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May 18, 200910:43 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

Before You Enter the Battlefield, You Need A Plan

Photo courtesy of NOWFE

Whether it’s your life, a business deal, a vacation, or even just figuring out what to do this weekend, you need to have a plan. Clear thinking and a course of action can save you time, frustration, disappointment, and whole lot of questions later on.

Heading into a major wine festival or a grand tasting of wines is no different. Despite what you think your capacity is, you probably can’t do it all. And if you do, there may be many regrets at a future moment, not to mention an upset stomach and headache.

Wine festivals are great places to learn about wine. You have access to a lot of product and you have paid just one price. Much cheaper and better than purchasing a lot of bottles and seeing which ones suit you. But you need a “plan of attack.”

The field of battle is vast, with many pretty colors and fun smells. Without a plan, you are going to be one lost puppy. Let me assure you that if your plan is not well thought-out, or if your eyes are roaming, you probably won’t follow the plan anyway. Yet having a plan makes you look intelligent, organized, and allows you to focus on what you like, or what you want to learn about.

Having a plan is no guarantee of success. It’s just another step to attempt avoiding disaster.

I am not particularly advocating a written plan before you enter a wine festival. Just have an idea in your head where your priorities are and what you hope to accomplish. By the way, a laudable goal is not to attempt to drink every offering in the room. Don’t even think it.

All of this is brought to your attention because this week the 18th edition of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience unfolds. It’s a jumble of events of all types from wine dinners everywhere in town, to upscale tastings, to food events featuring celebrity chefs, to seminars, to strolling tastings, to grand tastings in the Louisiana Superdome.

Many events, many wines, and many opportunities to learn or to reinforce what you already know.  For information, check it all out at www.nowfe.com.

Back to our topic, to navigate this, or any other, wine festival, you need to prepare, and you need a plan. Nothing to stress over. You just need to have some ideas of what you hope to gain in return for your money and your time. 

Before you go, eat. Eat well. I know, they usually serve food at the event. Don’t depend on it being what you need. Eat breakfast, or a sandwich, maybe a burger. Whatever it is, eat. The food will reduce the rate of alcohol consumption by your body. You’ve heard the expression “Lay a good base,” so do it.

During the time you are consuming wine, also consume water. Some experts suggest a 1:1 ratio. Personally, I can’t do that, but you have to stay hydrated and the water will assist.

Okay, so now we’re tasting wines. Lots of them. You do not have to consume all that is poured for you, and you do not have to swallow every sip you take. On every table at a wine event are buckets. You should use them for their intended purpose.

Keep in mind that you will be trying a lot of wine and it will have a cumulative effect. Every sip is not just one sip, it is one that adds up to many.

I know for a fact that as people come in the door of a festival, some will complain that they did not receive a “good pour.” You can bet that these people before very long will be pouring themselves into the back seat of their car, or into a cab.

Go easy. Little sips are good. They tell you all you need to know about a wine. If you really, really like the wine, you can have another. But don’t ask the pourer to fill your glass. Ever. Bad form.

Now, what does your plan tell you to do? If you have received a tasting map of the festival in advance, you should have marked off what wines you definitely want to taste and where they are located.

Stay in type. That means if you want to start with sparkling wines and Champagnes, go around the room and enjoy all that you planned to taste. Same goes if you are a “label drinker” (someone who is influenced by the name of the wine, whether it is particularly good or not), or if you like Pinot Noir or Chardonnay or whatever.

In the beginning, try to stay in the groove of tasting similar wines. They won’t all be located in one place at the festival, so you will be traveling around and skipping many wineries. Don’t worry. You can go back.

One exception: if there are wines at the tasting that cost more than $75, then get to those as early as possible. The wineries don’t release a lot of bottles for tasting purposes at festivals so there won’t be much of them. And if you wait until an hour or so after the tasting has begun, you are likely to be left out of a taste.

I also suggest that if you like Pinot Noir from a particular region, try new wines along the way that are neighbors of the wine you like. In this way, you will find some new treats. Also, don’t be afraid to try something that maybe in the past you weren’t too crazy about. Maybe you had a bad bottle, or it was just a bad day. Try a lot of wines from a lot of different places. This is your chance to be adventurous. Keep your nose in a downturned position. Not up.

When you find something you like, but are afraid you won’t be able to remember it later when it comes time to buy a bottle, there is an easy solution. Either bring a small notepad and a pen to take notes, or award stars. Or mark-up your program. Or use your cell phone to take a picture of the label on the bottle. After tasting hundreds of wines, your memory is not going to be what you hope. I speak from experience here.

Lastly, plan on not driving. Oh sure, you’re fine. But don’t bring your car to a wine tasting. Either ask a friend, a neighbor, or a relative to pick you up, or cab-it home. Stay on the safe side of the law. 

Wine festivals are great fun. The New Orleans Wine and Food Experience is no exception. Bring your joy for life, your love of wine and your happiest face. Be curious. Be a good guest. Get the most out of the time spent with one of nature’s greatest gifts, made more so by talented and dedicated professionals.

And plan. Now, go get’em, Tiger.

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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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