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Sep 13, 201209:43 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

Ramblings and Rumblings

topfer, stock.xchng, 2006

Restaurant Wine Lists


You probably know this better than anyone, and no doubt you know it better than just about everyone working in the restaurant industry: restaurant wine lists are completely out of date and pretty useless.


Here you are, reviewing a long list, probably many pages, of fermented adult beverages made from grape varietals, alongside winery names, vintages, points of origin, and prices. So what do you know now? Do you know the style of the wine, its weight on the palate, sugar levels, other grapes in the blend? When an American wine says Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine is only required to be 75 percent of that grape varietal. What are the rest of the grapes in the mix, all of which can significantly change the style and taste?


The whole idea of a restaurant carrying many styles and grape varietals of wine is to pair with their food. But is that Santa Barbara Pinot Noir more elegant and a bit lighter than its counterpart from Russian River, or the pinot from Willamette in Oregon? Is that chardonnay bright and crisp, or is it buttery and oaked?


Formerly, when the wine world was much smaller, you knew, as an informed and experienced consumer, what a wine would be like when it noted where it originated on the label Haut Medoc or Nuits-St.George. The styles were consistent, and in Europe they still mostly are, with the grape and the region of origin.


Today, however, just about every classic grape is grown around the world on just about every continent. So how do you, an interested diner, know what you are getting?


And that’s why I am asking restaurateurs to please step forward and give us a few clues on your wine list as to what we can expect from those bottles of wine you purchased. Tell us that you think a particular wine has certain attributes that will pair well with certain of your dishes.


I don’t want to take $50 chances in hopes that the restaurant’s cuisine and the wine will play well together on my plate and in my glass.


Whiskey's Astounding Popularity


Did anyone see this coming? I don’t even think the people who make whiskey were prescient enough to foresee the rising popularity of their distilled product.


Impact magazine is a leading trade publication reporting on the spirits industry, published by M. Shanken Communications which also publishes Wine Spectator and Cigar Aficionado. Impact each year measures the rate at which products sell in the marketplace and then Impact’s staff develops a Hot Prospect listing of those products which are expanding their distribution and sales, and then are snapped up by consumers. The results are based on 2011 sales, but also considered were 2010 and 2009.


Seven whisky brands earned Hot Prospect honors, and only six vodka brands earned the same designation. This is the first time ever for this occurrence, whiskey sales as measured by these parameters outpacing vodka sales.


Also in the list were five liqueurs, three prepared cocktail brands, one rum and one gin.


Keep in mind that these are the brands that are growing fastest, with each label having to sell at least 50,000 cases but no more than 200,000. Those parameters make the list a place to watch sales trends as well as identify hot new brands.


The whisk(e)ys singled out were: Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Pendleton Canadian, Bulleit Bourbon, Glenmorangie Single Malt Scotch, The Balvanie Single Malt Scotch, Devil’s Cut Bourbon, and Seagram’s 7 Dark Honey.


Vodkas were Rőkk, Ursus, Godiva, Pucker, Exclusiv, and Cupcake.


Liqueurs were Patrón Citronge, Patrón XO Café, Evan Williams Honey Reserve, St-Germain, and RumChata. Tequilas were Milagro, Lunazul, and Zarco. The Kraken scored well in the rum category, as did Hendrick’s for gin.


For the Love of Ice


We’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating and it is so basic.


When you make cocktails at home for some of your friends, don’t just use the cubes from your ice bin in the freezer compartment of your refrigerator, or even the ice from your standalone icemaker.


Those cubes are in no way pure enough for your brilliant cocktail concoction. You deserve better.


Go to the store, spend the $2, or so, and buy ice that has been produced by a commercial company. That bag of ice has been made to food quality standards. It is purer than the ice that comes from your freezer compartment, which has been made from water that has flowed through the pipes of a municipality or a parish, into your home which probably has piping that is at least 30 years old, and then the water goes through a plastic tube that can harbor all sorts of small creatures intent on ruining your Sazerac.


Have you ever gone over to friend’s house and asked for a glass of ice water? Then you receive something that has a distinct odor about it.


You don’t want that ice in your drink. You didn’t even want it in your water. Whatever is in it won’t hurt you, but it is not top-quality.


Spend a few bucks. Stop by the grocery store. Buy a bag of ice. Use it. No taste. No odor. And there will be no drinks that smell metallic, or plastic, or a lot like those Brussel Sprouts you had for dinner a few nights ago.


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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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