Inevitably a friend, or even a relative (they can be different, you know), comes to New Orleans intent on enjoying the great cultural opportunities that we mostly take for granted. And along with the where-do-you-suggest-we-dine questions comes one that’s sometimes a stumper for locals: Where can we go to hear some good New Orleans music? Then you pause, you think, you wonder, and maybe you call one of your friends who spends more time in such pursuits than you. Frenchman Street comes up, maybe Snug Harbor, but, of course, you have no idea who is playing there. After that, the pickings seem to get slim. Who’s at Tip’s? House of Blues? Anywhere? Even if you settle on a place, there is a downside that has to do with the quality of the beverages. In many places, emphasis is placed on entertainment and not on cocktails or wine.
Very few of us, me included, actually grew up in wine-centric families. My dad loved Schlitz, so you can imagine the depth of the quality of wine that was in our house. Whenever a bottle of wine popped up, which was infrequent, it was pretty sweet and without structure. Even at 11 years of age, I was certain that the really grapey liquid in the 1-liter bottle was not very good. And if that was what wine was all about, then I would follow in my father’s footsteps and continue the family legacy of drinking Schlitz in quart bottles. So when I actually discovered wine, through a girl (no surprise there –– the other bit of good news is that I married her), I was way behind on the information curve that I perceived everyone else already had. In reality, “everyone” really did not have that much wine information, but when you have none, even the rudimentary act of opening a bottle was awkward and embarrassing. Sort of like singing a cappella: You think you are doing fine. The looks on the faces of your friends tell you otherwise.