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Oct 8, 200912:00 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

Who Ya Gonna Believe?


You don’t have to look far to find someone who is willing to give you advice on a wide variety of subjects. Sometimes it’s one person on many subjects who is looking over your shoulder and watching your every move.
But this column is not about your mother, your wife, your husband, your best friend, your personal trainer or your yoga instructor –– pick as many as apply.

You need only go to the Internet, as you have here, to find no end of people who are full of … advice. And Web sites that rate experiences are as numerous as the experiences they are rating.

Wine is a particularly favored topic for folks who are more than happy to advise you on what you are supposed to like and what you should be buying. It is amazing for a topic that is rooted in personal tastes and preferences to have a plethora of “experts” who are so willing to educate you on your own senses.

Just for the record, I consider myself a wine and spirits observer. Here you won’t find ratings numbers or comments about the new must-have or don’t-bother vintage. You can go elsewhere if you really want strong opinions on purchasing. Really, I may suggest from time to time –– but provide scores and ratings? Never. Which is probably why I’ll never write a book or make any money at this. I’m doing this on my terms, heading straight for the poorhouse.

Certain wine-lovers love to quote the latest mutterings from Robert Parker or rattle off the scores from Wine Spectator. They will run breathlessly to the wine shelves at their favorite wine retail emporium only to be disappointed more often than not because other readers of those reviews have long since tread that same path, plucked the booty and headed for the checkout scanner, credit card in one hand and cell phone in the other, calling wine-buddies and doing the equivalent of the schoolyard taunt na-na-nana-na.  

I like that people are not just buying wine based on pretty labels and are enjoying the research, finding things that maybe they will like and purchasing trophies with solid information and knowledge.

What I am not so wild about is the fact that some of my wine-swilling brethren have become slavish to somebody else’s rating system.

And here is the real point: Your palate is the ultimate judge. Seek the truth and have faith in what you find within yourself. There: Consider yourself freed and prepare to go forth.

Honestly, all of the reviews and all of the guides are just that: guides. Use them as such. There’s a lot of product to choose from, and you are correct to seek outside counsel in helping you choose the best stuff. But don’t base everything on somebody else’s opinion.

You possess the same set of tools as every critic, every writer on an Internet site (yes, including this one) and every magazine article author. And with those sensory tools you bring to the party, you can make your own decisions and have confidence that your conclusions are just as right as anyone and everyone else’s.

So get out there, and taste some wine.

All that being said, let me provide you with some recent news about a professional judging recently staged by the Sonoma County Harvest Fair, in which I had the privilege to participate, as I am honored to do every year.

The wines judged, more than 1,200 of them, were from Sonoma County exclusively, which is one of the great grape-growing sites on the planet. Places such as Russian River, Sonoma Coast, Carneros, Alexander Valley, Dry Creek, Rockpile, Green Valley and Chalk Hill are all in Sonoma. There’s nothing shabby about wines coming out of every one of those appellations.

Some of the wines judged are not readily available in our market, but most are.

Sparkling Wine
Best of Class: Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut

Sauvignon Blanc
Best of Class: Mill Creek Winery, 2008

Chardonnay, unoaked
Gold: Sebastiani Vineyards, 2008, Russian River

Chardonnay, up to $20
Best of Class: Sebastiani Vineyards, 2007, Sonoma County

Chardonnay, $20 to $30
Best of Class: Taft Street Winery, 2008, Russian River

Chardonnay, $30 and more
Best of Class: DeLoach Vineyards, 2007, Russian River Hawk Hill Vineyard

Merlot, up to $25
Best of Class: Trentadue Winery, 2006, Alexander Valley Estate

Cabernet Sauvignon, up to $25
Best of Class: Clos du Bois Wines, 2006, Alexander Valley Reserve

Pinot Noir, up to $25
Best of Class: Buena Vista, 2006, Carneros

Zinfandel, up to $25
Best of Class: Trentadue Winery, 2005, Alexander Valley La Storia

If you have an interest in the complete list of wines that received medals, head on over to www.harvestfair.org/docs/2009_pgs_20_60_WineAwards_corrected.pdf or www.sonomacountyfair.com.

And remember, you are the ultimate judge of your wine. Now get on with it.


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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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