New Orleans Couple Purchases Pontchartrain Vineyards

By MARIE FAZIO, The Instances Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — When Monica Bourgeois and Neil Gernon acquired wind final summer season that Pontchartrain Vineyards was on the market, the New Orleans couple, each deeply entrenched within the wine world, thought it sounded too good to be true.

The pair rushed to tour the property within the rural north shore city of Bush. Then they returned for one of many vineyard’s signature Jazz’n the Vines occasions, the place a crowd gathered to take pleasure in wine and watch Charmaine Neville carry out. As darkness fell, some there arrange candelabras.

“You can see each star, it was one of the charming issues I’ve ever seen,” Bourgeois stated.

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In November, the couple bought Pontchartrain Winery from John Seago, its longtime proprietor and winemaker. Bourgeois and Gernon plan to reopen as Wild Bush Farm + Winery as quickly as allowing permits.

Based by Seago in 1991, the vineyard has withstood devastation from Hurricane Katrina, monetary duress and, most just lately, the pandemic, making it one of many oldest and most enduring endeavors of its form within the state. Seago listed it on the market a number of years in the past, hoping a budding viticulturist would take the reins.

Bourgeois and Gernon met whereas working within the meals trade in New Orleans, he at a Dickie Brennan’s restaurant group and he or she at Mr. B’s Bistro throughout the road. He courted her with costly bottles of Barolo, she stated, and launched her to the world of nice wine.

They later labored in wine distribution and retail, together with at slightly wine retailer on Journal Avenue in New Orleans.

“It was a part of my job to simply drink and luxuriate in these wonderful tiny manufacturing wines,” she stated. “It grew to become an actual ardour of mine to help and deal with small producers that had been actually considerate about what they had been producing.”

In 2009, they based Merchandising Machine Wines with a winery proprietor in Napa, crafting distinctive purple blends with California grapes, every with a Louisiana connection. There was a Double Shotgun, a Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot mix, and a Cabernet Sauvignon known as Crooked Mayor, which she stated “speaks for itself.” They realized to make piquette, a beverage constructed from byproducts which can be leftover from wine urgent to create a lighter, decrease alcohol drink.

Bourgeois discovered herself with extra time on her fingers through the pandemic, and took a number of LSU Agricultural Middle programs, rising her curiosity in native vegetation.

“They’re tailored to right here, they cope with humidity, pests all these issues they usually thrive in it,” she stated. “I stated, ‘I believe what we’re prepared for is a winery and a vineyard that has native fruits.’ ”

Lately, Seago and his winemaker, Lincoln Case, imported grapes from California to make their in-house wine due to the issue of rising grapes in Louisiana.

Bourgeois and Gernon will do the identical for his or her first couple of years in enterprise whereas they wait for his or her vines to supply sufficient fruit, however finally hope to have a thriving winery.

Bourgeois, who has begun pulling up the irrigation strains from the brambles within the winery to organize for uprooting and replanting the 13 acres, stated she is going to plant Mayhaws, elderberries,

blueberries, and naturally, muscadines. They’ll develop conventional grapes and hybrid varieties, however go away room for experimentation with dry muscadines, orange wines and differing oxidation strategies.

“It’s going to be this actually cool viticulture playground out right here,” she stated. “There are hardly any wineries in Louisiana and I don’t know anybody that’s making an attempt to do what we’re going to try and do out right here. We’re going to do the type of wines we’d take pleasure in consuming from around the globe: considerate, sincere, sustainable wines and that’s what we wish to deal with, constructing an ecosystem, producing issues of dietary worth which can be lovely.”

The couple has envisioned an upgraded model of the winery grounds. They painted the burnt orange partitions of the tasting room a deep blue, changed furnishings and added quirky decorations, together with a 7-foot bigfoot cutout within the woods seen from the window of the toilet. They plan so as to add a ping pong desk and frisbee golf course to the grounds, in addition to a projector for film screenings.

However with the upgrades, a lot of what folks have grown to like about Pontchartrain Vineyards will keep the identical: Bourgeois and Gernon have a spring Jazz’n the Vines lineup that kicks off with Amanda Shaw on April 2. They usually inherited loads of Pontchartrain Vineyards wine with the acquisition of the property.

“We’ll have loads of completely different choices for lots of various folks,” Bourgeois stated.

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