May 30, 201310:11 AM
All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans – Sponsored by SmokeFree NOLA
The NOWFE Wrap-Up and Colby Red
NOWFE: Farewell to 2013
Over this past weekend, during the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, several of my “friends” came up to me, reminding me that my views on last year’s event included the phrase, “the New Orleans cuisine blew the wines out of the room,” and asked me for impressions of the unfolding 2013 spectacle.
After such an understated and terse analysis of 2012, what did 2013 bring? If you were there, and I hope you were, you already know. New Orleans chefs stepped it up another notch. There was no end to amazing offerings, food-wise.
The really fine news is that so did the wineries. To be sure, I heard comments from wine lovers that the alcohol side of the ledger was greatly lacking. Not certain what they were looking for, but I do know they were not looking. Can the wines being poured be better? Hell, yes. Can we expect to see them better? Probably not.
But it’s not a function of NOWFE. It’s not the distributors’ fault that tables are not laden with Bordeaux 1st Growths, Napa treasures or having every Champagne house represented. The market as a whole no longer functions like that. Not for NOWFE, nor for any festival.
Wineries can sell all they wish of their high-end products. It’s a world market. There is not enough of this juice to go around as it is. Giving it away is not necessary.
The other whammy hitting wineries right now is that back to back vintages, 2010 and 2011, were lean. Good quality but not good quantity. Just filling orders will be a big management job for the next few years. Don’t expect for NOWFE, or any other wine festival except the very high-end New York Wine Experience or the Aspen Food and Wine Classic, to be the beneficiary of high-end product. Not next year, and likely not for the next few years.
All that being said, and fully appreciating that everyone wants to drink $80 bottles of wine all the time at a one-price gets-you-all deal, what the wineries have done is change the sales dynamic. There is now a huge tier of mid-priced, proprietary wines, which demonstrates the capability of the winery while using their grapes for a product that can’t be duplicated by other wineries. These labels are called by a proper and unique name developed by the winery. It’s all good stuff, just maybe not so familiar.
Those items were at NOWFE, and they were generously poured.
So what were the wines worthy of our attention, and available in the market, and likely relatively new to many of NOWFE attendees? Since you asked:
- Moises, anything. The Pinot Noir, in several shades from different parts of the Willamette Valley of Oregon continues to be stunning. Only available in New Orleans. And the Moises Pinot Grigio was crisp, full of sunshine fruit, and well structured. A great breakfast wine. Really.
- Mara. Charles Mara lives in New York, where he fits in very well. He makes wine in Russian River, Sonoma County, and those fit into that place very well. His Pinot Noir is a star, but the real winning wine on the table was the just-released Sauvignon Blanc, fresh and delightful.
- Clarksburg Cabernet Franc. This is from the Clarksburg area of California, more well-known as a prime Chenin Blanc growing area. This Cabernet Franc was a jewel. Round and luscious, perfectly framing the soft, red berry fruit of a much-underutilized grape varietal.
- Selby Carnival Sparkling Wine. Susie Selby of Healdsburg, Calif., Sonoma County, loves New Orleans. The fleur de lis charm on the necklace she never takes off will quickly tell you that. Her brand new sparkling wine is named for our greatest festival. She describes us as “the most festive city in the world.” Carnival is made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Really delicious.
- Rosenblum Rockpile Zinfandel. Okay, I’m going to toss you Big Red Wine Drinkers a good one here. Rockpile is an appellation in northern Sonoma County. Rosenblum cut its teeth on well-structured but really big zins. If it is possible for a huge zin to be elegant, and it is, this one sets the standard.
- Steven Kent Lineage. This wine sent me through the roof. Wow! A truly great Bordeaux blend from California. A truly great world-class wine. Not cheap, $140 a bottle, and not available. It’s sold out. But we had it at NOWFE. OMG! And it’s from Livermore, to the east of San Francisco. Not exactly the place I was looking when seeking excellent blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. I think I’m going to start checking out Livermore and Amador.
As for the restaurants, let me state, and this is not just local pride talking, no wine festival in the world, none of them, has the brilliant array of food on the tasting floor that New Orleans offers. It’s a great credit to our restaurant community, and to the NOWFE Board, that we are so blessed. A few examples:
- Commander’s Palace – Jamaican Jerk Pork, Island Paella, with pickled fruit and agua fresco
- Restaurant August – Banana Pudding, Peanut Butter, Marshmallow and ‘Nilla Wafer Cream
- Café Adelaide – Piquillo Pepper Bloody Mary Gazpacho
- Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse – Crawfish Bisque Cappuccino
- Audubon Clubhouse Café – Seafood Stuffed Roulade with Bordelaise Angel Hair Pasta
- Martinique Bistro – Seared Lamb Loin with Cucumber-Sweet Onion Pickle
- Hyatt New Orleans – Chicory Banana and Nutella-Stuffed King Cake
Doing Good and Drinking Colby Red
Colby Groom was a very, very sick 9-year-old little boy. He underwent back-to-back surgeries to repair his ailing heart. He lived through the grueling experience but the road to recovery was a long one.
He determined as he went down that road that he wanted to do something for heart research and for charities that were funding such important work. But how was a little boy going to raise meaningful monies for such big projects?
That was more than three years ago and today, Colby, now in good health, has raised more than $350,000 for charities that support heart programs. Not bad for a guy who has not yet seen his 14th birthday, and not bad for a guy who just a few years ago had very low prospects of ever experiencing that milestone.
Colby’s Dad is Daryl Groom, an extremely talented winemaker in Australia and California, who, at Colby’s suggestion, blended a wine, Colby Red, comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Shiraz and Petit Verdot.
Colby is now traveling the country as a spokesperson for the American Heart Association, and has made donations to more than 100 groups all over the US involved with finding solutions to heart diseases, as well as helping families who are facing heart-health crises.
Camp Bon Coeur, a camp in Eunice, La., for children with heart issues, has been a prime recipient of donations from Colby Red.
The wines are available all over our area at Walgreen’s (yes, you read that right), at a few CVS stores, and Dorignac’s. It’s good stuff, reasonably priced and just by purchasing the wine, you will be helping a little boy who has a big heart do important work for others in need. Thankfully.