Hoodoo and the hard sell in “Nawlins”.

Is this what I'll look like after visiting Nawlins?

“And I can still hear my old hound dog barkin’. Chasin’ down a hoodoo there. Chasin’ down a hoodoo there.”

That line from CCR’s Born on the Bayou always pops into my head when I hear someone mention New Orleans. Most people probably think of hurricane Katrina, the Saints, Jazz, craw-fish, or Mardi Gras. Not me. I think of witchdoctors, man-eating gators, voodoo dolls, and vampires. I’m not sure where this came from but suffice to say, I’m scared shitless of the deep south. So when we pulled into New Orleans (pronounced Nawlins here), I thought they were surely going to sniff me out for the sissy-boy Yankee that I really am. And then shrink my head.

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After checking into our hotel in the French quarter, Hotel St. Marie, and walking down bourbon street, I realized that all they really wanted was my money. Badly. I can appreciate the art of creative selling and I’m not offended at all by this. But after a dozen or so sweaty guys barking “Two for one! Three for one!!”, referring to their bar’s drink specials, I started to wonder where all the witchdoctors were. And it wasn’t just the bars. Wannabe rappers, restaurant maitre d’s, horse and carriage drivers, random kids, and half-dressed women all pimped their stuff with aggressive desperation. Welcome to the French quarter.

img_0375The hard sell. It’s really a thing of beauty if done well. You walk away content, glancing lovingly at your alligator-skinned iPod case, feeling like YOU just put the screws to the seller. And then it hits you… what did I just buy? WHY did I buy that?

After walking around trying to pick somewhere authentic, affordable, and bona-fide Noo-wallins to dine, this little bistro, complete with a jazz band playing front and center seemed perfect. Seemed… seemed we got taken for the HARD SELL! In actuality, the food was forgettable, but after talking with the one of the band’s members and discovering he played with Portland State’s marching band back in ’72, well, we decided we got our money’s worth.

*  *  *

S’all good. I had better crawfish to fry anyway. Like finding myself some nice bayou swamp wine. I wound up talking to the people working at one of the many tobacco and liquor stores downtown. “Louisiana wine?”, they mused. “Not much to pick from, y’know…”. I knew. But I wound up with a half-bottle of blanc de bois from Pontchartrain Vineyards. Say what?! I said blanc de bois, as in the native American grape (oh no- not another one of those). I brought this little sucker back to the hotel, gave it a quick chill, and poured myself a glass.

The bouquet reminded me of muscat or chenin blanc, with lots of dried apricot, raisin, and some odd muskiness in the background. Uh-oh, I thought. This is gonna be Texas muscadine all over, only white this time. Surprisingly– and mercifully– it was dry! Really dry. All that fruit I smelled was hardly there on the palate, and it had a earthy quality to it that wasn’t minerality, per se.

Maybe I was tasting the humidity down south.

But it reminded me of a Cotes du Rhone blanc, with some prominent stone fruit and floral qualities, a good deal of viscosity, but nothing over the top or “syrupy” about it either. What’s more, this grape, like muscadine is very resistant to both phylloxera and Pierce’s disease- two of the vitis vinifera grapevine’s more serious enemies. The more I sipped it, the more I liked it. “Hey! This here blanc de b00-ha-ha is pretty good!” I yelled over to my wife. “Want some?” She instantly shook her head, still traumatized from the Muscadine a day earlier. Chicken.

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Tools of the trade


I have to say that Nawlins was really a blast, hard sell or no hard sell. The music was worth the trip alone, the sights out of this world, and the food- well, it’s fantastic somewhere. I should also say we came all the way here not so I could find some Louisinana wine or get taken by the locals (“where y’at?”). I signed up and took the Society of Wine Educators CSW exam at one of the local distributors here. That was the morning after my affair with the blanc de bois- good thing it was only a half-bottle.

I feel I did very well, and I’ll know my results in a few weeks. Those three annoying letters will stand for “certified specialist of wine”.  I may have to ease up with all the clowning and take myself more serious if I go on to the CWE (certified wine educator) part of the program. But I suppose it’s better to have a bigger head than a shrunken one…


On va s’revoir!

Jared

ps- A little somethin’ for fans out there.





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~ by Jared on April 13, 2009.

4 Responses to “Hoodoo and the hard sell in “Nawlins”.”

  1. Thanks Jared. Nice piece. Just one thing, no one down here actually says: “Nawlins”. It sounds more like Brooklyn saying: “Noo’wALLee’ans” with a short “a”… or “Noo’wallins”
    Next time you come down, and we do hope you come back, please stroll down Frenchman Street, and/or go up to Oak Street, or down Magazine. Rent a bike, take the street cars, hang out at City Park, listen to WWOZ. And, there is a voodoo shop run by the Mambo over on Piety Street in the Bywater, just off of Dauphine that you should check out.
    I just want folks to know how much more than Bourbon Street and the French Quarter there is to see in our fair City.
    Bring your walking shoes.
    That Creedence was just what I needed today. Sometimes, Monday jus’aint nothin’ta play wit.
    Thanks Youz,
    Editilla~New Orleans Ladder

    • I’m comin’ back just to hang with you! You’re so right- Noowallins is so much more than a bunch of drunken con-men and tourists on Bourbon street, and trying to get a feel for a city like this in a day and a half is loco. My wife had been there twice before and loves it, but I had to experience that part of town for myself.

      Glad you enjoyed the Creedence. And I will bring my walking shoes, along with a bottle of wine for us to share, the next time I come that way…

      Thanks for the great feedback,
      Jared

  2. after you guys are done with biking up magazine street

    and hanging out with the old mossy oaks in city park

    take a drive up to bush, louisiana and taste wine at

    pontchartrain vineyards; there are several good wines

    there that have to be tasted to be believed

    • Judging by the blanc de bois I tried, I’m sure they are…

      Looking forward to getting back soon and experiencing the real New Orleans.

      Cheers!
      Jared

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