-way places is simply astounding and quite rewarding.

The other day I tasted a jalapeño wine. I was surrounded by knowledgeable wine people from all over the U.S. They could not wait to try it. Yes, it was a bit like looking at the exhibits at a Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum. It attracted quite a crowd, but everyone had to try it.

In all honesty, after a single sip, that was quite enough. Yet no one turned up their nose or refused to sample.  And no one pontificated about how this beverage was an aberration against nature. If you can be open-minded and gracious about jalapeño wine, then you have the correct mental approach to wine knowledge.

Some of the most knowledgeable people I know are the least pretentious. Some of the most pretentious people I know are the least knowledgeable.

I have devised a simple and pleasant test for you to determine if your wine-loving friends are lovers of wines or lovers of wine labels and status. Noted below are a few wines that have won awards within the past year at professional wine competitions, and they are all well-made, quite good, products of the vintners’ art.

Pick up a few, and serve them to your wine-loving acquaintances. These are not wines that are usually enjoyed by folks around here because these wines are often not brought in by our distributors. It’s probably a chicken-and-egg situation. Without demand, there is no need to stock the wine. And how do you create demand for fine wines? By stocking them and encouraging consumers to try them.

Nevertheless, your efforts to hunt for these wines in the marketplace or on the Internet will be rewarded by fine tasting experiences shared and new knowledge gained.

You see where I’m going here, don’t you?

Navarro Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, 2008, Mendocino, California
Keuka Spring Vineyards Gewürtztraminer, Finger Lakes, New York
J Vineyards Brut Sparkling Rosé, Non-Vintage, Russian River Valley, California
Willamette Valley Vineyards Riesling, 2008, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Michael Katz Sangiovese, Cracker Box Vineyard, 2007, Livermore Valley, California
Rock Wall Reserve Zinfandel, 2007, Sonoma County, California
DH Lescombes Cabernet Franc, 2007, New Mexico
Zerba Cellars Grenache, 2007, Columbia Valley, Washington State
Charles Creek Vineyard Malbec, East Soda Rock Vineyard, 2007, Alexander Valley, California
Sunce Vineyards Ripken Vineyard Tempranillo, 2008, Lodi, California
Bella Vineyards Late Harvest Zinfandel, 2008, Sonoma County, California


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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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