Trouble, oh we got trouble, 
Right here in River City! 
With a capital "T"

("Ya Got Trouble" from Meredith Wilson's "The Music Man," 1957)

Trouble in New Orleans
The trouble in New Orleans is really the trouble with New Orleans. There is simply not enough time. What? You were thinking City Hall, potholes, crime, street lamps, sanitation, or… well, you have a few more, don’t you?

Those matters are all small potatoes. We’ll do something about all that, maybe. The trouble I’m referring to here is the lack of time. Yep, not enough time to do all that this town offers. Constantly, decisions are being made on what to not participate in and what to do. Add to an already overloaded calendar of events, now we “have” to watch A&E Network’s “The Governor’s Wife.” Oh, yes, that train wreck of a television reality show is not to be missed. As the kids are fond of saying, “You can’t make this stuff up.”

So here we are looking at any given evening and seeing three or four events, any one of which you would like to enjoy.

Take Nov. 21, as an example. That is the night the French-American Chamber of Commerce is staging their annual Beaujolais Nouveau grand event at the J.W.Marriott. Beaujolais Nouveau, by French law, cannot be released to the consuming public until the third Thursday in November each year. It is the first wine from the current year’s vintage anywhere in the world. And it’s cause for celebration. Ticket information for the New Orleans introduction of Beaujolais Nouveau is available here.

Just a few blocks away, Charles Mara, who makes some very fine wine in Russian River, Sonoma County, Calif., will be in town and teaming up with Chef Brian Landry at Borgne in the Hyatt to stage a terrific dinner with fine wines from Mara Wines. Between Charles and Chef Landry, you can expect great things. Tickets are available by calling 613-3860.

And on that very same night, the Saints take on the Falcons from Atlanta on national television with the Thursday Night Football broadcast.

This is not an unusual situation. It happens all the time. A few mayoral administrations ago, City Hall was a central reporting point for folks planning activities. There was a general city calendar of all events happening at any time. If you were planning an event, you could access the calendar and see who else was also staging an event on the night and/or time you were considering. It worked fine. And I am certain lots of conflicts were resolved with this simple and sensible solution.


Trouble in Your Wine Rack

According to Sud Ouest, a regional French newspaper that is quite plugged into wine matters, likely 20 percent of all wine sold is counterfeit. It’s very unclear where they obtained that figure, and it seems a little high to me, but the point is there is a lot of counterfeit wine out there in the marketplace.

You would likely only encounter such fake wine if you are a purchaser of the finer labels from Bordeaux or Burgundy. And you are more likely to encounter a counterfeit bottle if you are shopping online. There is always the possibility that a reputable distributor will be duped into purchasing counterfeit wine to be resold to their restaurant and retail clients, but that is not the usual path.

Besides the internet, auctions are a likely place for counterfeit wines to be found. Wherever the provenance of a product cannot be identified, there will likely be phony wines.

In this day and age of everyone owning a printing press of high quality, labels can be printed that are difficult to detect from the real deal. And wine in a bottle, from one to another, pretty much looks like the same stuff. The other aspect to this frightening story is that China is involved.

According to Sud Ouest, last week, magistrates in Bordeaux sentenced Armenian immigrant Armand Aramian to four months in prison for selling fake Château Mouton Rothschild labels on eBay to a Saint Emilion-based winemaker and label collector. When police searched Aramian’s Paris apartment they found 8,000 wine labels in his cellar.

The case comes as Hong Kong millionaire Henry Tang has launched libel proceedings against US lawyer Don Cornwell who accused him of knowingly consigning fake DRC to a recent Christie’s auction.

Chicago-based celebrity chef Charlie Trotter* is also being sued for allegedly selling two collectors a magnum of fake Domaine de la Romanée-Conti for £30,000 last year.

Most of us don’t play in that stratospheric purchasing poker match, but it does pay for us to be diligent. When something does not quite look right, from appearances to price, it likely is not.

I do remember telling friends in California who were seeing some pretty amazing bargains in European wines online after Katrina that all of those bottles removed from our finest restaurants had to be re-sold somewhere. They were not destroyed and the insurance companies would try to recoup some portion of what they paid to the restaurant as part of the insurance coverage.

It’s a crazy world, and if there is a buck to made, someone will always be there to make it. Let’s hope it’s not your buck.



*UPDATE: The reference to Charlie Trotter, Chicago restaurateur, was taken from a news item several weeks ago in Sud Ouest, a regional French newspaper. Today’s Happy Hour column was written on Nov. 2, several days before the passing of Mr. Trotter. Our sympathies go out to the Trotter family. He was an amazing man and a talented chef. His influence on American cuisine will be long felt, as will his loss. -T.M.