Oct 25, 201209:20 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

Twisted Logic: Writing About Wine in New Orleans

kodakgold, stock.xchng, 2007

Last week, my good friend, space-mate on myneworleans.com and talented colleague, Robert Peyton, provided insight into how he puts his weekly epistles, Hautes Plates, together. It was astute and a fun read. In case you missed it, you can read it here.

That moved me to thinking about my process, which is not nearly as interesting as his, and we can happily gloss over that topic as it applies to me. But what I do want to bring up here is a nagging thought: what the hell am I doing writing about wine in a town that has none of its own? We can’t grow grapes around here. We can’t stage a harvest of any note (sorry, Pontchartrain Vineyards. I know you are working hard and we admire your struggle). We can’t even look at the weather patterns for South Louisiana and note that the grapes ought to be spectacular this year.

 

Of all the great and wonderful agricultural products that are grown right in this area, and a list would be long and impressive, grapes are not among the vegetables or fruits in which we take so much well-earned pride.

 

When it comes to wine, we are lousy creators yet still some of the best consumers on the globe. But if you are focused on writing regularly about wine, New Orleans and South Louisiana are not the most ideal locations. Talking to winemakers for interviews and “inside” information requires that they fly in here, or I call them long distance. A really long distance.

 

If I want to know how the weather is treating the vines during growing season, or if the harvest will be early, I can’t just look out the window. I will be online checking out weather patterns in McMinnville, Ore., or Healdsburg, Calif., or Walla Walla, Wash. Some of my fellow wine writers simply roll out of bed in the morning, step onto their front porch to pick up the newspaper (and don’t get me started on that topic since we only get one three days a week), look up at the sky and say, “I’ll bet the winegrowers are happy. Looks like the rains will hold off for a bit longer.”

 

I could do the same but it won’t have any bearing on anything except that my neighbors in the French Quarter will think I am even battier than they are. And look at the baseline of good sense we are dealing with for some of that group.

 

To quickly answer that last snarky remark, let me tell you that actually there is no place on the entire planet I would rather be. Okay, so we don’t have grapes, but this beautiful, embraceable, loving, creative, delightful, fun-filled, maddening city does have something wine country does not: New Orleans itself, not able to be replicated or replaced. We all know that.

 

Anyway, when it comes to wine and spirits, we are, indeed, great consumers. That counts. And we surround those beverages with the grandest cuisine anywhere. Even the folks in wine country will tell you that.

 

Interestingly, in this age of “you can do your work anywhere,” we are seeing some other wine and spirits writers take up residence in our midst. Writers from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast live here. New York Times lifestyle writers are here. Authors of books about rum and cocktails are here. Hell, it’s actually starting to get pretty crowded with all these talented people camping out in a city with little or no manufacturing of the products on their assigned beat.

 

But here is a point that has always interested me: since we are such great consumers of adult beverages, why hasn’t someone stepped up and created a grape that can be planted and would work well here? That Frankenstein approach is not far-fetched. It’s been done throughout the Midwest and the East Coast. Hybrid grapes, composed of characteristics of classic grapes coupled with traits that overcome the negatives of grape production in those places, are in great supply.

 

A region that has a particular difficult soil type, or too-much/too-little rain amounts, or subject to diseases or mildew, can have a hybrid grape developed that overcomes many of those negatives while delivering the positive of floral or palate-tastes of something popular.

 

It was done to a limited extent with the Blanc du Bois white grape in Florida. This aromatic and tasty grape was developed to overcome many of Florida’s grape-growing negatives, which are about the same as ours. Blanc du Bois is flourishing all along the Gulf Coast.

 

The general wine-consuming public has reacted to the Blanc du Bois with a hearty, “Meh!! So what?”

 

I think the point is we want to drink the classics. We want great pinot noir from Burgundy, or at the minimum Oregon or California. We like our Champagnes to be from that storied region in France. We demand that cabernet sauvignon originate in Napa, Calif., or, even better, in Bordeaux, France.

 

In short, we like what we like, and what we like is authenticity. That’s not to say we are not adventuresome. We’ll try anything and the bigger the holiday, the further we stretch. Sure on Mardi Gras you begin with exactly what you want. When that runs out, and it always does, you’ll go for a Big Ass Beer or a Hand Grenade. Admit it.

 

The point is even if we had a local hybrid grape, maybe we would not drink it. We consider ourselves and our city to be world-class. Rightly so. And we demand to drink what the world is enjoying. Just in larger quantities.

 

Okay, so there are no wineries of any grand note here. We are distilling some rums, vodkas, even gins, all of good quality but not a lot of them.

 

What we have is a lifestyle, a full appreciation of every day being in such a special place. We can and do fill in the rest with nice beverages made in other places.

 

First, New Orleans 4ever. After that, we’ll figure the rest out.

 

                                 -30-  

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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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