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Nov 25, 200912:00 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

Fulfilling Expectations and Giving Thanks

There is no way one wine will satisfy everyone and go with everything, so you'd be wise to have a variety on hand.

Here we are at that unique American holiday, Thanksgiving.

Well, actually, that is not quite true, as several countries celebrate a reason to give thanks for something, such as in Grenada, where Thanksgiving Day is celebrated in late October, and their reason is to give thanks for the 1983 U.S. invasion following the execution of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. Not quite the Pilgrim’s Pride kind of beginning we experienced.

Incidentally, did you know that the first Thanksgiving in America was actually staged in 1565 in St. Augustine to commemorate a good harvest? I guess the Pilgrims had a better press agent as they’ve received all the notoriety since 1621.

Our Thanksgiving celebrations, held on the fourth Thursday of every November, have additionally become the traditional start of the December holiday season and a day when families gather to see just how much food can truly be placed on the dining room table before it tilts or collapses and how many squabbling adults and yelling children can be stuffed into the same area.

OK, that is a bit cynical, and I don’t mean it to be. It’s a fun time for family and friends complete with the now-traditional Macy’s New York parade in the damp and chilling cold followed by an afternoon of football in which the men-folk gather around the electronic hearth, the television, to watch games between teams they really don’t care about.

Whoops, cynicism again. Let’s concentrate on the feast.

Set on the table are all manner of foods: soups, salads, seafood (at least around here), relishes, nuts, breads, sweet fruits, potatoes (yams included), vegetables doused with sauces, fowl stuffed with dressing and gravy.

And you, the proper guest or maybe even the host or hostess, must now come forward with the amazing wine that accompanies it all and pleases everyone.

Don’t even try. The task is laden with landmines, and the downsides are eternal damnation from some family member for your inadequate and awkward selections. And who wants to live with that?

Here’s the deal: Think big picture, and buy accordingly.

First of all, you have to consider who is going to be enjoying your beverage selection. You know them, the friends and family members. You know if they like sweet or dry, red or white, still or bubbly. You know, and don’t try to make them experience something they simply don’t and won’t like. Find something that they can enjoy.

Secondly, think about your food-laden table. No single beverage is going to work. No way. Don’t even think about having one bottle of something that can cross over to all the flavors on the table. You won’t find it. And if you think you will, you are even more doomed to failure than you are willing to admit.

A side note here: When it comes to beer and spirits, don’t even dare think you can satisfy your guests by switching them off of the brand they love over to something else. These drinkers are label-driven. Even buying “close” to the brand they usually patronize will not do any better than buying something completely and entirely different.

If you want these people to feel welcome, buy them what they like. Period.
Now head off to your favorite adult beverage store, and look around. Don’t just purchase several bottles of one kind of wine. Again, think in terms of all those people and all that food. Find some sweeter-style whites. Find some rosés. Find a sparkling wine or two. Find a couple of nice reds. Find the wines, or lose your mind.

No way out of this. At various points in the feast, the wine that paired beautifully with the last course will not work as you move along. What was good with the soup and the salad is probably not going to add to the pleasure of the turkey and all the trimmings.

Of course, there will be those among your guest list who find a wine they like, and they will stick with it until the very finish of the meal. Fine. Let them. They are your guests, or they are your relatives –– or both –– and they are enjoying themselves. What else could you ask for?

Thanksgiving Wines

Before the Feast:
Domaine Carneros Sparkling Wine – Sets the correct tone that this is a special day
Mumm Napa Brut – Sets the same tone

Early in the Meal:
Trimbach Riesling – Nice, sweeter, an approachable wine that pairs well with seafood or salad. Not an American wine but a good value.
Frei Brothers Reserve Sauvignon Blanc – Works well to prepare the palate for fun things to come.

Moving on to heavier soups or salads:
Simi Chardonnay – Excellent weight, bit of oak, not overwhelming but not delicate.
King Estate Pinot Gris – Oregon’s contribution, which is not too light for this part of the meal but not heavy either.

Main Event:
You have a lot of ways to go here, so purchase a number of different bottles.

Georges duBoeuf Beaujolais Nouveau – Every year, I find the pairing with turkey to be fun.
Chalone Estate Pinot Noir – From the Gavilan range in the Monterey area, just across the Salinas Valley from Santa Lucia Highlands, luscious wine.
E.Guigal Cotes du Rhone – Another non-American selection but a dandy match with the gaminess in the bird.
C Squared Sonoma County Merlot – A relatively new wine to the market but a pleasant, refreshing bottle of fine merlot.
Stonestreet Alexander Valley Cabernet - Stepping up in boldness here, but there are no doubt people around the table that like huge wines with big black fruit flavors.

Dessert and Cheeses:
Gloria Ferrer Sparkling Rosé – Excellent palate refresher after many courses of weighty cuisine. Not sweet but works with sweeter courses.
Pontchartrain Vineyards Port of New Orleans – A quite decent lighter-style port from our own neighborhood.

There you are: a wide range of wines to accompany a wide range of flavors.

Let us all give thanks and enjoy the family. By the way, did Dallas just make a first down?

Happy Thanksgiving!


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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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