Heart of Louisiana: Pontchartrain Vineyards

Heart of Louisiana: Pontchartrain Vineyards
Updated: May. 24, 2016 at 9:56 PM CDT
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(WVUE) - The music is old standards and jazz. The setting, just before sunset tucked into a vineyard where the white grapes are just starting to form on 15 acres of vines. It's an unexpected delight in South Louisiana.

"But what makes us special is that this is the only place where you can sit outside at a winery, sit in the vineyard as we like to say, enjoy the music under the stars among the vines," said Brian Dias.

This is how Pontchartrain Vineyards, tucked into the gentle low hills of Northern St. Tammany Parish, is marketing itself as a serious winery.

"We grow two grapes here on the estate," Dias said.

In a region that's known for its muscadine, blueberry, blackberry and strawberry sweeter wines, Pontchartrain Vineyards has been taking on the challenge of growing bunch grapes in this hot humid climate for 25 years.

"You're still dealing with a lot of the diseases and various molds and fungus that we have on in this area that they don't have over in Europe," Lincoln Case said.

The answer is this white grape, the blanc du bois, a grape hybrid developed in the similar climate of Florida.

"The blanc du bois grape, if you just eat the grape, it actually tastes very good. It has a big seed, but it's a good tasting grape. It's very reminiscent of a chenin blanc or a pinot gris," Case said.

In late spring, these blanc du bois grapes are about the size of a pea. It will be mid-July to August before they're ready to be picked and turned into wine.

"The white wines are pressed immediately," Case said. "The red wines, we keep the skins and the seeds with the juice while we're fermenting."

And the locally grown white grapes are supplemented with other grapes imported from California.

"We make everything here, but we source really great quality premium wine grapes typically from the Mendocino area, which is north of Sonoma," Dias said.

This winery focuses on mostly dry table wines, both white and red.

And during a spring and fall concert series, the wine mixes easily with live outdoor music for an evening of wine and jazz. And it's only an hour north of New Orleans.

"It is a world away in nearly every sense of the term, for sure," Dias said.

And as patrons fill the open field with folding chairs and tables, picnic blankets, crackers, cheese and wine, it's a chance to sip and savor and relax for a few hours in a true South Louisiana vineyard.

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