The New Orleans Wine & Food Experience (NOWFE) kicks off this Wednesday, May 23, and runs through Sunday, May 27, with a wide range of wine and food events including wine pairing dinners, two grand tastings, excursions, and more. Here’s Eater’s guide to the most exclusive and interesting of the bunch. (Tickets here.)
A slew of incredible and intimate wine dinners kick off NOWFE feasting on Wednesday, May 23 at 7 p.m.
At $300, Wines by Paul Hobbes at M Bistro at the Ritz is the most expensive of the bunch. Paul Hobbes, called the Steve Jobs of wine, has worked at Mondavi, Opus One, and Simi Winery. Now he runs Paul Hobbes wines out of Argentina. To his wines, add an impeccable five-course menu including foie gras and crawfish soup dumplings as well as smoked oysters and bone marrow with a ribeye filet — and you have one of the best of Wednesday’s wine dinners.
There are also quite a few special dinners running half that price and the best of those is the bubbly Veuve Clicquot at NOSH for $150pp, the respected Cakebread Cellars at Rib Room for $110pp, and Ramey Wine at DTB for $125pp. (One thing to know about DTB is that the chefs try to make every wine dinner they do totally different, meaning you’ll be getting lots of things the regular menu has never seen.)
The Vinola! Tasting on May 24 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. has not yet sold out, but at $185 per person it will — as it always does. Why? Three hundred wine enthusiasts get to schmooze with notable winemakers, sample rare and highly coveted wines (each worth over $75), while also experiencing some of city’s best restaurants. (Meanwhile, the Grand Tastings make room for 1500 people a day.) And this year, the event is maxed out on wine: 35 tables and six restaurants. More exclusive wines and fewer people.
NOWFE’s famous Royal Street Stroll on Thursday, May 24 at 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. along the 200-800 blocks of Royal Street has something for everyone: wine and spirits; food from local restaurants; a parade led by the Krewe of Cork; a DJ, a main act, a guitarist, and a violinist; and lots of galleries and shops open for perusing. Keep the party going afterwards at a dance party at the Goldmine with Seagram’s Escape for $20.
Here’s how to upgrade: Opt for the VIP ticket ($175) that gains the holder entrance 30 minutes early and access to a VIP lounge at Caliche and Pao Gallery with five different kinds of wine and food from Court of Two Sisters. Purchase VIP tickets a la carte or as part of the larger VIP package. (Know before you go: The 800 block entrance has been nixed. Enter on the 200 or 400 block.)
NOWFE’s seminar series, on May 25 and May 26, includes presentations on how to taste wine, how to pair it with food, and more.
The most interesting seminar, though, isn’t about wine at all (and there are still tickets). Ted Breaux lands at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum’s absinthe gallery for a special absinthe tasting and discussion. Here’s what the seminar page doesn’t say: Ted Breaux is responsible for making absinthe legal again. He used his knowledge of chemistry to reverse engineer the spirit. The story of how he got it legalized, as well as his own experiences studying the spirit, is one of the most interesting modern spirits stories out there. Besides, New Orleans was once known as the absinthe capital of the world. May 25, 2018 from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tickets are $75.
And whatever seminar you choose, know that seminars typically pour higher end wines and spirits.
NOWFE’s Grand Tasting is back at the Convention Center, transforming it into a beautiful, moss wall covered space with succulents from the Plant Gallery, to host two days of wine and food pairings with one huge change. For the first time, attendees can purchase the wines they like and pick them up later at Brady’s Wine Warehouse. Just grab a list of wines and tick off your favorites as you go. Pay on your way out and pick up at Brady’s.
To beat the crowd, get the VIP ticket, which gets the holder in 30 minutes early and access to a VIP lounge.
To skip straight to the very best stuff, here are the tasting winners.
These intimate experiences run the gamut. The coolest among those left is a tour of New Orleans wine bars for $95, heading to WINO, Bayou Wine Garden, and Swirl. It’s a perfect way for someone from out of town to see how and where New Orleanians like to drink wine.
After the Party
There’s the NOWFE, VIP Art Amuse after-party on Saturday, May 26th from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Mac-Gryder Gallery on Julia Street, catered by Laura Arrowood and served with a variety of Chandon. Available with the Connoisseur package and the VIP package.