Thursday, September 19, 2019

Early Autumn at the Ditch

Fall is definitely in the air. It is less than a week till the equinox and the changes are obvious. I wake in the morning and it isn't light yet -- or at least bright light. Rick's bike rides end earlier. There's a decided nip in the air, even when the days warm up. And of course, I see signs in nature. Changing leaves, more egrets at area ponds. It's early autumn.

At the ditch I've noticed the ducks are far more plentiful. I suspect all those babies of the spring are now gathered with their parents and siblings.

They seen to have two or three spots where they cluster -- a hill by the big pond (above); a spot by a narrow pond...

...and a shady place by the second pond.

Even on the cooler days, they are clearly enjoying the water!

They're not the only ones. I was lucky enough to see not one but two deer in the large pond.

They were so very beautiful -- seemingly unafraid of those who had clustered to take their photos.

But most definitely aware.

They seemed to be munching on something in the water -- the lily pads, perhaps?

I stood and watched them for a long time, until they moved off toward the woods.

I'm seeing more colors in the leaves...

...and the berries seem to be bursting with bright flashes of red.

I've only seen one egret at the ditch, but we've met up several times.

And of course, Harry is still here...

...but just for awhile. Ah, fall.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Cork Poppers Sample Summer Wines

Summer may be past its peak but if you enjoy mostly white or rose wines, there will still be plenty to love in the Cork Poppers summer wine tasting choices. And better news still -- you'll even enjoy these in other seasons, too!

Our gathering was held in late August. Hosts Meredith and Roger live on Michigan's Grand River and we love the August tasting because it always includes Meredith's Frogmore Stew and a boat ride on the river with Roger.

Photo by Cheryl Rice

But that's a bit later. First the wines. (Accompanied by cheeses from Bob and Dick and Rick's bread!)

We started with a sparkling wine -- Frexinet Brut Cordon Negro. Bob told us this is the number one selling sparkling wine in the world. A cava from Spain, he said that this was the wine he and his late wife, Joan, called their anniversary wine, as it was the wine that was in their hotel room on their wedding night and an annual tradition for every year after that.

I think we all found it very tasty. And at $11.99, a good bargain!

Then it was on to a trio of three Sauvignon Blancs. This pleased me immensely, as I am definitely not a Chardonnay fan. All of these came from Down Under -- New Zealand and Australia.

Mike M. was first with a Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, 2018, from Marlborough New Zealand. It was a bit peppery and a tad too sweet for me but Bob called it pretty good. I thought it was a bit more like a Chardonnay, creamier.

We all agreed that it probably needed more chilling but at about $13 from Costco, it was a good wine for a summer night.

Roger was up next with Hewitson LuLu 2018 from the Adelaide Hills, Australia. I tought it had an excellent finish and I liked this one best, perhaps of the entire day. It was a little sharper and a little drier. Again, there was a positive consensus on this one.

And once again, the price was consistent -- $12.99 at Costco, so probably widely available.

Cheryl offered an Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2018 from Marlborough, New Zealand 2018. This was the best chilled of the three and it made a huge difference! Comments ranged from "Lovely!" to "I'm still smelling it." (I can't remember who said this but they were right -- it had a terrific aroma.)

Dick explained about BRIX, which is the sugar content in the grapes. The more sugar in the grapes, the higher the alcohol content in the wine will be (This wine had 21% BRIX and a 12.5% alcohol content). (I'm sorry -- I didn't get the price on this one.)

I brought Sofia Rose 2018, by Francis Coppola, Monterey County, California. The film director branched out into wine making as a negotiant -- that is, like Louis Jadot and some other names you might see on wine labels, they may have a vineyard, but they purchase their grapes for the winemaking process. Sofia is named for his daughter, also a film director. Coppola had said he would name no wine for his daughter until it was perfect.

Kate introduced me to this one and while I'm not a big fan of rose overall, I do like this one as it's light and very dry. There was good consensus on this, or as Mike M. put it, "I don't usually like rose but this is really good." (The chilling makes a huge difference!) Again, this is widely available. I found it at Meijer stores for $11.99 (on sale, so count on a bit more full price).

Remember -- the best tasting white wines and roses -- no matter what they are -- are best tasted and enjoyed cold, which makes them perfect for a summer sip.

Mike S. brought our last wine and the only red of the day, Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 by Joseph Carr. And it smelled FABULOUS! And I thought it tasted delicious as well.

Josh wines are very dependable and very available nationwide. I didn't get the price on this one either, but it is in line with the others. It did make the red fans very happy!

 Photo by Cheryl Rice

One of the things we often mock in our group is the pretentiousness of the wine labels and how they might describe the ingredients (notes of kerosene, tobacco, black cherry and gooseberry -- yes, all of these have turned up on previous wine labels, and I can't tell what that should taste like!).

Photo by Cheryl Rice

Some labels also tell the stories of the vineyard or wine origin and we mock those, too. So Mike read his own version of the Josh story, based on the label, which I share below for your good grins. (The boat ride is to follow, below!)

The Josh B'Gosh Truth by Josh Himself as told to Michael M. Smith in a Vision
 (c. 2019 Michael Maurer Smith)

After a decade serving as a world-class sommelier followed by another decade as a wine indstry executive, I, Joseph Carr, was set on my way to form my own wine company. It was what I had to do to be surrounded by the grape 24/7. I just had to be where I could sample my stuff any time, in any amount, without interference -- without anyone telling me that Trump wines were really the best.
Influenced by the wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy, I began making wines under my own label--just the name Josh in a large but elegant script -- a slightly pretentious design intended to portray me as a man of excellent taste and reserve and not as someone you might encounter sitting on the curb taking sips from a bottle hidden in a paper bag.

Pursuing my winemaking philosophy, emphasizing balance, sophistication and approachability, and hinting at old world style, while expressive of California's best wine growing regions, I sought to craft Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that would seem right at home on the sheves of Meijer and Cotco.

In 2007, I was sober enough to launch Josh Cellars, offering wines that represent the best of California: bold, rich, approachable, balanced and affordable, even by folks who can't afford to drive a Ferrari.

Sourced from across many great California wine growing regions, every vintage represents a labor of love, a commitment to quality, and my personal promise to make great wine that tastes so good I'll drink it myself -- lots and lots and lots of it -- and I hope you will, too.

Today I live alone with my one true friend, my dog Corkie. My wife ran off with some guy who invented wine-flavored vaping e-liquids. But I try not to think about that. And every so often I get a text from my daughter, Tempranillo, checking in to see if I have changed my will. Most days I split my time, when I am not sampling my wines, between watching my recorded collection of "Dancing with the Stars" and tweeting obscenities to Donald Trump.

I hope yu enjoy the fruits of my efforts and continue to buy Josh wines because it's really, really great wine at a reasonable price -- and by'gosh, I really, really need your money.
Finally, let me paraphrase Rick Steves, that pot-addled master of travel -- "Keep on drinking, 
and support public television and good cheap wine."

   After the tasting, our ride down the Grand River. Rick was clearly in his element...

...and with Captain Roger at the helm, it's always fun.

It was a perfect day and I was able to spot a turtle and ducks (actually spotted by Rick), a heron (actually spotted by Kate)...

...and this lovely egret.

I wish it had flown a little closer to the boat but it cuts a lovely figure in the sky.

Then back to land and after removing some weeds from the motor (those are Dick's legs, as he reached into the water to take care of that task)...

...we came in for dinner and to Meredith's lovely table.

Her party favors were a collection of note cards from their travels and they were lovely!

Our Frogmore stew was, as always, way too yummy for words, as was Barb's terrific salad.

As for Mike S's delicious brownies with salted caramel ice cream and caramel topping, they were gobbled down too fast for a photo, after which we called our former Popper, Pat, who now lives in Georgia.

All in all another great day on the river.

A note: Previous Cork Popper posts can be found on the menu tab above, with wines arranged by region or category. Please note that when it comes to wine, what YOU like is what matters, not what we like and that prices are likely to change in various areas and over time. Not all wines are available in all states or countries.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Bits and Pieces from the Book of Life

I'm somewhat happily dividing my life between two houses right now -- home and up north, for those last weeks of summer and early fall. Life at home has not been dull! Rick welcomed a client passing through Michigan for a lovely lunch. Burgers were on the menu with Rick's homemade buns!

I have been dealing with the bushel of tomatoes I bought last time at the lake (and I might even buy more, though I'm really getting sick of making pasta sauce!) Looks grotesque here, doesn't it, like something in a witch's cauldron. But this mixture of peeled Roma tomatoes, caramelized onions, fresh herbs, garlic and in some batches, mushrooms will keep us very content when the snow begins to fall and a bubbling pot of noodles is comfort food. We'll probably add more fresh herbs, maybe Italian sausage, artichoke hearts, kalamatas and/or capers when we cook it off then!

We have gallons of sauce in the freezer. I also came up with a very zesty gazpacho, a tomato cuke salad...

...and a wonderful tomato tart. (So, should I get another bushel?!)

I've been savoring the last of summer's blooms. It was an extra treat to go to the massage therapist, who let me have some of her hydrangea blooms.

And from Pam, whose garden never ceases to amaze me, I got this wonderful idea to save some sunflower heads for a small platter. I love how they look -- there's beauty, even if their end state. Thanks, Pam!

In an attempt to work on a more free and loose painting style, I've been experimenting.

I rather like this one!

On September 11 I went to the wonderful musical, "Come from Away," about the community in Newfoundland that welcomed the thousands of passengers stranded after planes were grounded on that terrible day. It was so heartwarming and inspiring. Someone on my FB page posted how if only we could go back to September 12 when strangers took care of others, there was hugging and support and religion or politics didn't matter. (If it comes to your town, I recommend it. Listen to the CD first to max your enjoyment.)

Earlier that week our Friends of Theatre at MSU held a gathering at a local art gallery to kick off the season.

The art was gorgeous -- so many different things and in all media.

Also included was a group of actors who explored "Arts or Crafts" in a series of vignettes. We all laughed as three "Puritan quilting ladies" gossiped about Goody Proctor as they stitched hidden messages into their quilts.

And pretty much everyone could identify with the frustration and bafflement that Mona Lisa felt -- if only she could share her thoughts as others passed by!

It was the perfect blending of the arts -- performance, sculpture, painting, photography and more.

There have been walks to the Ditch (more on that in another post)...

....and a longing for fall apples. (Can't wait for the Honey Crisps!)

We'll be headed to the lake again, making this drive past a sunflower field growing in the median.

Oh, I hate to whiz by so fast! They are a blur!

And I'll see my favorite windmills. I can't look at them when I drive -- I'm too captivated. Always good when Rick can take the wheel!

Life really is good right now. You can never tell what a week or two or three might bring.

But right now, it is very good.

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