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Through the Grapevine 

Visitors to New Orleans are often astonished to learn that they may imbibe outside, and marvel at the local accommodations for such activity -- the ubiquitous plastic go-cup at nearly every bar, the infamous drive-thru windows for daiquiris in some suburban jurisdictions. But those who prefer wine have some decidedly more urbane options when they want to take the air as they take a drink. Here are some upcoming and recurring events around town for sampling wines outdoors this season:

Vino on the Bayou

Three years ago, Cork & Bottle Fine Wines (3700 Orleans Ave., 281-4384; www.cbwines.com) proprietor Jon Smith teamed up with the Louisiana Landmarks Society to begin a wine-tasting series and fundraiser for the historic preservation group called Vino on the Bayou. Cork & Bottle supplies five different wines and sets up tasting tables on the shaded porch and gardens of the Pitot House (1440 Moss St., 482-0312; www.pitothouse.org), an 18th century Creole colonial house situated on Bayou St. John that serves as the nonprofit's headquarters and as a museum. The setting sun and bayou breezes make it a sumptuous scene. The next event is planned for June 22 beginning at 5:30 p.m. and tickets are available at the door for $10 with all proceeds benefiting Louisiana Landmarks.

Bacchanal

Somewhat less refined but several degrees more funky is the garden setting at the Bywater wine shop Bacchanal Fine Wines (600 Poland Ave., 948-9111; www.bacchanalfinewines.com). The front door of this ancient-looking Creole building gives a view of a Cold War-era military installation and idling freight trains, but the back opens to a tropical garden planted with ginger, ferns and with plenty of chairs and benches. Each Saturday, the shop hosts a free wine tasting from noon to 3 p.m. On Sunday evenings beginning at 5 p.m., the garden turns into a self-guided food and wine pairing as half the Bywater neighborhood seems to show up to drink wine outside, listen to live music and sample the often exotic food cooked al fresco by chef Pete Vasquez.

Sippin' and Swirlin' on the Sidewalk

The weekly wine tastings at Sip Wine Market (3119 Magazine St., 894-7071; www.sipwinemarket.com) and Swirl Wines (3143 Ponce de Leon, 304-0635; www.swirlinthecity.com) don't start outside, but that's usually where they end up. Guests typically spill out onto the sidewalk, mingling with patrons of the neighboring businesses as they sample wines and listen to music. Swirl was originally a spin-off of Sip, and while they are now separate, the two shops share a similar format and event schedule. On Tuesdays, each shop offers tasting flights of six wines for $10 per person beginning at 6:30 p.m., while on Fridays the shops host free wine tastings at prime happy hour time from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. "What's really cool is that a lot of people come here, taste wine and then go to dinner at one of the restaurants around here, so we're all feeding off each other," says Swirl co-owner Beth Ribblett.

Jazzin' on the Northshore

Winemakers John and Susan Seago like to say the grapes for their future vintages "feed" off the energy of the music and conviviality that takes over their Pontchartrain Vineyard (81250 Hwy. 1082, 985-892-9742; www.pontchartrainvineyards.com) during their annual Jazzin' the Vines Concert Series. Held twice a month through October, the event invites guests to bring a picnic set-up, buy Pontchartrain Vineyard wines by the bottle or glass and stay for an evening of live music. Admission is $10 and the vineyard also sells sandwiches and desserts. Local jazz singer Charmaine Neville performs May 26 while the Cajun/gypsy swing band the Red Stick Ramblers are featured June 9. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. and music begins at 6:30 p.m. Check the Web site for the full series schedule.

click to enlarge Sampling wines at Vino on the Bayou benefits the Louisiana - Landmarks Society. - IAN MCNULTY
  • Ian McNulty
  • Sampling wines at Vino on the Bayou benefits the Louisiana Landmarks Society.
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