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Music,Wine,Wine Writer

How do Hurricane Katrina and wine come together in the same breath?

The wine writers I’ve featured on this blog, up to this point, have been people I’ve worked with over the years.

Recently, I was asked by wine writer Lorrie LeBeaux if I’d write about her on my blog.

Lorrie S. LeBeaux ~ originally from New Orleans ~ Wine Writer #37…

“Hum…” I thought to myself, “You know, why not?” If it means something to her, then it should mean something to me.

Anyone out there with a Girl Scout history knows the song, “Make new friends, but keep the o-old, one is silver and the other’s gold.”

The timing was just right to let in a bit more light into my life. With the onset of Web 2.0, and the ability for people to launch themselves (including me with this blog), there’s a proliferation of new writers who are out there. As a publicist, if I don’t expand, then I must contract. I’m not ready for that, boys and girls; so I thought, “Bring it on.”

As it turns out, both of us have had to undergo a complete revamping of ourselves. When I reinvented, the trauma left behind for me was leaving over 40 years of life; all my connections, family, friends, job history, etc. It wasn’t the floods of New Orleans that did it to me, however; so my trauma wasn’t unexpected, nor was it anywhere near the same magnitude as it’s been for Lorrie.

That was her segue into wine writing, the flooding of New Orleans… A woman who had been shifted to another part of the country, and made to reinvent herself. I have friends who live in Louisiana… One couple ~ Dwayne and Charlene Shockley of Select Brands, who are in the wine business; and Linda Rioux, a childhood friend. Dwayne survived the floods with many of his family losing everything. Dwayne had built his home on 14 foot stilts. The waters just came to the bottom of his floorboards, but without touching them. Their water damage came from their ceiling. Their family – parents, siblings, etc., and friends didn’t fare as well. The have had to live in FEMA trailers. Linda just got out. She was able to sell her home, and she returned to Maine.

So now, here’s a new person in my life, who left her life behind and found herself reinventing into the writing world of wine. What a way to get a calling… “And then the floods came, and then……”

When I learned of Lorrie’s background, I shared with her that I love New Orleans. Having made five or six trips there, my heart is in The District… Until recently, however, I knew a lot less about NOLA than I would have imagined. I had recently seen Wendell Pierce, pitching a new show that he was going to be starring in, Treme. Wendell’s playing the musician Antoine Batiste. In real life, Pierce was born in New Orleans and raised in a neighborhood next to Lake Pontchartrain. He’s putting his real heart and soul in this character. I love this show… every part of it. I asked Lorrie if she’s seen it. She told me that her stepson Herman LeBeaux is a drummer on the show. Why was I not surprised?

And so, I read her Q&A and thought, “Lorrie just fits in with everyone else.” When I got myself into the wine business, I had people who were kind to me… Time to return the favor.

At this time, Lorrie LeBeaux writers for ebacchus and examiner.com.

Enjoy her answers; they’re very insightful.

Many wine writers also have a day job. If wine isn’t your job, what is and for whom?

[LORRIE] I possess a BS degree in Public Health/Health Education from Dillard University of New Orleans, LA. My field of work is in the Social Service field. I evacuated from New Orleans to Little Rock, AR and worked as a Long-Term Case Manager for Katrina Aid Today, a program run by the Salvation Army. The program has closed and I am in a job search mode.

When did you start writing about wine?

[LORRIE] I started writing about wine in March, 2005. I began a wine, food and decor newsletter entitled, Life’s Little Luxuries Newsletter.

What prompted you to start writing about wine?

[LORRIE] I began writing about wine because it had always been my passion along with creating wine and food pairings. It also provided an outlet to be creative and write about what I loved. I also began educating women of color about wine and how to create great wine and food pairings. Diversity was needed from my perspective in the wine world, and I felt the need to be one of the pioneers in that charge.

What aspect(s) of wine do you most enjoy covering?

[LORRIE] I truly enjoy providing honest reviews on wines that are easily found at local grocery stores that have wine sections or local wine shops. In addition, I love finding new wines, examining wine trends, and providing food pairing suggestions.

How has your job changed since you’ve started?

[LORRIE] My job as a wine writer has evolved to becoming a “go to person” on the site ebacchus.com for wine recommendations and food pairing ideas. I’m also on sample lists at prominent vineyards and wineries.

What’s the most memorable wine you’ve ever tasted?

[LORRIE] The most memorable wine I ever tasted is a hard question. But, a few weeks before Hurricane Katrina, I had gotten a sample bottle of Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates Stature. I can’t remember the vintage, probably 2003, and a dear friend was at my home troubled. I had planned on waiting to put a juicy rib-eye steak on the grill to sample this wine, but she’s a wine lover, so I opened the wine. The wine was wonderful; we both jumped up and down, she stopped crying and it was a great memory for me. I was also glad we drank it, because it would have floated away!

What’s your favorite variety?

[LORRIE] Jo, asking the question, “What is your favorite variety?’ is like asking which child you love the best. But, I’m in love with bubbly; my favorite is Iron Horse Russian Cuvee!

Do you believe that there are better quality, lower priced wines today, than in past vintages?

[LORRIE] I truly do believe that there are many QPR wines today than ever before. Rodney Strong, Kendall-Jackson, Ferrari Carno, Castello di Borghese of Long Island, Don Sebastiano & Sons portfolio of wines, Bogle to name a few are great wines to buy that won’t break the bank.

What’s your favorite innovation in the wine industry over the past few years?

[LORRIE] I hate to admit this, because I am a true romantic when it comes to the process of opening a bottle of wine, but screw caps are wonderful for keeping wines fresh for a few days.

What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

[LORRIE] My favorite food and wine pairing is my Oyster Appetizers in Athens brand filo shells recipe and sparkling wine. I love Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee with this pairing.

What are your interests outside of the wine business?

[LORRIE] My interest outside of the wine business is cooking, decorating, writing, watching movies, reading magazines and spending time with my family and friends.

Who inspires you (wine business or outside of it, doesn’t matter)?

[LORRIE] I am inspired by Steve Heimoff of Wine Enthusiast Magazine. He and I share the same palate as far as wine picks. Also Deborah Brenner, author of Women of the Vine, inspires me with creating her own wine label Women of the Vines wines. She has a lot of guts. Joy Sterling of Iron Horse inspires me, with her love and passion for wine and the land. She is an email buddy of mine as well as Amelia Ceja of Ceja Vineyards. As a women of Hispanic heritage, she has made a place for herself in the world of wine. I don’t want to forget Andrea Immer. I loved Her show Pairings with Andrea. She seemed down to earth and knowledgeable and I love that! I would also love to have a glass of wine with Carolyn Evans Hammond the author of Good, Better, Best Wines. She seems to have the same spirit as the above ladies of wine, a spirit shared by me. My dream is to go on the Oprah show and talk about the diversity in the world of wine and women and wine.

For what would you like to be remembered?

[LORRIE] I would love to be remembered as a self-starter African American female wine writer, who added something to the lives of all wine and food lovers in the world. I also want to be remembered as an honest wine reviewer and a friend to my favorite wineries. I also want to be remembered as a good wife, mother of two, one of which is 13 years old, Evan who suffers from Autism, and is on the “B” Honor Roll in his Special Education classes at his school in Little Rock, AR. I’m also the proud mother of one of, if not the youngest English instructors at Dillard University of New Orleans, LA, my old University, my daughter Angelle. And last but not least, a good person, good cook, and great friend.

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22 Responses to “How do Hurricane Katrina and wine come together in the same breath?”

  1. Angelle says:

    It’s true–there are probably fewer than six degrees of separation in New Orleans. 🙂 This was an entertaining interview. Also, this is a nicely-designed blog!

  2. Jo Diaz says:

    Angelle,

    You’re right about the degrees of separation for New Orleans residents.

    I’m pleased you enjoyed the interview., and that Lorrie has come into my life.

    Thanks for enjoying the design of this blog. I’m currently entertaining the idea of refreshing my look. This WordPress template is used a lot, I’m finding. I’d like to keep the design, but find my own header and colors. (I lean more toward violet… wineish…)

  3. Benadine says:

    Hi Jo, I really enjoyed this article on Lorrie. Lorrie and I have been friends for a very long time and I am happy that you accepted her invitation. Thank you for letting her story get out. By the way, I am the friend that was upset that night before Hurricane Katrina hit. We sat and drank that great bottle of Stature by Kendall Jackson. Whew!!! Delicious. I miss the wine tastings and pairings that Lorrie did every month. I miss my friend and I miss her teaching us about wine and the foods that would go well with a certain bottle of wine. Once again, Thank-you!
    New Orleans Girl,

  4. Jo Diaz says:

    Having worked for KJ, and knowing what Stature is all about (having had many tastes of it), I’m really happy that the two of you enjoyed that one! Sorry that you all had to go through that experience, and our hearts go out to all of you with this new catastrophe. May it be resolved swiftly. I love NOLA, and know enough is enough… Thanks for your comment, Benadine. I was happy to learn about Lorrie and wish her lots of success, as she reinvents herself.

  5. Audrey says:

    I enjoyed the revamping story of Lorrie’s new life and wine. It was refreshing to come home from a long days work and read the story of her passion for life and wine. That was the perfect antidote while preparing dinner. To Lorrie I would like to see her keep the writing going and wish her all the best in her newly reinvented lifestyle.

    Audrey

  6. Jo Diaz says:

    What a great support network Lorrie’s got… Why am I not surprised, Audrey?

  7. Robert Larsen says:

    Nice read on Lorrie, Jo. It’s also nice to know there’s someone out there in Arkansas for my brother and friends to help them along with wine selections. They call me or email me about their recent readings and compliment her all the time. Someone new, writing about wine… I’ll support that for sure!!!

  8. Jo Diaz says:

    Robert,

    Thanks for commenting on this story about Lorrie. She’s been forwarding her NOLA friends’ backgrounds to me, all in the writing department, too, but within other worlds. She and all of her friends are very talented. It would have taken me a long time to find her on my own. I’m so pleased that she reached out to me. She writes about being humbled by the experience, when – in fact – it is I who am humbled that I meant that much to her.

    Best wishes to you and Rodney Strong for another great summer music season!

  9. Lorrie S. LeBeaux says:

    Jo,

    I checked out the Rodney Strong music line up and on July 3rd, Boney James will perform. Boy, I could see myself sipping on their Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc, “jamming” to the sounds of smooth jazz!

  10. Jo Diaz says:

    You go, Girl!

  11. Kevin Horne says:

    Great interview. I followed “Lifes little Luxuries” after Lorrie and I disagreed with a well known wine writer on the Wine Spectator blog. We have the same thought process when it comes to wine. The holy grail of wine is a good $10 to $15 bottle. I think that alot of americans are intimidated by wine because of the lack of knowledge. Thank you Jo for the interview and thank you Lorrie for your unpretentious approach to the world of wine. Also I love “Treme”, hope it continues to be a hit.

    Kevin Horne
    General Manager/Wine Director
    Giardina’s Restaurant
    http://www.thealluvian.com

  12. Jo Diaz says:

    Thanks, Kevin. I appears that Lorrie has a lot of fans… and we’re building the same for Treme.

  13. Like Lorrie, I have a passion for bubbly. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be Billecart Salmon. That’s not my everyday bubbly, though. It’s just not in my budget. For a value-priced sparkling sipper, I buy Cristalino Cava. Depending on what state you live in, the price is between $7 and $13.

  14. Uncorked says:

    Great interview with Lorrie. She has an amazing story that is fresh each time it’s shared. She as inspired many people finding a new path after Katrina.
    About her comment on wanting to be known as a female writer adding to the lives on food and wine… she already is. Love her writing.

  15. Rich Norwood says:

    Lorrie S. LeBeaux has been a writer for http://www.mykitchenvault.com for 5 months. She is very good and knows what she is talking about.

    Rich Norwood

  16. Joy Sterling says:

    Lorrie is an excellent writer and so wonderfully passionate about food & wine. My family and I are proud to be among her favorite producers.

  17. Jo Diaz says:

    In all of the people that I’ve written about on this blog, I’ve never had so many people comment about how they care about the writer. Lorrie is obviously a really amazing person. I’m so pleased that she reached out to me. Thank you all for endorsing her, from you, Joy, her latest person, all the way down the line.

    Joy, your Ironhorse Sparkling was our toasting wine at one of my daughter’s weddings. Very, very nice memory.

  18. Amelia Ceja says:

    Nice blog on Lorrie LeBeaux — you’ve captured her essence and spirit!

    My acquaintance with Lorrie predates Hurricane Katrina. In the fall of 2004 or spring 2005, Napa Valley Vintners Association scheduled a marketing trip for its members to four cities — one of which was New Orleans. I could not go to the first two cities so I asked my brother-in-law and winemaker Armando Ceja to go instead of me. At a tasting in New Orleans, Armando met Ms. LeBeaux and was impressed by her passion for wine. Soon after, I received an email from Lorrie about her desire to taste and write about our Ceja wines in her Life’s Little Luxuries Newsletter. I sent her samples with tasting notes, and I believe we also communicated via phone.

    Katrina happened in August 2005, and Lorrie and I reconnected in late 2005 or early 2006. Her life dramatically changed but her unwavering philosophy about life remains the same. We’ve stayed in touch since her relocation to Little Rock, and I’ve continued to supply her with samples of our legendary wines.

    My goal is to bring Lorrie to Northern California wine country to explore all the vineyards that she’s written about — she’s a gem and we can all learn from her and her experiences.

    Sincerely,

    Amelia Ceja

  19. Jo Diaz says:

    Dear Amelia,

    What a touching story. Lorrie is very passionate, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know her. So many people had to endure Katrina, and their resiliency for bouncing back just amazes me. Lorrie is a classic and classy example.

    Thanks for commenting.

    Best wishes for continued success with your own legendary story and wines!

  20. Lorrie S. LeBeaux says:

    Amelia & Jo,

    I just sent this link to a dear friend of mine, Donna. I wanted her to see my step-son Herman, because he looks so much like my son Evan, which is 14 now and looking like his brother; he just had his 8th grade promotional exercise and he had an “A” average in his special education classes (he has Autism). I thought that I had sent her this article when it was first written; but she said that she had never read it.

    She bought the ticket for me to attend the tasting as a birhday gift, March of 2005, and we went together. I was so happy to be there, and be so well received by all the wine vendors present, including Ceja.

    I did not see the post that you wrote about me; she read it to me over the phone a little while ago, and I cried. We have been best friends since we met the first day of high school, so I was 14 years old!

    Thank you so much for all of your kind words and support. Jo, Amelia is one of the biggest jewels of wine country, kinda like the “Hope Diamand” that the late great Liz Taylor owned.

    Thanks to you both for letting me be a part of your wine worlds!

  21. Jo Diaz says:

    My pleasure… 🙂

  22. Amelia Ceja says:

    Lorrie & Jo,

    Wine is a universal language that unites all wine loving people — I’m glad you’re both dedicated to sharing great stories! Muchas gracias!

    Amelia Ceja

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