Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NOLA - Day 1 - Beignet, Done That

Welcome to the morning after - New Orleans style. Surprisingly, everybody was in pretty good spirits - and I'm not referring to the ones that we drank our way through last night. I might not be saying that if Boo and I had arrived in town earlier than we did however. A couple of drinks after midnight was likely a safer way to acquaint oneself with the city.

The plan for the day was to just wander around and experience the scene that is New Orleans. But the first experience was to find a little something to nosh on - and what could be better than a hit of café-au-lait and beignets at Café du Monde. From my previous visits to the Big Easy, I knew that there were a couple city treasures that I didn't want to miss - and beignets and coffee was definitely on the list.

I mentioned in the previous post that Boo and I were meeting Merlot Boy's travel companion for the first time. As such, she didn't have a blog name as yet on this first morning. We brainstormed some possibilities last night but nothing seemed to hit the mark. The dilemma of needing a name was quickly resolved during our tour of the city though. As we passed one of the omnipresent bars, we noticed a post-Katrina sign in one of the windows - "Rebuilding New Orleans - One Margarita at a Time." Our new buddy was to be Margarita from that point on.

Our musings and ramblings through the French Quarter saw everything from the spectacular and fascinating to the tacky and tawdry. Of course, gobbling up the cuisine is one of the prime directives of visiting NOLA. Boo and I immediately opted for alligator bites and catfish tidbits for lunch - although the Aussies weren't quite as adventurous. As Merlot Boy pointed out, the Aussies might be the only nation that has no qualms at throwing their national animal - the kangaroo - on the barbee, but there are still some that prefer simple beef and beer.

Naturally, all the food, souvenirs, voodoo shops and touring was tempered with ubiquitous music and booze in the streets. Even our Aussie friends - and if Australia isn't known for its enjoyment of a good drink, I don't know what it is known for - were gobsmacked at the abundance and simplicity of the "go cup."

I think my favourite surprise of the day was to run across a wedding second line - where a brass band leads a parade of the wedding party and guests through the streets. Great fun!

I think I discovered one, unnerving fact about the city during our day's tour though - and that's that New Orleans isn't that much of a wine city. A consideration that doesn't play that well into the hands of a wine blogger. You name virtually any booze you'd like and a "go cup" is just a pour away. That may work for wine at times, but the selection isn't going to be quite as impressive. We didn't run across a single "wine shop" during the day - even after asking around a bit. Being equal opportunity drinkers, however, having to rely on a corner store bottle isn't going to deter us from our chosen mission.

979. 2010 Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio (Pinot Grigio della Venezie IGT - Italy)

A white for Margarita. I don't recall ever having seen or tried Ecco Domani before. She kinda wanted a Sauv Blanc, but this looked like the most intriguing of the wines in the Nelly Delly on Bourbon Street. From the north of Italy, the website seems to refer as much to the company's efforts in promoting fashion and young designers as it talks about wine.

However, their description of and background to the Pinot Grigio does have an interesting referance to a limited (4.5%) use of "surmaturo" grapes. I've never heard of the term before but they advise that these grapes are left on the vine longer to allow for greater concentration and complexity. Sounds like another term for what we generally call "late harvest" grapes in BC. When used in BC, it's generally for the production of a dessert wine. I didn't notice any perceptible sweetness on this palate though.

Margarita didn't seem to mind.

We'd brought the wine back to our great, little guest house to rest our feet and enjoy a couple cocktails before hitting the town for our big Saturday night in New Orleans. We luckily bumped into, Kelly, our hostess and off-site manager, who joined us for a drink on the front porch - along with her "baby," Sugah. This had to be one of my favourite moments during the vacation. Our digs were located on the eastern edge of the Quarter - away from the hustle and bustle that you normally associate with the French Quarter and that afforded us the opportunity to just sit out on the porch, watching the locals tend to their lives and being filled in on all sorts of information about the city - past and present.

What's more is that Kelly even brought along her own bottle of wine for the stoop. Now that's Southern Hospitality.

980. N.V. Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir (Valle Central - Chile)

Unlike the Ecco Domani, I've seen and tried Pepperwood previously. I took a quick look at the winery though because some of the labelling didn't quite make sense to me. I thought Pepperwood was a California label and, sure enough, the company is part of the Sebastiani wine family. However, the Pepperwood brand is used to produce wines, much under the négociant format, where they source grapes, from wherever in the world they might be found, to make an accessible wine at an approachable price. The Pinot Noir grapes were actually grown in Chile - and, hence, the Valle Central designation on the bottle. California has a Central Valley, but I've never seen it referred to as a "valle" before. Confusion resolved.

It was certainly easy to go through the wine quickly though. The banter was grand and Kelly provided us with a number of tips on activities to best enjoy our stay. But, as night started to fall, we needed to ready ourself for a night on the town.

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