My house is a festival of red at this season. (Isn't it nice that Christmas is leading up to it so we can just keep some of our red at hand?)
Well, if you can't do red on Valentine's Day, when can you do it?
My notes on this are pretty bare not (as has happened once or twice before) that I had bad notes, but because every single wine we had was one I would buy again or give as a gift. They were delicious. Most were reds but we started off with our sole white from Cheryl.
Dipinti Pinot Grigio Vigneti delle Dolomiti (IGT) is a tasty white. Imagine this one on a warm summer evening while you're sitting on the beach. It was clean, crisp very tasty. I would buy this again in a minute, especially at the $11 price (and for my two cents, it won the label competition hands down!)
Of course, we don't just go for the wine. Pat and Cheryl had pulled together an elaborate collection of crackers and cheese.
And Rick made bread the size of his head!
Next, Pat offered Prodigo Sangiovese di Romagra DOC 2013. This was a rich red, and like most of the other wines we tasted that day, had notes of blackberries and cherries. Now, I don't taste either one and I'm not sure anyone does really -- but that's what people say. I tasted "good." And good is good enough for me, especially at $9.99.
Our third wine was a top of the line chicanti, Gabbiano Chianti Classsico, DOCT, 2013. Here's an interesting tip. If you are buying a chianti and see a rooster on the neck of the bottle, go for it. That's the sign of a higher grade chianti (as is the determination DOCG).
Of course we often think of a chianti as being served with pasta (or included in the sauce!) and this would do the trick, although to be honest, it would be a good sipping wine on a cold winter night. It was sweetly fragrant with nice tannins and a long finish. I was tasting it well after the swallow and delighted to do so! This was regularly $15.99 but on sale for $13.99.
Barb and Mike were up next with one of my favorites, Monacello Primitivo di Matera DOC. If you take a look at a map of Italy you'll note the "heel of the boot." The grapes for this were grown in the "instep" of the boot. Primitivo grapes are what we might more easily recognize as Zinfandel grapes, so if you like Zin (not White Zinfandel) this might be for you (Once again, it was great and at $16, while a bit more than most, is worth it.)
In between sipping we had some valentine activity. Most of us had one card to trade but Barb and Cheryl both made individual valentines for all of us! Cheryl went with "Hamiltines" -- each featuring a quote from the popular musical.
Barb made us colorful valentines with a paper plate as the substrate with loads of color, photos and a personal connection.
Back to the wine! Jan was next with Umani Ronchi Sangiovese Marche 2009. Sangiovese is the most popular grape in Italy and this was very drinkable.
Suzanne was up next. This wasn't her first rodeo with Cork Poppers and she knew what to expect. Her choice was a Cantina Zaccagnini Montelpulciano Abruzzi DOC 2014. It was very full and rich or, as Barb described it, "not sissy wine." This is available at World Market, $15.99.
Our last wine was another Prodigo from Rick -- Prodigo Nero dÁvola IGT 2014 (same company as the first.). (IGT, like DOC and DOCG, reflects the region in which the grapes were grown. I lift and edit this wording from The Kitchn (please visit them for details). DOCG means that the wine producers followed the strictest regulations possible to make that wine and is the least common. DOC wines are much more commonly found. The rules governing quality and authenticity are still very strict, but they're a little more generous than those for DOCG status. IGT doesn't quite meet those production standards but is still a great wine.
Even though we'd been loading up on bread and cheese, when dinner came no one passed it up. We started with Barb's always-amazing salad, then on to Anne's broccoli dish and my lasagne. (I'll tell you more about the lasagna in another post.) Jan wrapped it up with a tiramisu to die for. And of course we opened the rest of the valentines!
The table theme was a valentine party -- lots of red.
I was lucky to find mini-roses and some cute buckets at JoAnn's that made for floral interludes on the table.
Between the flower pots were vintage valentine cutouts, used like confetti, amidst red ribbons.
I pulled two kinds of china -- my Royal Doulton Royal Gold pattern and some simple Mikasa white bone china I bought at Home Goods to round out the place settings ($3.99 for the dinner plates, not bad!). The silver was a combination of my Francis I (Reed and Barton) and my grandmothers.
Place cards were made by photo transfers of each guest, painted and adhered to a card with the menu below. A red heart was on the back so they didn't look too plain from the back side.
No one was complaining! (You might note a tree in the room. I leave up two winter trees and lights for awhile after Christmas to cheer up the dark Michigan days and nights.)
I had favor bags for everyone -- a couple little homemade Valentine cookies, some chocolates and a potholder with a wine bottle-themed design. (Here's a tip -- if you are looking for party favors for a large group, especially a group that enjoys food and cooking, don't hesitate to check out Dollar Tree. These cute potholders were two for a dollar so for $10 I had a useful, thematic favor for our group. And they were even decent potholders!)
But I have to say Rick one-upped me in the party favor department. Two days earlier someone from the performing arts center called and asked if he could play his guitar for the sound check of classical guitarist Sharon Isbin, performing that weekend with Lansing Symphony. This was a huge big deal for him -- it would be for any classical guitar geek -- and he was pretty nervous! But he had a wonderful time and got to meet her after and hear the rehearsal.
This remarkable woman is a Grammy-winning classical musician and founded the classical guitar department at Juilliard. Well, he was able to get tickets for our group! So as soon as the tasting was over, most of us headed over to hear a remarkable concert! Now that's a party favor. (And when she played her solo encore, you could have heard a pin drop in the large hall.)
Coming soon, some tips I learned making my lasagne! Meanwhile, if you are into wine or need to bring wine to an occasion, check out any of the above. They were all good -- and we all agreed. Eleven wine tasters can't be all wrong! (And if you enjoy wine, don't forget to check the Cork Poppers tab at the top of this blog where you will find our past tastings listed by category-- country, reds or whites, or theme).
Meanwhile, I leave you with the other little one who has my heart! Let Valentine's Day be every day!
This week's post is joining the following blog parties: Monday Social, and Share Your Cup.