Drank in America: Bacchanal Wine

New Orleans, Louisiana

by Samantha Adler

What city can mix you the best drink, play you the smoothest jazz, and steal your heart? New Orleans, baby.

The Big Easy is easily one my favorite cities in the world. It has an electric energy that is unlike any other.

It’s a city that finds a rare balance of holding onto its past with a vibrant pride, while also pushing brightly into the future. Its Spanish, Creole, Caribbean, French, African, and American roots have influenced its food, music, and lifestyle. Not to mention, its the freaking birthplace of Jazz. And NOLA continues to grow, as it is becoming the most recent hub for film, media, and music.

I had visited NOLA once before my most recent trip. I saw, ate, and listened to all the “musts”: drank on Bourbon, listened to jazz on Frenchman Street, strolled the Garden District, and ate in the French Quarter.

This time around was a little more relaxed, but I was anxious to get back to that captivating city. I strolled the same neighborhoods and returned to Frenchman Street my first night there to listen to some jazz and grab a beer.

The next day I was set on breaking away from the routine of my last visit. After a morning of walking the Warehouse district (NOLA’s art district), my travel buddy said he had found a bar for us to check out later that night called Bacchanal Wine. 

Our cab driver overhead us and gave us the thumbs up via the review mirror.

“I love Bacchanal! That place is awesome.”

Yesss, we are actually cool.

After dinner we grabbed a cab and headed over to Bacchanal. The bar is located in NOLA’s Ninth Ward neighborhood, which was a little ways from our digs in Treme, a neighborhood next to the famous French Quarter.

It turns out that Bacchanal Wine is actually much more than a bar. Sitting squarely on the corner of two streets, it looks unimposing with a worn exposed brick exterior and forest green shutters. The inside is equally quaint...until you realize that you have a magical plethora of drink options. While it offers custom cocktails, glasses of wine, and bottled beer, its main attraction is its vast selection of bottled wine and cheese. The idea is to purchase a bottle and some cheese and to sit and enjoy the live music outside.

Its large fenced-in yard is dotted with iron picnic tables and a sea of mismatched chairs. During peak night hours the yard twinkles with bulbs strung tautly overhead and spotlights pointed towards an outdoor stage.

When we first walked into the small shop in front, my travel buddy started looking intensely through the wine selection.  Like the city, Bacchanal excluded no one from a good time, but didn’t eliminate the option of adding a little glamour to the night. With a sizable wine and cheese selection you could spend $15 or $150.

Not knowing much about wine, I scooted outside to snatch a table. I didn’t make it far before I ran into Queen Koldmadina. She stood behind a large folding table, tapping to the live music in the background. Piled in front of her were bundles of t-shirts with the words “Let Me” silk screened across the front and a stack of DVDs.

Queen is a Ninth Ward local and a hip hop musician. She was also the star of the Academy-Award nominated documentary Trouble The Water, which chronicled her heroism during and after Hurricane Katrina. We started chatting, she told me the doc gave her a platform to make a difference and she was fundraising for the New Orleans Women’s Shelter (Queen continues to raise awareness about Katrina’s continuous effects on her community. Look up her album here.)

“What does ‘Let Me’ mean?”

“It means just let me be who I am, do what I want, what I dream.”

After buying a t-shirt, I snagged a table and guarded two chairs. My buddy came out, wine and ice bucket in one hand and two glasses in another.

The acts switched and we sat back, wine in hand, listening to Dixeland jazz until we polished off the bottle of white.

A little wine drunk, with fairy lights twinkling above, and jazz swinging through the summer air, Bacchanal was NOLA perfection: music, drink, and community.