Monday, March 7, 2011

My Wine Writer Story: A Look at the Past and Now...

2005 Katrina Meritage Whine


Lorrie S. LeBeaux

As a wine lover and avid reader of Wine Enthusiast Magazine, I felt compelled to write my wine-related Hurricane Katrina story. My wine story began many years ago, in New Orleans, while attending Dillard University. My college pals were a classy bunch. We only drank champagne (Andre Cold Duck and Sparkling wine). So, I began being a wine enthusiast at an early age. I never thought much about my love of wine for years until my passion was exposed. When I attended parties as an adult and asked for a glass of wine, my racial counterparts were shocked that I liked wine and knew a little about the libation. I shook off this stereotypical incident for years, until 2005.

I received a ticket to a Napa Valley wine tasting in Uptown New Orleans as a birthday gift from a dear friend of mine. I don't know if she knew, but attending this event was equivalent to going to the Golden Globe Awards to me. So, I got dressed for the part, wearing my wine attire, which was soft and elegant with the sparkles from my diamonds, just as any good wine should be--at least one that you would remember. I had begun writing newsletters that focused on wine, wine and food pairings, art, decor, and entertaining. This was just a hobby for me, something to express my passion for life. So, I decided to bring a few of my newsletters to test the waters, so to speak, and to see if the wine community would receive this African American wine lover in a positive fashion. The answer was a resounding yes. Wine representatives from Rutherford Ranch, Schramsberg, Ceja, Markham, St. Suprey and many others loved my newsletters and pledged donations of their wine for me to review in my online newsletter, Life's Little Luxuries Newsletter ( Note: This newsletter no longer exist as of 2009.

The first newsletter went online in April 2005 and the last the first week in August 2005. From the beginning of my newsletter being published, I received support from the wine community because my mission was one of truth. I want to help create diversity in the world of wine. People of color do drink wine, and the numbers are growing. This fact was noted in a recent article in a wine publication. Wine is something to be experienced and enjoyed by all. This premise was key in my mission and the wine community understood this. I had a group of friends who, pre-hurricane Katrina, would meet with me once a month to taste wine and to experience wine and food pairings. My home was the guinea pig for the newsletter. Before Hurricane Katrina, my kitchen was a wine and food lover's haven. It was custom built for myself, for my passion, and for the passions of my family six years ago. The under-the-counter KitchenAid wine cellar was my pride and joy, as were all my things needed to cook and entertain my family and friends. It was my laboratory for my monthly newsletter.

The kitchen desk area in my home is where I met Carol Ricci of Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates. Talk about a "Taste of the Truth," Jess Jackson and his wonderful staff are the real thing. From the beginning to the time of my relocation to Little Rock, AR, Carol Ricci, PR coordinator for the company, has been supportive of my project and me. They have supported every wine tasting for events in New Orleans and in Little Rock. Kendall-Jackson is the same as what wine is to me: a treasure. Even though I don't communicate with Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates anymore, they were a positive force in my life when I truly needed one.

 Another major giant in the wine world is the Rodney Strong Vineyards. Michele Prinz of Rodney Strong also believed in my project and added my newsletter to their new release sample list. She has also continued to contact me throughout the Hurricane Katrina ordeal. Note:  Michelle Prinz is no longer with Rodney Strong, but before she left, she put me in the good hands of Robert Larson.

Well, Hurricane Katrina may have ruined my home and almost everything that I owned, and the same for all those affected in the Gulf South, but it could not take away my love of wine, the kindness shown by the wine community, and the newsletter's photos of my home and homes of the other New Orleans ladies who hosted wine tastings for my newsletter.

 In addition to those positive things, I met a wonderful woman, Lorri Hambuchen, in Little Rock. She writes a wine column titled "Uncorked" for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Shortly after my evacuation to Little Rock, I read her column and contacted her. She loved my newsletters and then sheepishly asked me if I needed help. I had never really needed any help before and had to realize quickly that, yes, I needed help. So, she asked me for a list, via email (the laptop was one thing I brought from home) so I sent her a list. She and her church helped my family and extended family in so many ways.

 So I guess the blend of my 2005 Katrina Whine would be a blend of disaster, wine estate-inspired courage (newsletter), love, and hope. I think that is why I love wine. It transcends race, gender, and socioeconomic status; wine has a life of its own. It is like a person; some have love and integrity in every sip and some are lacking in every earthly and wine sense. Maybe the magic comes from those who craft the wines. Is that why I just wrote about two of the biggest giants in the wine world? Go figure!

George Rose
 PR Director J Vineyards & Winery

Robert Larson
PR Director Rodney Strong Vineyards

Special Note: This article was written in 2006. I'm still honored to be in contact with some of the wineries who supported my writing from the very beginning. Let me thank Rodney Strong Vineyards and PR Director Robert Larson for their continued support of my wine writing. I'd also like to thank Rutherford Ranch Wines and Liz Cohen PR Director; they were there from the beginning as they are today. I'd also like to thank George Rose, whom I met when he was PR Director of Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates and now is the PR Director of J Wines. George Rose and J Wines continue to support my wine writing endeavors.

Posting this article was a challenge, because I had lost it and felt so compelled to find it. I finally found in in my email search engine; I had sent this to my wine friend years ago. Sometimes we have to look back at the past to appreciate our lives as we live them now; realizing that the only way we want to go is up! Life can be harsh, but as long as we realize that it will all be okay, we can weather any storm. That is one of the lessons that I have learned and I wanted to share it with all of you. People are put into our lives for a reason, so I celebrate all of these wonderful people of wine country for the positive impact that they have had in my life.

I also would love to give thanks to all the wineries who continue to support my work in the wonderful world of wine, especially Bogle and Palm Bay International ! These wineries are always noted in my reviews and blog entries. Again thanks to you all!

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