The entire talented staff here at Renaissance Publications, publishers of this website, multiple blogs, and numerous magazines, approaches their assignments from completely different perspectives. Styles, topics, frequency, viewpoints are all over the board, sharing very little from one published message to another.
Except for one thing: every one of the informed and committed-to-excellence folks here love New Orleans. Passionately. Not blindly but from the bottom of every heart.
I mention that truth before I jump into my topic for this week, the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience (NOWFE). I was in on the beginning of NOWFE more than 25 years ago. I served on the board of the organization for nine years and was honored to be president for two terms. I tell you that, as writers say, in the interest of full disclosure, but also because it has no bearing on my views of the festival. Didn’t see that one coming, did you?
I believe in what NOWFE is doing. I am a firm believer in understanding wine, food, New Orleans, and life in our city, and I think such events as NOWFE provide that background education, as well as a damn good time, that allows us to enhance our enjoyment of all of those topics. Most of you who know me, or who read this rambling effort every week, know that last sentence is the absolute truth. Then again, so was everything preceding it, so what’s my point?
Point is simple. My wife and I go to a lot of wine festivals every year, all over America. We attend a lot of wine events, dinners, professional wine competition judgings, and celebrations. I tell you with a straight face: The New Orleans Wine and Food Experience is one of the best festivals of its type anywhere in this country. Period.
Yes, every wine festival gets wines from all sorts of places. Many festivals can actually get wine from right in their own neighborhoods. Very cool. But wine is a portable item and every festival can get wine from anyplace on the globe. What those festivals cannot get is the experience of true New Orleans cuisine as served by the keepers of the flame.
Our wine selections take a back seat to no other wine festival anywhere. Our food samplings at the seminars and the grand tastings put us at the top of the heap. No festival does what we do, with as much gusto and quantity, as NOWFE. As it always has been, our restaurant community staunchly supports the city and the region it serves. Generosity does not begin to describe what our restaurants do for our area without question and with enthusiasm.
Let me make one more point while I am up here on the soapbox. Many of you complain about the variety and the quality of the wines served at the Grand Tastings. To a certain extent you are correct. I think the wines, in general, could be of higher caliber and with more variety. But let me ask you this: as a child, did you like Easter egg hunts? Yeah, me too.
And that’s what I view the NOWFE Grand Tastings to be. There are well over 1,000 wines on the floor of Hall J at the Convention Center. Somewhere in that haystack is your needle. My guess is that you have not tried all of those wines. Well, here is your chance. And I am willing to bet if you keep sampling, keep digging, you will find some new wines to enjoy in your repertoire. If you’ve been focused on wines that cost more than $45, drop down a notch and check out some $25 wines. Likely you will not only be surprised, you will in the long run save yourself a few bucks on future drinking sessions.
Don’t focus on what is not at NOWFE. The wine distributors and the administrators of the festival have no control over who sends what wines to be shared. Focus on what is there. Work with that.
Okay, for the full information on NOWFE, head over to the website, www.nowfe.com
. That’s where the latest updates are going to be and that will guide you as to what is still available. Lots of experiences are now sold out so I encourage you to get over there before other events become unavailable to you.
More than 32 restaurants are participating in the Wednesday (tonight) wine and winemaker dinners. Last I heard there were still some spaces available at Galatoire’s, G.W. Fins and La Louisiane, among others. Those are all good dinners with fine wines.
On Thursday, the high-end wine tasting Vinola is sold out. Wines will be tasted with a retail value of at least $75 for the reds and $55 for the whites. Maybe there is a waiting list.
After that is the signature event of NOWFE, the Royal Street Stroll. This style of fun, and NOWFE was one of the first, has been copied by wine festivals all over America. Head into shops, check out the antiques or one-of-a-kind items and enjoy a nice glass of wine from the winemaker his/her self. More than 15 restaurants participating. New this year, in the 900/1100 blocks of Royal, is Prosecco Park. It’s going to be a hot day so this may prove to be a very nice stop.
Friday has a number of seminars, including (and don’t these titles sound intriguing?): Talk Dirty to Me, Fresh and Dried, Postcards from the Kitchen, I Get a Kick from Cremant, Temper Tantrums, Homegrown, and Tour de Grand Cru.
Friday evening is the first of two Grand Tasting experiences, in the Convention Center from 6-9 p.m. This is the party not to be missed.
Saturday the seminar bandwagon continues to roll with Déjà Vu in the Vieux Carré, Simply Sake, and the Bounty of Sonoma.
Once more into the breach, on Saturday afternoon, 2-5 p.m. is another Grand Tasting; only this one will feature the seventh annual King of Louisiana Seafood competition. That fun event takes place in the same Hall J simultaneous with the Grand Tasting. “Overload” does not begin to describe the sensations.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to brag that any festival in New Orleans is a fantastic good time. NOWFE is among the best. Hope to see you there.