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Feb 14, 201309:51 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

Upcoming Spring Wine Festivals

The party's over
It's time to call it a day
They've burst your pretty balloon
And taken the moon away
It's time to wind up the masquerade
Just make your mind up the piper must be paid

("The Party’s Over," Words by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Music by Jule Styne, Sung by Judy Holiday in her last film, “Bells Are Ringing,” 1956)


It’s been quite a run for our favorite city in the entire world. The celebrations were world-class by all measures of such a statement. We met or exceeded expectations from every participant and we, along the way, had a pretty good time ourselves.


The true measure of a great party is that you hate to see it end. But, in truth, as we dined in the Rib Room Mardi Gras night, late, enjoying our traditional end-of-Carnival-Season meal, I was ready to “call it a day.” It's interesting to note that Kelly Clarkson, in her performance at the Endymion extravaganza in the Dome, pretty much admitted that she was tired and this town kicked her ass. She revealed she does not know how we all do it.


And she was not even here for the weeks leading up to Carnival’s crescendo. A very disappointing remark from such a young person. Where is the next generation of party animals coming from, if not from the entertainment community?


So we take a few days of rest, and then it’s time to go again. That’s the way it is around here. As the saying goes, “Living in New Orleans is not for wimps.” Amen to that, brother. Amen.


There are a number of wine festivals in our region, happening just around the bend, and they deserve your attention. If we don’t stay in practice, how are we going to perform up to our usual excellent standards at upcoming local festivals?


South Beach Wine and Food Festival

Feb. 21-24, sobefest.com


Sorry for the short notice on this, but we’ve been in a bit of festival mode ourselves here. South Beach is a biggie. And they attract some very big stars, both at the entertainment level and in the food world, or both. Paula Deen and Guy Fieri come to mind as examples of the latter.


There are beer tasting seminars, hosted by Spiegelau. There are also several seminars hosted by Wine Spectator, and a whole raft of activities sponsored by Food and Wine Magazine and the Food Network.


It’s all very South Beach so there will be Zen, Yoga, Yogurt, Bellinis and Buddha. Go with the flow.


Savor Dallas

March 14-17, savordallas.com


This ninth go-round of a fun event is close enough to reach quickly via reasonable airline fares or just take a bit of a drive up the Interstate system, 10 to 49 to 20. When you get to Dallas, you are going to need a car anyway.


However you get there, this is a very approachable and enjoyable event. Jim White and his wife, Vicky, have done a great job building Savor Dallas in a solid way.


Don’t need to tell you that there will be a lot of wineries represented (Dallas is a pretty important market for those wineries), but what this festival has done is stage tasting experiences in some pretty nice venues.


On Thursday there will be a tasting at a new development in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, Trinity Groves, incorporating the many food outlets in that area. Friday is at the Perot Museum of Science. Saturday will be seminars and a Grand Tasting, all at the new Irving Convention Center. And on Sunday the Dallas Arboretum serves as the backdrop for a food-centric wine tasting.


Jim freely admits he “borrowed” some thoughts about putting on such an event from our own New Orleans Wine and Food Experience. Keep in mind that we “borrowed” from Aspen’s Food and Wine Classic so it only seems fair to pay it forward.  


Sandestin Wine Festival

April 18-21, sandestinwinefestival.com


This Festival, celebrating 27 years, is actually older than our own New Orleans Food and Wine Festival. This year there will be no Sunday Grand Tasting, with that one moved to Friday, April 19, 5 to 8 p.m. Should be a fun way to spend the evening.


On Sunday, there will be a Champagne Brunch at Baytowne Marina, overlooking the Bay. Works for me on a Sunday morning.


South Walton Beaches Food and Wine Festival

April 25-28, sowalwine.com


Haven’t heard of this one before, have you? Oh, but you have.


Chan Cox, big time wine retailer all over Florida’s panhandle, was the founder of the Sandestin Wine Festival. I have no idea what happened but that festival goes on without him (see previous section above) and now we also have this one. All in Destin. On two succeeding weekends. Seems like we will be the beneficiary of whatever is happening over there.


This one will be staged in an upscale retail area just east of Sandestin, Grand Boulevard. If you went to the original location of the Sandestin Wine Festival before it moved to Baytowne Wharf, you will probably have a bit of nostalgia. But Sandestin Village is not Grand Boulevard. Grand Boulevard is quite upscale and roaming around through several days of Grand Tastings with wine sampling tables set alongside upscale clothing stores is going to be quite appealing to a certain segment of the population intent on spending us out of the effects of the recession.


New Orleans Wine and Food Experience

May 22-25, nowfe.com


This one should be very well known to you.


Starting with the Wednesday evening wine dinners, usually involving more than 35 New Orleans restaurants, to the upscale Vinola wine tasting, giving way to the Royal Street Stroll, and the grand tastings and seminars of Friday and Saturday, all are fun and wonderful happenings.


The reasons I am bringing all of these up to you at this time is: 1) you would not have paid attention if I noted them two weeks ago because with all you had going on, you would have delayed action until now, or later, anyway; and 2) you remember how you wait until the last minute to register (yes, you do. Don’t deny it.) and then are not able to attend those functions, seminars, tastings or dinners you really, really, really wanted because they long ago sold out to people who planned just a little further ahead than you.


So now you know, and now the best selections are still available, with the possible exception of South Beach.


Wine festivals are a lot of fun. You will meet winery executives, sometimes even the winemaker, who can answer all your questions and help you enjoy the wines that much more. And you will hang with people just like you, who enjoy special events laden with adult beverages. Maybe you will even make some new friends.


That crowd from Indianapolis who was in town for Carnival and you hung with last weekend are long gone. New drinking friends may very well be in order.




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Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans


In New Orleans, when the subject is wine and spirits, it is very difficult to leave Tim McNally out of the discussion. He is considered one of the “go to” resources in the Crescent City for counsel and information about adult beverages and their place in the fabric of life in this great city.


Tim is the Wine and Spirits Editor, columnist and feature writer for New Orleans Magazine; the Wine and Spirits Editor and weekly columnist, Happy Hour, for www.MyNewOrleans.com; creator and editor of his own website, www.winetalknola.com; all in addition to his daily hosting duties on the radio program, The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, on the air at WGSO – 990AM, every weekday, 3- 5 p.m, and streamed live on www.wgso.com.


Over the years, Tim has proved to be an informed interviewer, putting his guests at ease, and covering tactile and technical information so that even a novice can understand difficult agricultural and production concepts. Tim speaks with winemakers, wine and spirit ambassadors, distillers, authors, people who stage events and festivals, and takes questions from listeners and readers, all seamlessly blended together in a program that is unique in America.


Tim’s love of wine actually came about many years ago from his then wife-to-be, Brenda Maitland, a noted journalist in her own right, and together they have traveled to the major wine producing areas in the US and Europe, seeking first-hand information about beverages that give us all so much pleasure.


They were instrumental in the founding of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, a major national and international well-regarded festival of its type. They both continue to be involved with the planning and staging of this multi-venue, five-day event now over twenty years old.


Tim is also considered one of the foremost professional wine judges in the US, being invited to judge more than 11 wine competitions each year, including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (the largest competition of American wines in the world, with more than 6,000 entries), the Riverside, CA International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition, Indiana International Wine Competition, Sandestin, Florida Wine Festival Competition, the State of Michigan Wine Competition, the U.S. National Wine Competition, and the National Wine Competition of Portugal.


Tim is a guest lecturer to many local wine and dine organizations, and speaks each year to the senior class in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama.


Staying abreast of the news of the wine and spirits world is a passion for Tim, and he is committed to sharing what he knows with his listeners and readers. “Doing something I love, with products that I truly enjoy, created by interesting people, coupling the experience with culinary excellence, and doing it all in the greatest city in America,” are the words Tim lives by.


It’s a good gig. 




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