A vineyard manager and a winemaker in London woke up one morning two weeks ago, looked over their vineyard, and were surprised to find very little trace of the fruit they were about to harvest.

Seems the birds, in one night, managed to devastate the entire 2012 crop, literally leaving nothing behind. The wine guys, who have been nurturing this vineyard for four years in a quest to make wine in that world capital, had finally turned the corner and were looking forward to picking grapes then sending them through fermentation.

Actually for me, the surprise was not that the birds had ravaged the crop, but that there was going to be a London wine grown near the city’s limits. Who knew? I am certain if he were alive, fellow Brit Alfred Hitchcock could have predicted this entire affair, and turned it into a frightening film, "Night of the Vineyard Birds."

Crush 2012

While we are on the topic of harvesting grapes, very timely here in the Northern Hemisphere right now, reports are coming in from all over the wine-growing world that are both excellent and dire.

Let’s start with the folks who are very happy with what 2012 is bringing them, the Americans. Winemakers in Oregon are ecstatic with the quantity and quality of the fruit they are now crushing. Best in years, they say. California, up and down the coast, is very happy with what they are seeing, and Washington state is also joining the party.

This is particularly gratifying because the last two vintages, 2010 and 2011, for all of those areas have been lean, with decent quality, but quantities were way below what is needed to meet demand. That sea of juice that built up from the previous years has evaporated as winemakers did a lot of purchasing on the bulk market. Guess what that means to you, dear consumer: higher prices. Yes, you really did study Economics in school.

While 2012 likely won’t fully resolve the supply issue, it is a needed elixir for the American wine industry, where lately there has not been enough of the good stuff.

Europe on the other hand is not happy with what 2012 brought to them. A terrible growing season, punctuated with hail, too-cool weather, and not enough rain, or too much, means what is about to come out of Europe will be not-up-to-par and there won’t be enough of it. Lean times ahead coupled with higher pricing, at a time when they can least afford to lose any more consumers to other wine producing regions in the world.

Back to a positive note, a country we have not heard much good news out of lately, and maybe even forgotten about, Australia, had a great harvest. Keep in mind that in the Land Down Under, grape harvests take place in February and March, so they are well along the way to sorting through what looks to be a record year in terms of tonnage.

I would expect that a few winemakers in Europe will purchase some of that excess juice/wine and bottle it. They can’t, of course, call it anything like what they usually make, but they can create new labels and proudly display on the label that the wine was made, or is based, at such-and-such a winery in an exotic-sounding little village. Often that’s enough for casual drinkers of wine.

Mixologists: More Toys to Play With

The bar guys and girls are always seeking the latest ingredient, that eye of newt, that will set the palate to a dazzled state. They don’t much care if they use more than a thimble-full only once and then never again, as long as: 1) they can brag that, “Oh yea, I made a drink with that stuff. Really fun to work with;” and, 2) it comes in a pretty bottle.

Okay, then here’s some good stuff you will use often, and be happy with the results. Pierre Ferrand, the quality-driven gang who make incredible Cognac, is going deeper into the spirits side of the bar. The thinking here goes, I think, if you can distill fine grapes, then most everything else you touch falls into place, but still in the still.

They have developed a Dry Curacao featuring tangy orange flavors, Triple Sec style, that should get those creative and palate juices rolling. The product you know that is close to this is Grand Marnier®. I am suggesting you give the Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao a try because it’s a top-notch condiment, and it was just named the Spirit of the Year 2013 at the Berlin Bar Show, a huge honor.

Then there’s Pierre Ferrand’s newest or oldest, depending on how you gauge such things, Cognac, the 1840 Original Formula, which received the Best New Product at our very own Tales of the Cocktail back in July. Ferrand is racking up the honors and awards with specialized beverages that will make your bartending skills appear light-years ahead of where you are right now.

Congrats to the talented team at Ferrand!

High School Juniors and Seniors with an Aptitude for Art

The George Rodrigue Foundation for the Arts (GRFA) is developing a great project that completes a lot of circles. I like circles that complete. Can’t draw one, but it’s a pleasing shape.

Anyway, GRFA is creating a cookbook. Those are always popular, and around here they are very, very popular. This Louisiana culinary cookbook the Foundation is creating will be illustrated, for the most part, by aforementioned juniors and seniors. And the mechanism for choosing the art is to encourage entries into a competition, with the winners having their work published (a very big deal), and these talented teenagers are awarded college scholarships. The proceeds from the sale of the cookbook will be used to further the work of the Foundation, which is to encourage artistic talent in young people, and so on.

Told you it was a circle, and a damn good one at that.

Deadline is Feb. 20, 2013, but if you are interested, and if you know a high school junior or senior that has any art talent, you probably should be, full details are at There is $45,000 available for scholarships and even some monies to purchase more art supplies. It just keeps on going and going and going.

Shameless Plug

Starting tomorrow, and every Friday from noon until 3 p.m., I will be back on the radio (sorry all you radio-quality people) hosting The Wine and Spirits Show with Tim McNally, 1350 AM. Streamed at

Each week we will have numerous guests from every corner of the fermentation and distillation world. Our first broadcast tomorrow (Friday, Oct. 19) will feature James Moises of Moises Wines, Willamette, Oregon; Bryan Carroll, master distiller, Erick Lewko, sales manager, and Kim Jones, community relations, Old New Orleans Rum; and Kirk Coco, president, NOLA Brewing.

I wanted to start off with a real New Orleans adult beverages show. And here we go.

Tune in. Call in. Tell your friends. It’s going to be a fun ride. Come along.


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