Monday, July 22, 2013

Tasting Minnesota with the Cork Poppers

I'll bet Minnesota isn't the first state you think of when it comes to producing wine. But when Roger and Meredith, two of our Cork Poppers, visited a winery in Stillwater, MN, they decided to bring back a selection from Northern Vineyards for our group to try.
You really couldn't argue with a warm summer wine tasting, followed by a boat ride on the Grand River and a spectacular feast! And there were some pleasant surprises.
I didn't expect the reds to be great -- Minnesota is too far north to really get the good reds. (We'll talk about those later.) But the whites were quite nice. And as always, Pat's cheeses and Rick's home made bread were the perfect accompaniment!
We started with a pleasant (if tritely named) White table Wine. It's a white table wine and a varietal blend with La Crescent grapes and seven other varieties. It was quite nice and very fresh. On my notes I wrote "fine" meaning "That's fine." (Not WOW! That's Fine Wine.")
This one (and most we tasted) were $12.95.

So, I was glad when I truly enjoyed the second, Yellow Moccasin White Table Wine. It was crisp, fruity and all LaCrescent grapes (whiich I'd never heard of before).
It was so fresh and at $12.95, I thought a better deal all around. (I wasn't alone -- this tended to be the group favorite.) It also received "best label" kudos.

The third was Prairie Rose -- a Rose table wine. It looked pretty but it had zero after taste, no finish whatsoever. Sort of like drinking water.This one was $8.95. (Best label runner up!)
The fourth takes us into the reds -- there were two offerings and our group found both a little flat compared to what we usually drink. (This doesn't surprise us, either, because of the Northern climate being less likely to produce really elegant reds). The first was Main Street Red. It was medium dry and cost $12.95. It was OK, but the fact is, you can find a lot of really excellent wines for 7.95 up. So, overpriced.
The second was darker, a deeper red. St Croix was better than the Main Street but our group tended to think it had a funky chemical smell -- you didn't really smell the fruit. This may or may not be an issue if you don't fully use all your senses with wine, but I love to just stick my nose in it and smell all the wonderful fruits. Can't really do that with this one.
We ended the tasting with a dessert wine. I'm not so fond of these overall, but they are a nice treat -- you're not drinking tons of it. This one (also named "White Table Wine" -- they could use a little marketing help on their naming process) is similar to an ice wine and I found it quite delightful. 
We all enjoyed it. As with most wines of this time (harvested after the frost), it was the most expensive at $15.99, but a fair expense, I think, given the price of most Canadian ice wines.
Then it was onto the river! We always look forward to Roger's river tours! Most of our group went on the ride, including our special guest, pianist Todd Camburn, Pat's son, who was visiting from Switzerland.
(You can listen to Todd HERE).
There were only two misfortunes on the trip. Barb's hat flew into the water but was rescued -- wet but rescued.
And Rick, in a knot demonstration ended up fraying the boat rope! (But the knots were great!)
We were also privileged to see a couple of herons. 
These photos were taken far away in a moving boat, but you get the idea!
Roger had a nice Australian wine called "2-Up" for the ride. It really was excellent.
And he managed to take us up the river (and back) avoiding sand bars and low spots!
Or maybe the best is dinner -- we have some good cooks in our group!
Meredith prepared Frogman's Stew which is basically a seafood/sausage/corn and potato boil and was fabulous! Equally terrific were her easy and clever table decorations -- cork-filled wine glasses...
And flowers with skewered corks.
The stew was topped off by Barb's salad, Anne's cornbread and dessert from Cheryl and Dick.
When it was all on the plate, it was a symphony of color, texture and flavor!
Of course we are celebratory by nature -- when we have a real occasion to celebrate, all the better! In this case it was Rick's upcoming birthday!
Three cheers for the Cork Poppers! And to all the cooks! A great day!
(In the next Cork Popper gathering in August we'll hit the road to a Michigan winery not far from us. I don't expect great reds; I do expect a great time!


Shelia Williamson said...

Oh what a celebration. I'm sure it was so relaxing floating along on the water. Love the pretty crane. We have lots of shore birds around here. All the wine bottles are so pretty. Now the food looks so delicious and enjoying with good friends even makes food taste better. Happy Birthday to the birthday boy! Thanks so much for popping in to see me.
Be a sweetie,
Shelia ;)

Jeanie said...

It all looks wonderful, Jeanie. Food, friends and doesn't get better than that. That salad is a work of art and I love seeing the wine labels.
Most important, happy birthday to Rick.

Mae Travels said...

I think your taste in wine is very much like mine. The problem with red wine from very new vineyards may also be technique, though I'm sure you are right about the climate. But in a few years, Michigan may be ready to grow some great reds, alas.

Annie said...

Rollin' on the river and I would buy those wines just for the labels.

anno said...

Such good times! Love hearing about your adventures with the Cork Poppers. And although I'm not sure I'd seek out those Minnesota wines, I sure would seek out those gorgeous labels! Happy Birthday to Rick!

Marilyn said...

Your Cork Popper gang do have the best times together. Love that you got on the river and the food sounds and looks just wonderful.

Introverted Art said...

I am not a wine drinker, but the labels on these bottles make it look so yummy.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

So glad you enjoyed the wines from my home state! Stillwater is such a neat area. You would LOVE it as there are lots of neat shops to check out. And it's just a very pretty area in general since it's right on the river.

Between the wine and the boat ride and the delicious dinner, it sounds like a wonderful night!!!!

Jennifer Richardson said...

your life is so beautiful
...I love some of those wine bottles a lot
(usually I enjoy the bottles
as much as the wine:))
I love local wineries and am glad
you're supporting yours.

Joanne Huffman said...

It looks like a delightful time was had by all.

~*~Patty S said...

Fun how many states are into wine making and micro brewing too (totally different things of course)
I so enjoy great label art
fun post Jeanie

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I enjoyed this post a lot. I love the photo of the white wine showing a reflection of would make a great ad. Stillwater really is a lovely and fun town, and I imagine that helps this winery sell its products. Hmm, I just Googled "Minnesota winery" and learned that we have 30 or more. Who knew? Thanks for a fun post!

The Artful Diva said...

Those wines sound divine!

Angelsdoor * Penny said...

Hi Jeanie,
First, happy birthday to Rick!
What a wonderful day spent with good food, beautiful sights and good friends.. Looks like everyone enjoyed the day.
I love the rose wine label.
Thank you so much for coming over and leaving such a kind note for Bella.
I am so happy you enjoyed

Introverted Art said...

OMG Jeanie, you expressed exactly what I thought! That my buddy's wife might have been bothered, which I would completely respect... oh well, we can't force people in our lives, right? :)

Tracy said...

LOVE the labels! And what wonderful surprises in those far north wines. I would love to have been surprised by all those tastes, as it seems amazing to thing about wine produces so far north. Such fun... and out on the water too! I like those tea lights with bottle corks--fun decor! Your wine posts always leave me hungry & thirsty, Jeanie. ;o) Happy Day ((HUGS))

Friko said...

This is a group I’d love to join, I’d feel right at home.
Wine tasting (and swallowing) is something I’m very good at. Eating good food comes a very close second.

Sandy K. said...

It sounds like such a great day! I know nothing about wines, but have always thought it would be fun to get into:). The river, the company, the good food...enjoy every summer day!

Jenny Woolf said...

It looks really nice! what an artistic plate of food :)
Nothing beats friendly get togethers... and looks like you had good weather too.

Anonymous said...

SO jealous of this group. ;) Fun, fun, fun. I love the cork filled glasses with the candles. Great idea.

shoreacres said...

Happy birthday to Rick! He certainly looks as though he's having a fine time!

I so wish I had read this a week or so ago. I have a good friend who just got back from Minnesota yesterday - she spent the last week or so in Stillwater! She just was visiting and vacationing, so she could have gone out to the winery. But - her birthday was Sunday, so before I see her with her gift, I'm going to see if I can find a bottle of the wine around here to add to her celebration!

As always, a wonderful post. I do wish I had a group like this to do things with - it's a special gift when it happens.

I hope you're feeling fine - you know we're all hoping things to well for you!

Bella Rum said...

"... a warm summer wine tasting, followed by a boat ride on the Grand River and a spectacular feast!"

What a grand day. It sounds wonderful and I want some of that Frogman's Stew.

There was a time when Virginia had no vineyards. Now we have a number of them. This post sent me to Google. We used to go to wineries fairly often, but it's been a while now. You've given me the itch once again.

So glad you enjoyed your day.

paris parfait said...

Looks like such fun! And nice to see the North American version of a grey heron - which looks like his Dutch cousins! :)

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