Sunday, July 22, 2007

Wine for a Change

Back on Thursday, I took a break from the world of sours, fizzes, punches and such and journeyed to Antoine's restaurant to meet the owner and take a tour of the old, family-owned eatery's famous wine cellar.

Of course, the 24,000-bottle collection was completely decimated during Hurricane Katrina—not flooded, but cooked, because of the lack of air-conditioning. By the time the Antoine's people got to the cellar, it was a lost cause. The insurance company paid out, then came and collected the contents, carting them off to parts unknown. (If you see a water-stained bottle of old Bordeaux for a too-good-to-be-true price on eBay, beware.)

The owners have smartly not tried to duplicate the lost riches by going to wine auctions and such, but have started from Square One, buying wines only from recent vintages. They will then begin to age them (when they're not sold); in 30 years, they'll have a great collection again. For certain regulars, however, they've made concessions, finding and buying the Burgundy they crave and are used to.

The cellar itself is quite a site, long as a bowling alley, stretching 16 feet through the center of the city block (much of which Antoine's owns). It ends at a window on Royal Street and passersby can actually peer in from the street.

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