Thursday, March 17, 2011

Cork Poppers Take on South American Wines!

It's been awhile since I've had a good wine post -- but there is much in here to delight the wine fan.

Our Cork Poppers met on Sunday and the focus of our wine journey was South American wines, specifically those of Chile and Argentina. We were all filled with anticipation, knowing all the wines were between $5 and $25, which makes them rather affordable. (Well, most of us were filled with anticipation -- not sure about Taxi!)

We started off with Lapostolle, Cuvee Alexandre, Chardonnay 2008. This Chilean vineyard is owned by a woman -- we found that over 40 percent of the winemakers in CHile are women -- from more than 100 wineries.

This was a crisp, unoaked chardonnay. Speaking as one who is not fond of oaked whites, that was reason enough to be excited. But it was also just delicious. This vintner makes Grand Marnier, so that should have been a clue that it would be a little pricier ($23.79).

The taste was just delicious -- bright, a little fruity but not sweet, with a long finish. It was quite dry. Imagine it on a summer night, sipping this one on the beach! Mouthwatering!

Well, after that, where could you go but down!

We rarely have a wine when uniformly everyone says "Yuck." We didn't anticipate that the Las Acequias, Torrontes 2009, Mendoza Argentina would be anything less than fabulous after the fragrant floral smell. The aroma had rose and violet -- it really smelled like a garden in peak blooming season.

Well, the comments ranged from "It smells and tastes like soap" to "Love the way it smells but not how it tastes. At $12.59, Roger said it was "$7 too much" and determined it was bad value.

So, when you're at the bottom, where can you go but up? I must confess, I've never been a fan of Rose. It seems like American Roses are very sweet.

But the Crios de Susana Balbo Rose of Malbec 2009, Mendoza, Argentina would have been wonderful even without a poor lead in. It is made with the skins of Malbec, pulling off the liquid part way through the fermentation process.

"I like it when they pull the juice early," said Barb. And I had to agree, liking it even better than the first white. It would be great on a hot sunny day. Someone called it "an extremely loveable wine and fun to be around." That's a good way to describe it.

The label on the bottle represents the woman winemaker and her two children. At $11.89 it was well worth it for me, with a taste that was quite good -- not at all sweet, dry, and fruity.

From there it was on to the reds. The first was Montes Macbec 2009 (Chile). "Look at the legs on this one!" exclaimed Clayton. Rick had to agree. "I would be happy with this wine forever," he said. "It's a fine wine."

Cheryl, not known for liking reds added, "Even I like it!"

As for me, if I could lick the inside of the glass I would. Dick says to decant this for 30 minutes before serving and it can last in the cellar for up to five years. With a nice long finish and wonderful plum and blackberry overtones, this wine got a "Woo hoo!" -- especially after learning it was only $10 per bottle. (And a lovely bottle it was, too.)

The Montes was from Chile and so was our next selection, Cono Sur Carmenere, 2008. This is another that was aged in stainless steel and as Dick said, a real tooth-stainer.

Of course, Rick thought this one had the best bottle!

I've had Cono Sur Pinot Noir and while it was fine, I'm not big on Pinot Noir (now Pinot Grigio is another matter altogether!).

But I liked this a good deal and found it much better than the Cono Sur Pinot. And at $8.79 I would certainly get it again.

Rick said he really "loves the feel of" our next wine, Colonia Las Liebred Boarda, 2008 (Mendoza, Argentina). The Bonarda grape was brought from the Piedmont region of Italy 80 years ago. It's very dark with lots of tanins.

"Put it away and don't touch it and it will mellow well," Dick told us. It had lots of tanins and a cellaring potential of five to seven years.

It was Rick's favorite and one of mine, too. (And my favorite label -- but I can't resist a bunny!) Certainly the price brought another enthusiastic "Woo Hoo!" -- It was only $9.

Finally we had another Crios wine, Crios de Susana Balboa Syrah-Bonarda 1007, again from Mendoze, Argentina. It had a wonderful fragrance and a long finish.

Of the reds, this was my favorite, but the price -- $15.39 -- makes it less a house-wine and more of a special one.

Of course, there is no Cork Popper gathering where food is not a key part.

Cheryl had the theme in place from the moment she sent the invitations right down to the place cards...

But the food covered various cultures! Our wine guide and host Dick served up a delicious pork. It was accompanied by a roasted squash dish by Meredith and my potato dish, along with another one of Barb's remarkable "compost heaps" (as Mike calls her salads!).

We also enjoyed several nice table wines, again from South America.

This time we were celebrating Clayton's 60th birthday and Pat's (but a lady never tells!)
Lots of wishes and wonderful banana cake!

I also shared a wonderful bottle of Ice Wine from Canada that Suzanne had given me for Christmas.

The wine was wonderful with dessert and the bottle unbelievably beautiful and hand-painted.

And after -- well, Taxi says it all...

Here's my potato recipe -- it's easy, a crowd pleaser and can be prepared ahead of time and reheated for serving.

Party Potatoes

2 bags shredded hash browns
8 oz sour cream
8 oz sharp shredded Cheddar cheese
1 can cheese soup (I used Campbells' cheddar)
1 stick melted butter
salt / pepper

Mix this all together. Top with crushed potato chips. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

I used low-fat sour cream, reduced fat cheese and baked potato chilps to help cut the fat. Couldn't do much about the butter. No one seemed to complain!

Bon appetit!


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you had such a good time, and your description of the wines and evening was great. I like to know a little about all of this, even though I don't drink much wine, for a variety of reasons.

I did have to laugh at your potato casserole. I've had the same recipe in my box for years - the fact that it's still on a 4x6 card says it all. My mom used to make it for familly dinners or potlucks - when I was in high school! That's one classic recipe, for sure!

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Sounds like such a fun evening - I think it's awesome that you have a group of friends that do this. I hope that I can do that someday with my group of friends!

I really enjoy Malbecs - it's my favorite red these days. And I Have bought Cono Sur before - because of the bottle label! It's so cute!

anno said...

I always enjoy hearing about these lovely evenings... and I always appreciate the recommendations you offer. I'll definitely be looking for that Malbec and the Chardonnay (though maybe more for a special occasion).

Never had that potato casserole, though ... but given the way it combines my favorite starch with every one of my favorite fats, I suspect I'll be giving it a try, too!

Marilyn Miller said...

This sounds like a fun wine tasting. Now if I only liked wine. I did notice the tea cannister and loved it. Thanks also for the recipe, sounds yummy.

Joanne Huffman said...

I'm going to have to try your potato recipe. It looks delicious.

HerzBlatt said...

You show a wide interesting range of South American wine..I never tried wine from this part of the world. I love drinking a good red wine especially from Italy or France.
What was your favourite one??

Susan said...

From one who chooses wine by the label art, this was a great lesson. Your descriptions are lovely. Using my non-connoisseur method, I would most definitely choose the Crios the hands. But that ice wine bottle is gorgeous! I hope you kept that one.

Ruth said...

My sister still makes that potato dish after years and years, and I look forward to it so much, especially paired with ham at our holiday gatherings.

The labels really are a blast, I love shopping them. It's a bonus if the wine is good. :-)

Tamara said...

What a lovely way to spend an evening with friends. I agree with Susan about the Hands label and with Rick about the bike label too. We dont get much South American Wine on our shelves but I might keep an eye out for a Crios just to give it try. Thanks for the review of your 'cork poppers' soiree.

Tammie Lee said...

that sounds like a wonderful evening! THank you for sharing all the lovely details of each bottle, truly fun for me. I jotted down a couple to try.

Dogwood said...

I don't drink wine but enjoyed the photos and thanks for the recipe.

Happy days to you. Dogwood

~*~Patty S said...

your wine gatherings are such fun and your recap is priceless too

Annie Jeffries said...

What a good time. I would have fit right in and would come offering something fresh and bright and a bit sparkling sweet. I don't care for dry at all and light flavored is best. Have you or Rick any suggestions?

The party potatos sound yummy. Recipe is saved.

LOLOL the verification word is SWINE. LOLOL

Karen Owen said...

Lots of interesting stuff here! I am going to tell Warren to look for some of those wines next time he goes to the store. I make almost that same potato dish - differences are cream of celery soup and buttered Ritz crackers instead of chips. One interesting note - I like pinot noir but not pinot grigio - just the opposite from you. I found that funny.

Paris hotel said...

i like your selection :)

Relyn Lawson said...

I love, love, love your blog redo.

jet1960 said...

Sounds like fun times with good friends!

OJ Gonzalez-Cazares said...

I truly enjoyed your wine tour! I personally love Argentinian wine (clos de los 7 is great) and Bonarda was a brand new discovery for me last year. Loved the "teeth stainer" comment re: Cono Sur! Please keep writing about wine!!

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