I had not been back to the Big Easy since April in the year of Katrina, and it was time for another visit. Our time share condo at the lovely Hotel De L’ Eau Vive survived and Tchoupitoulas (Chop-a-too-lus) Street proved to be as funky and seductive as ever. If you head past the legendary Mother’s on Poydras and walk toward the Warehouse District, you’ll spot some of the pre-storm pioneers still doing brisk business: Emeril’s, Lucy’s Retired Surfer Bar, and an Aussie saloon.
Things can get lubricated on Tchoupitoulas yet it was a pleasant surprise to spot a brazen WINO on the street. The Wine Institute New Orleans (W.I.N.O.) opened in 2007 and has been doing its best to enlighten wine drinkers with a tasting room, a retail store and an impressive line-up of seminars and fun programs at their school.
I stopped by to check out the Italian wine selection. The Italian wine map above the racks was impressive but more comprehensive than the modest collection of Piedmont reds, a couple of super-Tuscans and a smattering of some predictable regional mainstays.
Amanda Toups, the manager and a co-buyer for the store, was enthroned behind the counter at the cash register and she explained some of the wine trends she’s been observing.
“It seems that New Orleans is still a French-drinking town, but people are willing to experiment a little more. We sell a lot of French wine, but Californian product is sure catching up. Maybe it’s because we have an identifiable cuisine in New Orleans, and perhaps people here need a little more of a push to open up their thinking about other wines.”