Congratulations Are in Order

WINO and C Squared merlot have been garnering national accolades lately.

Looking at the soon-to-expire calendar on the wall (actually, I have not had a calendar on the wall for quite a few years, but “calendar on the screen in the Outlook program” does not have a pretty ring to it), it seems there has been a joyous batch of accolades for some local folks.

The Saints are not the only New Orleanians making an impact both around town and beyond, so let’s bring you up to date on others.

WINO,  a great abbreviation for the Wine Institute of New Orleans, which is a rather lofty name, received a wonderful write-up late Friday in USA Today’s weekend section. I’m thinking no one saw it because the Friday after Thanksgiving is not exactly a high circulation day for the newspaper.

Anyway, WINO was listed in the “10 Great Places to Forge Fun.” The national paper said that WINO is an “oenophile’s dream” and a “sophisticated respite from Bourbon Street madness.”

Why every member of the visiting media has to reference Bourbon Street escapes me, but a positive mention of anything about New Orleans is always appreciated.

Zagat editor Eric Grossman further notes: “The main attraction is a state-of-the-art Italian-made wine serving system that, upon inserting a pre-paid store debit card, allows customers to pour an ounce’s taste, or a half- or full glass. Don’t miss the cheese menu for pairings.”

He does manage to insert the correct description of the operation –– that it is a wine bar, shop and school.

If you have not been to WINO, it is located at 610 Tchoupitoulas St. in the Warehouse District, just one block toward uptown from Poydras.

Congratulations go out to Bryan Burkey and the whole gang over at WINO!

Ron Christner and his wife, Bonnie Curry, have for a few years worked with their Bennett Valley Road vineyard in Sonoma, trying to raise merlot in a high-quality, small-batch fashion.

Ron is a professor at Loyola University, and Bonnie is a local real estate appraiser, but they have a passion for wine, and they also possess quite discriminating palates, I might add. Due to one darn thing after another, they have not been able to bring enough wine to market to make it worth everyone’s while, including the winemaker, the winery and themselves.

They’ve managed to eke out some small quantity of their wines, beginning with the 2005 vintage, and along the way I have always been impressed with their wines’ structures and styles. The Sonoma County Harvest Fair wine competition, the main such competition for producers in that area, awarded a Silver Medal to their 2005 effort. (Disclosure: I judge at that competition, at which all wines are tasted blind, as is the case in every professional wine competition.)

Now, it seems, their just-released 2007 C Squared merlot has been recognized with a 92 rating from Wine Enthusiast magazine. I’m not usually a big fan of numerical ratings, but I wanted to note it here because 1) It is really good wine, 2) Local folks are behind it, and 3) It’s available only in New Orleans and Northern California.

Look for the wine at Swirl, the wine shop just off Esplanade by the Fair Grounds, and a few other places around town, such as Upperline restaurant. Ron and Bonnie have recently signed with a local distributor, so C Squared will likely be popping up on a few more restaurant wine lists.

But there is not much of it, so I would suggest you pick up a bottle or two very soon.

Congratulations to C Squared Merlot, and to its proud New Orleans creators, Ron Christner and Bonnie Curry.

Oh, and you may also want to visit Il Posto Italian Bistro, 4607 Dryades, just up from Napoleon Avenue. That’s the operation of their daughter, Madison, and I’ll bet she’ll have C Squared to accompany some incredibly authentic and fresh Italian cuisine.

While we are handing out congratulations, this last accolade is for a bar professional who is absolutely on fire. No, not literally.

Daniel Victory, an extremely capable and talented mixologist at Jeremy Davenport’s lounge in the Ritz-Carlton, will have to expand his mantel in order to accommodate all the awards he has gathered in just the past year.

About a month ago, he scored quite the accolade from GQ magazine for his creation the Courtyard Cooler, using Bombay Sapphire gin. He’ll make you one any evening at the bar.

Coming up this week, Daniel will be honored by our own New Orleans Magazine (of course it’s our own –– New Orleans Magazine in Denver does not make sense) as the Bartender of the Year in New Orleans.

Don’t think that is an easy recognition to gain: Do you have any idea how many great bartenders there are in this town?

Now we hear that in January, Daniel will be heading to the Big Apple as a finalist in the Bénédictine-sponsored Alchemist of Our Age competition.

The folks who create Bénédictine Liqueur are celebrating 500 years since the creation of the product by a Benedictine monk in Fécamp, France, during the Renaissance.

Daniel has created a quite interesting and understated concoction, the Bénédictine Harvest Sensation:

1 1/2 ounces Bénédictine
1 ounce sweet potato au jus

Splash of heavy cream

In a mixing glass, stir above ingredients with ice. Next pour into a pony glass with a “Rim of Magie.”*
Finally, garnish with a sweet potato chip.

*Rim of Magie: 

Sweet potato hay

Sea salt

Unflavored Pop Rocks

Now that sounds interesting. Who even knew that Pop Rocks came unflavored?

Congratulations, Daniel Victory, on quite an incredible run of success.

There you are. Just when you think that matters have quieted down or that we are resting on our reputation as a football capital, along come good local folks who are bringing more glory to our little burg.

Thanks to all of them for their dedication –– and to all of you because you are a part of what they are accomplishing.


Categories: Cocktails, Happy Hour