Mar 25, 201012:00 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

Two Great Events You’ve Probably Never Heard About

As if we don’t have enough to do around here for April and May, more events are headed in our direction and they are all important in their own ways.

Although I am not usually the town crier for specific events (that role is best left to calendar sections of Web sites and good friends who keep up with such matters), I would not want you to miss gatherings of particular significance simply because you have not done them before. And in this case, you haven’t done them before because the events themselves have not been done before.

The first of the events takes place on April 3 and 4. New Orleans is the starting point of a 14-city tour, with two days spent in each city, sponsored by the International Society of Africans in Wine, or ISAW.

Before we move on, I suggest you: 1) go back and re-read the previous paragraph. It is the concise explanation of what is going on here and 2) clear your mind of previous connotations of wines from Africa.

ISAW was founded by a wine-knowledgeable, eminently likeable young man from Atlanta who has a vision of establishing a training center for African wine grape farmers in the Stellenbosch region of South Africa.

Stephen Satterfield thinks it’s important to train black South Africans to enter the wine industry, making them self-sufficient and productive in their lives and providing us with good wines from that region, something that has not been consistently done over the 350-year history of grape growing in Africa.

Those are laudable goals that can be achieved with our support, and all we have do is show up for a few very interesting parties, enjoy fine food, drink good wines already being produced by some of the very few wine estates owned by black South Africans and enjoy fun music. Sounds like a recipe just made for New Orleanians.

The entire two-day event is called “Drink Well. Do Good.” On Saturday, April 3, there is the Do Good Concert. A New Orleans musical group, Kora Konnection, will stage a benefit featuring West African Mandinka music and New Orleans jazz. The event unfolds at Café Prytania, located at 3445 Prytania, by Touro Hospital, at 8 p.m.

The next day at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in the Riverwalk will be the Drink Well portion of the festivities.

Wines from South Africa will be featured, notably M’hudi and Seven Sisters, along with food pairings from local restaurants, including Dooky Chase.

Check out the Web site, www.toastafrica.com, for full information and to purchase tickets.

The other event, which is also a first-time effort and will only be staged in New Orleans, is the Independent Champagne and Sparkling Wine Invitational, or ICSWI. This takes place April 16 to 18, mostly at the Convention Center but also at other locations around town.

We first caught wind of this festival last summer, but for some reason there has been relative quiet surrounding the inaugural effort of what the promoters hope is an annual outing, maybe here again or maybe not. Along the way, there have been some prelude events in New York to build brand awareness for the organization, as well as entice producers of champagnes and sparkling wines to participate.

As you know, these are not the best of times for producers of wines with bubbles. Their products, which usually reside at the upper end of the wine price range, have been noticeably affected by the economy, and lovers of such beverages have turned to champagne alternatives, such as the wines from America, Spain (cava) and Italy (prosecco).

But this event aims to bring all of the bubble folk under one tent and allow the consumers to enjoy some good juice from all over the world. The promoters of the event are mainly from New York, though there is a New Orleans lass among them, Katie Callahan, who now calls both New York and New Orleans home. She is passionate about her wines, as well as about her beloved New Orleans.  

The various events, including seminars and tastings, will focus primarily on small producers of champagnes and sparkling wines from all over the world, including multiple places of origin in France, Italy, Spain, the US, Germany and Austria. In the Champagne region, these are referred to as “grower champagnes,” with much smaller productions than the larger houses that release millions of bottles each year.

There are bound to be a whole range of experiences with these wines with which you may not be familiar. And it is good to support these producers’ efforts because with this group, you will be tasting the love of winemaking and the sense of place that are sometimes missing from the products of the large producers.

Although, to confess, I love them all: big ones, small ones, even in-between ones.

Tickets for the ICSWI event begin at $200, which includes two days of grand tastings and the seminars. You can do more by spending more, and depending on your level of interest and appreciation, that may be the way to go for you.

Head to the Web site, www.icswi2010.com, for all the information you will need to get excited about what is about to unfold here.

The point is, just like we told the world on Feb. 7, Super Bowl Sunday, New Orleans is back. These folks have put their faith in our abilities to stage events in our town and allow us to enjoy the experience.

We should support these efforts because they are not only worthy of our support but also important to their respective causes. It’s good stuff, and we can have a great time while enjoying excellent beverages, good food and even a little music.

It all sounds like New Orleans to me. See you there.
 

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Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

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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; the Executive Editor and monthly features writer for Gulf Coast Wine + Dine Online; 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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