When the weather turns wet and dreary I head for places south. One of my favorite places to go, in fact one of the world’s greatest drinking cities, is New Orleans.
You might be thinking of hurricane cocktails and cheap beer in the Big Easy, but it’s also an epicurean delight - with fantastic restaurants and some pretty amazing places to grab a drink. Won’t you join me as I laissez les bons temps roulez on this dreary Monday!
Photo courtesy Adam Reeder via Flickr/CC
As you can imagine, the New Orleans wine scene is pretty restaurant based, though there are a few odd wine bars. In my old neighborhood, yes I’ve lived in New Orleans as well, the warehouse district has gone from being a bit of a backwater to being a downright hip hood with all the prerequisites: fancy restaurants, hot hotels, and of course a great wine bar.
W.I.N.O, the Wine Institute of New Orleans, is a modest spot that is fully equipped with fancy self-dispensing enomatic machines that allow you to take a taste or a pour of a great selection of wines. In addition to a help yourself wine bonanza, W.I.N.O. offers small plates and classes to help round out an evening or an education!
610 Tchoupitoulas St
New Orleans, LA 70130
Getting back to the restaurant avenue, no pun intended. We are traveling to the world famous St. Charles Avenue to find Delachaise. With a simple menu composed of cheese plates, one dish wonders and sandwiches, The Delachaise might seem like an odd place to recommend as a destination wine bar, but this place has the feel. The feel that makes you want to go in and order a few glasses of wine. Since the weather is fine, let’s take a glass each of the Grüner, Loire Valley Chenin and that Txakolia! Add in an order of the Chicken Tagine and I’ll be sitting pretty!
3442 Saint Charles Avenue New Orleans, LA 70115
Since we’re talking about restaurants now, I have to give a shout out to Restaurant August, where a recent birthday dinner caused me to agonize over choosing between the under market priced Dujac or Giacosa! There’s no list online for Restaurant August, but it is a treat for both the food and the wine list each time I visit New Orleans. It’s location, just outside of the madness that the French Quarter can be, also provides a bit of a respite for a weary, hungry and thirsty traveler!
301 Tchoupitoulas St.,
New Orleans, LA 70130
If you want to stay in the Quarter and want a serious wine experience, there is no place better than Le Meritage. The menu is designed to highlight which wines would be appropriate accompaniments to each dish. How’s that for dedication to the fruits of the vine?
Once you’ve chosen your dishes, you can order by the glass or by the flight, or take a look at the extensive wine list and choose from a pretty impressive selection of global offerings. Some things that caught my eye were the 2004 Nusserhof Lagrein ($71) and the 2007 Willakenzie Estate Terres Basse ($92). The shocking to find must buy of the list? 2007 Millton Chenin Blanc from Gisborne for all of $62. Can I make a reservation now?
1001 Toulouse Street New Orleans, LA 70112
Another French Quarter standby is the indomitable Stella! I love the food at Stella! It’s got a creole edge exquisitely prepared and layered with rich flavors, but the wine list might just be a bigger draw! Extensive but not overwhelming, there are plenty of well-considered choices for every palate. Even if you stick to the tiny section titled “unique red wines,” you might find yourself struggling to choose between Kenneth Volk’s 2008 "Calleri Vineyard” Negrette! ($59), Magnin Arbins 2005 Monduese ($70), or Giorgio Clai’s 2009 Refosco ($75).
If offbeat doesn’t float your pirogue don’t worry, the list is packed with great selections that range from the Shrader 2008 To Kalon ($450) and the 1990 Grand Puy Lacoste ($395) to Marcarini’s 2009 Fontanazza Dolcetto ($55) and Domaine du Closel’s 201 la Jalousie ($50).
1032 Chartres Street New Orleans, LA 70116