I am just about the last person you would expect to be the adult in the room. That situation does not happen, especially in a festival-crazy, food-mongering, beverage-hogging, ready-to-party at any time or any place kind of town.

Add to that, there is darn little precedent where I play the role of a responsible character, not part of my personal DNA, until now. And even now, I am only going this road for just a little bit; for just a little while. I really felt the need to explain because otherwise some of my friends out there, and I hope that includes most of you, will be looking to the skies to see the coming signs of doom, or reading tea leaves, assured that the End is Nigh.

Those situations are not even close to the truth for now and we shall very soon, likely next week, return to our regularly scheduled programming.

What I am gently trying to work up to is that we are all now, together, at the completion of the first quarter of an entire new year, or at least it was a new year just a few months ago, and I fear that many of us have nothing to show for the time invested.  I’m pretty much with you there.

Heck, with all that has happened so far in 2017, like Carnival, Mardi Gras, a wickedly busy social scene, a plethora of new restaurants opening, not to mention the trusty and delightful old favorites staying the course and whatever else comes along for our enjoyment, we can’t be expected to accomplish something amazing too.

Yet, let me suggest you do yourself a favor, break out of the “rut” and try some new wines. It’s about time you discovered the Great Northwest section of the North American continent. While this wine region is not exactly brand, spanking new. It’s new to us Gulf Coasters and offers some amazing options as far as featured grape varietals and styles.

Lucky for you, and not too shabby for me, I’ve just returned from a judging of wines focused on the upper left-side of the continent and there were some interesting discoveries.  

Top Award – Best Wine of the Cascadia Competition was Wild Good Vineyards, Okanagan Falls, British Columbia, wait for it…..Pinot Gris. That should absolutely stand whatever you know about wine on end. Way up there, a white Italian varietal, takes the prize against some very serious heavy red wines and some daunting whites, overcoming almost 1000 wines in all.

Besides, can a Pinot Gris really be that good? Oh, very much so. Yes, it can.

Maryhill Winery, Columbia Gorge, Oregon, took 13 awards during the competition. These were earned for Albariño, a Spanish variety;  Barbera, the joy of northern Italy blended with Cinsault, a southwestern France grape; Grenache, originally from the Rhone region of France; Mourvedre, closely associated with the Province area of France; and several offerings of Sangiovese, the core grape of Tuscany, France, all grown and vinified in northern Oregon. This is an incredible accomplishment to make outstanding, award-winning wines using so many grapes, many of which are not even considered international in scope.

Cinder Wines of Idaho brought out some wines that took top honors in the Dry and Off-Dry Riesling categories.

Southern Washington, from where you expect sturdy red wines to emerge, did not disappoint. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Gamay and even Pinot Noir were all in the heavy medal count with Best of Class wines and enough Silver Medals to confuse the International Monetary Fund.

Full results of the Cascadia Wine Competition can be found here

I must warn you about two points: 1) A lot of these wines noted are not available in our area. The wineries may be happy/allowed to ship them to you. That’s their choice. But there is a whole lot of amazing product out in the market not from the usual sources in the usual places. Just a little investigation is going to yield amazing personal satisfaction; 2) The link noted above contains references to a New Orleans wine judge who was honored to have participated in the competition. Pay no attention to him or his role. His presence is of no or little consequence.

The real point is this: if you are still enjoying the same and usual juice without a little bit of exploration into new regions and new grapes, at least for you, you have started the voyage but missed the boat and, therefore, the point about drinking wine.

And the year is ticking on, with you losing valuable time. It is, however, not too late to get moving and start enjoying.




Read Happy Hour here on www.myneworleans.com every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed, as well as stored, at www.wgso.com. Also, check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature every month in New Orleans Magazine. Be sure to watch "Appetite for Life," hosted by Tim every Thursday evening at 7 p.m., and Sundays at 5 p.m., on WLAE-TV, Channel 32 in New Orleans. Previously broadcast episodes are available for viewing at http://www.wlae.com/appetite-for-life/