Nov. 24, 2010 01:54 AM
20101124-livingind-0101

Louisiana's imperiled coast inspires a California winemaker. By Mary Tutwiler

Susie Selby loves wine. She grew up under the tutelage of her father, David Selby, a wine connoisseur before wine was cool. And it was her dad who introduced her to the joys of dining in New Orleans; her first meal was at Commander's Palace. So it is really no leap of faith for Selby, now a Sonoma County winemaker, to want to participate in the rebuilding of Louisiana's threatened coastline. Post Katrina, post BP oil spill, her heart overflowing with love for Louisiana, Selby was inspired to create a line of wines called Clean Coast.

November 24, 2010

Louisiana's imperiled coast inspires a California winemaker. By Mary Tutwiler

Susie Selby loves wine. She grew up under the tutelage of her father, David Selby, a wine connoisseur before wine was cool. And it was her dad who introduced her to the joys of dining in New Orleans; her first meal was at Commander's Palace. So it is really no leap of faith for Selby, now a Sonoma County winemaker, to want to participate in the rebuilding of Louisiana's threatened coastline. Post Katrina, post BP oil spill, her heart overflowing with love for Louisiana, Selby was inspired to create a line of wines called Clean Coast.

"I used to distribute wine," says Selby, "so I was in New Orleans a lot and met a lot of really wonderful people. I would meet people and they would embrace me, make me part of their family. It meant so much to me." By the time Katrina hit, Selby had her own winery, and had been making the sauvignon blancs and pinot noirs she loved for about 10 years.

She returned to the city, " a special place in the world," she says, to see that her friends were alright. She was back in Sonoma when the BP oil spill began gushing into the Gulf.

"The only thing I do know how to do is make wine," she says. "I wanted to make a difference, give back to the people who have been so kind to me." So she started crushing grapes. "I feel that Louisiana is important environmentally. I wanted to do something that would be a long-term project, raise money and awareness for the seafood industry."

Selby says her fondest memory of her father, who died in 1997, was eating oysters with him in the restaurants that overhung Lake Pontchartrain. So she made a wine, her Clean Coast Chardonnay, designed to be drunk with a platter of fried oysters and soft shell crabs.

"Everything is similar in the wine industry to the way people live in Louisiana - food, love and laughter. My wines are made with that intent; they are all about being easy to drink with food."

Her Clean Coast Pinot Noir is light enough to be paired with a dish like fire-roasted oysters or a pan-sautéed redfish in a brown butter sauce. The merlot is designed for drinking with Louisiana's spicy dishes, the étouffées, fricassées and sauce piquantes. "Spice elevates the fruit in the wine," says Selby. "It goes well with Louisiana food."

And what would she like to eat paired with a bottle of her Clean Coast Cab? "I dream of a steak, sauced with bernaise and topped with Louisiana lump crabmeat," she says, her voice getting hoarse with hunger and longing.

For every bottle of Selby Winery Clean Coast wines sold, $4 of the cost of the bottle will go to the Greater New Orleans Foundation. All proceeds from Clean Coast will directly benefit coastal restoration efforts. The entire flight will be priced below $15 a bottle and can be found at Marcello's Wine Market and Philippe's Wine Cellar.

For more information about Clean Coast wines, go to cleancoastwines.com or selbywinery.com. To find out more about the Greater New Orleans Foundation, go to www.gnof.org.

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