Pearl Wine Co. (3700 Orleans Ave., Suite 1C, 504-483-6314; www.pearlwineco.com) stocks more than 600 wine labels, many produced in limited quantities. Leora Madden opened her store when she grew tired of traveling to California to buy her wine.
"I grew up near here and lived in California for seven years," Madden says. "Wine is so part of the culture there. When I got back to New Orleans in 2007, I was frustrated with the retail selection and not just because it was [after Hurricane Katrina], but because of what was being offered in the retail sector specifically. I was going back to California once or twice a year to buy my wine."
Madden enrolled in wine school in Chicago "for fun" in 2009, which sparked her new passion. "Within a couple of weeks, I knew I needed to make a career change, and it was something that I really wanted to do," she says.
For years, she searched for the right spot to open a wine store. In 2013, she found the ideal location in the American Can building, where wine shop Cork & Bottle was for sale. "It felt like the perfect fit," says Madden, who bought and renamed the store.
Madden goes on buying trips to seek out international wines, and she traveled to South Africa last year. However, she also stocks local craft beers and wines.
"There aren't any wineries in New Orleans proper, but there are some on the Northshore," Madden says. "Pontchartrain Vineyards — I do carry their wines."
The local influence combines with Madden's love for California wine culture to create a unique vibe at the shop, Madden says.
"It's a space that, I hope, evokes the mystique and a kind of energy you would get at a winery in California," Madden says. "And I think it does. I have other people that tell me that."
Pearl Wine hosts daily events ranging from free wine tastings to Mani and Martini Monday, when customers pay $20 and get a martini at the bar and a manicure. This month, the wine shop celebrates its second anniversary with a party Thursday, April 23. It will introduce full lunch and dinner counter service by chef Matthew Kopfler of pop-up L'enfant Terrible, The menu will include panini, soups, salads and cheese plates.
"We don't have a kitchen, so [Kopfler] is going to bring it in, but we're going to prep it here," Madden says.
Madden calls her business a labor of love.
"I'm very passionate; it's very much out of love," she says. "It's something I want to share with other people."