In the dark recesses of what was once one of the great wine cellars of the world, the fabled bottles sit. The 1870 Lafite Rothschild, the Chateau Moutons, Chateau Margaux -- fine wines with enormous price tags, or at least they were.
The wine cellar at Brennan's Restaurant, winner since 1983 of Wine Spectator magazine's Grand Award as one of the 85 top cellars in the world, has 35,000 bottles that since Hurricane Katrina have turned from vintage to vinegar.
"They may be drinkable, but they're probably better for salads," said Ted Brennan, whose brother Jimmy spent 35 years building the collection.
The Brennan's wine cellar covers two floors in what was once the carriage house of the 1795 French Quarter mansion-turned-restaurant. Domestic wines are stacked to the ceiling on the first floor, European vintages on the second floor. Behind a locked gate is the private collection.
The wine was ruined when the electricity went off after the hurricane. The wine cellar, normally kept at 58 degrees year-round, was suddenly at the mercy of the broiling heat wave that followed the storm.
"I know it easily got to 120 degrees in there," Brennan said. "The wine was literally cooked."