Monday, February 22, 2016

Cork Poppers Go Northern Italian

With Valentine's Day on the calendar for February 14, Cork Poppers managed to do the red-and-white theme nicely on Valentine's Eve as we celebrated the holiday with a love of wines from Northern Italy!

This is a long one because we had eight great wines and lots to say about each of them. It may have been the best tasting we ever had but if you don't enjoy wine or our weird comments, you can skip down to the flourless chocolate cake recipe at the bottom! I should also mention (and will again!) that we aren't total lushes. The tasting wine is split to 12 people for each bottle. Just saying!

Rick pulled together an early glimpse of the region, learning that the most respected and elegant wines of Italy are in the Northwest corner, near France, in the region of Piemonte (Piedmont), including the Barolo wines, gathering the highest DOCG rating. They tend to be the most expensive (which may be why we didn't have any of those!). Lesser priced wines produced in the area from the same grape, including the Barbaresco and Gattinara wines, tend to be more reasonably priced.

Decanting -- Rick and Mike take care of the reds!
First order of business, decanting the reds -- decanting is always wise, letting the wine breathe. Even a so-so wine can improve with a little decanting. Well, maybe not college kid wine...

After loading up our plates with cheese, bread and crackers (from Pat, Jan and Rick), we were ready to taste. For white wine fans, the Pinot Grigios are popular and we were lucky to start our tasting with two of them. With Italian Pinot Grigio wines, it's best to drink those produced within the past two or three years. Both our offerings fit this category.

Clayton offered the Ruffino Lumira Pinot Grigio 2014 Delle Venezie IGT. It was tart and acidic and as he said, would be "great on the boat!" Cheryl noted it "tingles on your tongue for a long time" and Rick observed that it had structure to it. Cheryl, our resident white wine drinker was the first to go for seconds, adding that she liked it a lot.

Price: $12 about a year or two ago.

Dick was up next with Alois Lageder's Pinot Grigio 2014. We found it had a totally different finish and Dick observed it wasn't as spicy as the first. Rick noted it was "mellow" and "not a wine to watch football with." He also called it sophisticated. I liked that one a lot as well, perhaps slightly better than the first but both were very good and comparatively priced ($12).

We were up next with the first red of the day, E Solo 2013 Barbara Provincia di Pavia IGT. Everyone seemed to really like this (including Rick, who praised me on my selection!). Clayton called it "yummy," and that was an apt description. "This really says 'come and get me' and I really want to go and get it," someone commented. It comes from Lombardy's westernmost province bordering Piedmont and is an area not famous for its wines. I think our group would disagree, especially at $12.

Rick liked the wine I picked -- and so did I!

Mike was next with 2012 Luchessa Lia Barbaresco DOCT 2012. This one had an odd rusty/pinky/maroon sort of color when poured, more like a Pinot Noir than a full red. Barb noted "it's odd." We agreed it had smoky and spicy tones. I found it a bit more bitter. Other comments included "upfront" and "swallow and it stays with you for awhile."

There was some good discussion on this one. Barb and Mike preferred the E Solo, while Dick preferred this one. It was at this time that we came up with what we call the PSR -- Price to Satisfaction Ratio. This one cost $20. Compared to the earlier one at $12, the first had a better PSR ratio. For those of us with limited wine budgets, this is a decent measure.

Mike and Barb
Our fifth wine was from Bob -- a Corteforte Valpolicella Ripasso DOC Classico Superiore by Podere Bertarole. This comes from the Northeastern area of Italy near Verona and we all found it pretty tasty! Dick called it "the best red so far" while Barb was trying to decide between that and the E Solo. It was a very good wine but at $16-$24 online, but for me the PSR was high. (Bob bought it at a boutique grocery and realized after purchase he had paid too much for it -- $34. Always price check!)

Jan was next with Mignanego Barbera d'Asti DOCG 2011. Rick said it was his favorite to date with a "corner to corner structure"and Dick took back his assessment of the previous wine as best of the day and declared that this one was his favorite. Apparently 2011 was a very good year for this region ("no wonder it is so good!" said Dick!). Being lighter bodied, it is best enjoyed a few degrees cooler than the heavier reds.

Jan paid $13 for this (most found this a very good PSR!) and purchased it out of town. At least two members of our group were ready to send her with money to buy a case of it. I wouldn't mind her picking up a few bottles of this for me, too!

Pat was next with La Fiera 2014 Montepulciano dÁbruzzo. The label, with its carousel reflects the region of Bruzzi, originating in a medieval court and later replicated.

We gave this an "off the charts!" PSR. It might be my favorite -- Dick again changed his mind on the "best" and declared: "THIS is the best. BEST!" (The declaration of each wine being the best tends to be Barb's domain, a point that was not lost on Anne, who turned to Barb and said, "He's turned into YOU!")

And why did we love this one so much? Well, apart from being delicious, that PSR rating was based on it being $9.99 and for a $10 bottle of wine to be that good, was a real treat. It would be a great one to include in Coq au Vin or Boeuf Bourgenogne when you have to dump the better part of a bottle of wine in the stew and you want it to be good -- but not that pricey!

Dick and Anne. Dick saved the best for last!

But Dick saved the best for last with a Valpolicella Ripasso 2013 Superiore DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta)  by Marchesi Biscardo. As someone said when they first sipped, "This is not ten dollars!" Other comments included, Ï see whales going by. I see whales and fishes." "This is very good, and I don't think it's because it's the twentieth bottle!" (It wasn't -- only the eighth -- and we have pretty small sips when dividing up a bottle of wine between 12 people, lest you think we are all wild and crazy drunken folk. I feel compelled to remind you of that.)

I wrote "This is my personal favorite -- it is to die for,"and Bob summed it up with "This is DOCGEFG!"

 This brings up the question -- why did we save this for last? We should be drinking it out of crystal glasses -- especially when we learned it was $30. Definitely a special occasion wine. I'd call the Price to Satisfaction ration pretty equal. Expensive but fabulous.

It's a good thing we follow these tastings with dinner and hosts Dick and Cheryl served up a magnificent pork roast with a wonderful berry sauce. Barb had provided a sweet potato casserole and corn souffle, Anne a vintage salad. I know there were other things but I forgot to photograph them!

Fortunately Cheryl photographed my flourless sugarless chocolate cake. Here's the basic recipe -- one pound of chocolate (bittersweet or semi-sweet -- I mix half and half), two sticks of butter (melt together over simmering water), eight eggs beaten about five minutes and 1/4 c. coffee, poured into chocolate after melting and off the stove. Fold eggs into chocolate 1/3 at a time till streaks are gone. Put in a springform pan (greased) with tin foil wrapped around the outside and place in a roaster. Put pan in a boiling water bath, halfway up the side of the pan and bake at 325. Easy and fabulous!

All in all, a four-star Cork Poppers and some of the best wines we've tasted. It was also a day filled with love and fun, and what's not to love about that? (And thanks to Cheryl for some of the photos!)

This post is linked to "Talk of the Town" and "Thoughts of Home on Thursday" -- where you can check links for decorating, creativity, entertaining and more ideas!


Jemma@athomewithjemma said...

Good Morning Jeanie,
Thank you for sharing your wine tasting and these glorious friendships! I can certainly see that a good time was had by all!

Tammie Lee said...

As always it does sound like a fun night.
If i can find them, i might try some of your favorites.
Thank you for the suggestions.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Yum - that dessert looks awesome! And it's something I could eat!! I do love flourless chocolate cakes. They are rich and dense, but so delicious! I love the concept of "PSR" - that's a good way to looking at it! I'll have to keep an eye out for the Pino Grigios you had as that's one of my favorite kind of wines!

Joanne Huffman said...

nom nom mmmm...flourless chocolate cake.

21 Wits said...

What fun this is, so many delicious brews for your celebrations, but what truly stands out is that delightful- Stay Calm and Walk the dog! My three dogs agree too!

Mary Rose's said...

"Ï see whales going by. I see whales and fishes." <--LOVE THIS ONE.
Thanks for bringing us another Cork Poppers, Jeanie!

Barb said...

I like Valpolicella wine but haven't bought it for awhile. We tend to get "stuck" on old favorites. A friend just gifted us a great red (Fortress) which we're adding to our "list." What is a "vintage" salad? I'm going to google it. I'm the Salad Meister. PS The cake looks very, very, very delicious. You and Rick look very, very, very happy!

The French Hutch said...

HaHa Jeanie, Didn't think you were crazy drunken folk, but know you enjoy life and your friends and what's wrong with enjoying the wonderful world of wine! We love it here and I will forward this to hubs so he can soak up all this great info you are providing. Just wish we were there to enjoy the fun evening with a whole lot of folks enjoying life. What a great way to spend an evening………….

Marilyn Miller said...

The cake and cookie look wonderful. Your times of wine tasting just remind me of my times of tea tasting. Always enjoyable with friends.

Annie said...

Fun times! And Northern Italy, home of my maternal grandfather. Excellent travel choice.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I'm not a wine drinker, but truly enjoyed your little party. Sounds like some very interesting and quite unique wines you each chose. I'm glad you explained about the amount of wine each person had per bottle, because I was thinking the wine wouldn't go very far for 12 people.

Of course, the food sounded even better, since that is something I WOULD enjoy a lot. Thanks for the recipe, too.

To answer your question about postage stamps, what I'm REALLY looking for are child toys. Several of the stamps I used were called child toys, and I'm looking for even more. Thanks for asking.

BTW, I loved, loved, loved all those handmade books on poetry that you shared. What a fabulous idea to make for your husband each Valentine's Day. I really liked the one you made for this year, and laughed when I read you wrote till you ran out of creative thoughts. Seems you created a fantastic, and highly anticipated work of art. It's a real beauty.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Good afternoon, Jeanie!!!

WOOOO! I tell ya, that must be a fun get-together!! We don't drink wine, but we invite others over for poetry, but we get just as enthusiastic as I'm sure you all do!!! Lovely to create a community of like-minded friends. And I love that photo of you and Rick, the red and blue...GORGEOUS!!

bj said...

What a great time this must have been. Everyone sure looks like they are having fun.
I know nothing of wines...only one I ever rink is a cheap one but I like it anyway. lol

Jennifer Richardson said...

This just looks so FUN!
I love it all (the chocolate won my heart, tho')
Your togethering and the spirits and the laughter;
I can just feel it:)
Thanks for sharing the beauty of your living,

Lynne said...

Looks lo like such a great fun time Jeanie . . .
And a chance to taste and learn a bit too . . .
I give Cork Poppers Cheers and Salainte' . . .
And the sugarless, flourless chocolate . . . oh my!

Victoria Zigler said...

Yes, I'm getting the e-mail notifications about your posts. I did have them stop for another blog at one point though... When I realized, I unsubscribed and then re-subscribed, and it seemed to fix it.

Anyway, sounds like you had a great evening.

shoreacres said...

I actually wrote down the names of two wines from your evening -- the second pinot grigio and the La Ciera red. I like to drink white, but it's good to know some good reds for cooking.

The cake sounds wonderful, too. Actually, it sounds like a variant of a recipe I got years ago from a friend, called "killer chocolate heart." I'll send it to you via email, so you can compare. If you want, I can send along my recipe for chocolate zucchini cake, too. There's never too much chocolate in the world!

By the way, your emails are arriving just fine. I always get them a day after you post, but that's ok. Ithink that's just blogger's system at work.

Stacey said...

This looks like so much fun! I'm not a wine drinker and I'm well aware that I'm missing out on the social aspects of it. I'd come for the cake and a margarita. :)

My neighborhood friends have wine gatherings. I guess last time a lady came to 'speak' about wine but nobody would be quiet to listen and she got a little upset. Yikes! They sure laughed plenty about it and who can blame them. :)

See you at Thoughts of Home on Thursday.

Anonymous said...

Hi you little cutie! So many smiles! Sounds like you all had a great time! Did any one have to walk any one home? :) My bad. Thank you so much for popping in to see me and your kind words.
Be a sweetie,
Shelia ;)

Jemma@athomewithjemma said...

Good Morning Jeanie!

I am so happy to see you joining us at Thoughts Of Home On Thursday!
You are inspiring me to host a wine party, I sure wish you lived closer so you could join us!


Betsy@My Salvaged Treasures said...

Thanks for sharing your wine tasting party with Talk of the Town. I'll take one bottle of each, please.

~*~Patty S said...

When I remember to check it Bloglovin' is such a good way to stay on top of things.
It is challenging to try and be everywhere I want to be these days it seems.
New glasses make it tough for reading on the computer at the moment too.
Went to bed with a crick in my neck last night.

~*~Patty S said...

all of my kwetching and I meant to say you've made me hungry AND thirsty Jeanie :-)

Daniela said...

What a lovely party with so many Italian wines made with grapes most of which grow in the vineyards of Monferrato, not far from here, what a surprise !
I love your comment on my blog and I love your Marmelade Gipsy !

Have a wonderful day, today !
With gratitude

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

What a wonderful wine tasting and your descriptions took me through each turn and tip of the bottle.

You two are an adorable couple and you are just cute as a button!! Wish I was there with this fun group of people.


Tracy said...

So much good fun, and good wine... and LOVE your rich flourless chocolate cake... *swoon*... Just LOVE Italian wines, from most any regoin. Most we've had has always been really enjoyable to drink--with food, or alone. I like a nice Valpolicella... they can pair with so much, I think. Love you Poppers posts, Jeanie... and how many times can I use LOVE in a comment?! ;) Never enough love... ((HUGS))

Roses, Lace and Brocante said...

Bella vino!
We drank Valpolicello years ago and loved it, I will hunt down a bottle to open this weekend.
It was very cheap here in the old days, which appealed when we were all financially strapped!
Cork poppers is a fun group - do I say that every time Jeanie?!
It seems with age I'm repeating myself!
Spied your fun biscuit and it looks yummy!
I'm off to 'dead head' roses in one of our public gardens for a couple of hours today!

Decor To Adore said...

What fun! It appears that the party was a rousing success! I am a bit late in visiting due to it being college finals week for me but I am so very happy you joined Thought of Home on Thursday and shared this delightful gem.

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