Thursday, February 16, 2017

Cork Poppers: Italian Wine and Valentines!

Our Cork Poppers wine group settled in for an afternoon of Italian tasting and a Valentine celebration. The setting was my house and apart from Rog and Meredith (traveling) and Dick (home sick) we had a full group. My friend Suzanne, visiting from Canada, joined us!

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, Share Your Style, Share Your Cup     /    Best of the Weekend    


Joanne Huffman said...

Always a treat to read about your Cork Poppers gatherings. You are so good at celebrating holidays.

My name is Erika. said...

Looks like you had a blast Jeanie. What a great idea and fun group. And your house looks perfect for Valentine's day with all that red. Hugs-Erika

Anonymous said...

Your table setting is festive and pretty. I wrote down some of the wines for H. He likes to try new wines. Looking forward to your lasagna post. I hope it includes a recipe. H loves lasagna and always orders it when we go Italian. I used to make it often, but there's only the two of us now, and it makes so many servings, but I could freeze some of it, couldn't I? Oh the carbs, but you have to live once in a while. Right? May as well do it with lasagna.

Tracy said...

Soooo much fun... and such good wine! Pass me a glass--of anything! ;) Love the Hamiltines--very fun! The decorating is wonderful--and goodie bags too! Sooo HAPPY for Rick and his guitar sound check... and tickets to the performance--WOW! And so glad to see Miss Lizzie in on the Valentine fun too! ;) And I so agree--every day should be as LOVE-ly as Valentine's Day! ((HUGS))

coffeeontheporchwithme said...

What a neat group of wine and people! I'm wondering, what do you do with all the leftover wine?? (I'm assuming you don't have a full glass of each one, or you'd all be on the floor before supper was served). It is easy to get set in your ways when it comes to wine. I know what I like and tend not to deviate from that. Maybe I'll be brave and try one of those! -Jenn

Deb said...

How nice to have your Canadian long-time friend for a visit. Fun blog post, as usual. I would be the white wine drinker. :)And that! Congrats to Rick on his sound check contribution.

Valerie-Jael said...

Sounds like you had a fab evening. Love the lable with that gorgeous gal. But the bread was definitely a LOT larger than Rick's head, and looked GREAT.
Thanks for sharing your happy, wine evening, hugs, Valerie

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

The wine tasting really does sound wonderful! I will write at least one of these down to look for. We like a nice bold red wine and drink a glass with our dinner every night. It's fun to try something new. What a nice week you've had! Hugs!

Linda @ A La Carte said...

I wish I could find a group to enjoy wine tasting with. I do enjoy your posts on this and will write down a few of those wines to check out. Lovely table setting and the concert was a real treat!

Victoria Zigler said...

Sounds like another fun gathering. I'm not a wine drinker (I don't drink anything alcaholic) but enjoy reading these posts for the obviously pleasant atmosphere when you get together.

Preppy Empty Nester said...

OMG! It looks like a positively magical evening. I could just live on Rick's bread and wine. I could even perform Mass with that duo!! Love all the valentines and I'm pretty impressed that you were rubbing elbows with a grammy winner! Have a great weekend, dear Jeanie. I have a feeling that you have fun wherever you go!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for allowing me to be a side line Cork Popper! :) Everything looks wonderful and fun! Thanks for popping in to see me.
Be a sweetie,
Shelia ;)

Red Rose Alley said...

What a lovely table setting, Jeanie. The bottles of wine look festive. Me and Jess sometimes buy the wine just for the decorative labels. That bread looks delicious. And those mini red roses, aaahhh, so sweet.

Have a wonderful weekend, Jeanie.


Angelsdoor * Penny said...

What a great evening, Jeanie. Your table setting is just beautiful. Cheese, crackers and bread. This is my weakness. And let me at that tiramisu!
Great post.
Enjoy the weekend.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

As always, I read the wine list, but it means nothing to me, since I am not a drinker. HOWEVER, I was intrigued by the party theme, the appetizers, the beautiful meal, and the tiramisu. The pot holders were incredible gifts, but I think Rick's gift must have topped them all. How gracious of him.

Thanks for sharing these wines, although I was more interested in the roses, vintage Valentines, and other goodies you shared with us. I always love it when the party is at your place.

Lynne said...

I love your Cork Poppers reviews . . .
I learn many little tidbits . . .
Valentine theme, friends and the "reds" make for a great evening . . .
And then salad, lasagna and tiramisu . . . oh my!
Sounds/looks delightful . . .
Liked hearing about Rick's special evening too . . .
(How are those sniffles??)

Anonymous said...

You set such a beautiful table. Lots to see and enjoy at your home.

our life in france said...

Oh my what a great idea, a wine tasting club, wish I had thought of that but I guess thats what we do anyway when we all get together with friends, loving the way you did the table, wish I had room for a big table like that

Laura said...

Fu to read sounds like a fun time

Sandra Cox said...

What fun and how festive!

Kathy Leonia said...

i love drink wine and talking to family or friends:) so cheerfull moments:) follow;) now waiting for U:)

Jenny Woolf said...

Lovely valentines and looks like a great get together, as always. I know nothing about wine and don't seem able to learn but I am sure I would have enjoyed it all the same.

Anonymous said...

Looks like a colourful and tasty Valentine's celebration. Rick's loaf is so enticing. :)

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I love reading about these gathering! I hope my group of friends can do something similar someday. Right now it's so hard to get the group together since many have young kids. But someday we'll do this!

Your tablescape is beautiful and the gift bags were such a fun little extra that didn't cost you must! I need to think about what I could do for a gift bag for my bachelorette party in May (these is girls gone mild - ha!). Good suggestion to hit up the dollar store. I've gotten a couple of things there for my DIY wedding projects and they are soooo much cheaper than what I would have paid elsewhere.

I will have to find that white - sounds delicious! Reminds me of the description I heard at a wine tasting I went to when I lived in Charlotte. The person doing the tasting called the wine a 'porch pounder or pontoon pounder' because she said she could see it being a perfect wine for a warm summer night when you are outside with friends!

Esme said...

Very impressive Rick. What a fun themed gathering you had. I never thought of it, but you are right the red of Christmas blends into Valentine Day.

Marilyn Miller said...

Your red theme, table, and the valentine's all so wonderful. What a fun time. I loved the description of one of the wines as "not sissy wine". That made me smile. How special for Rick get to sit in at the rehearsal with his guitar and then for you all to get to go to the concert. Rick's bread was stunning too.

Jemma@athomewithjemma said...

You all just know how to have the best time in such a fashionable and warm way.
I can just imagine the great conversation, combined with a variety of wines, and delicious food.
You are always such an inspirational spot in my life!


Pam Richardson said...

Jeanie, this group looks like they enjoy being together. How fun to enjoy good food, wine, and fellowship!

Danielle L Zecher said...

What a fund sounding gathering.

I like wine, but I'm not good at choosing it, and I don't know much about it. My go-to is usually whatever my aunt is drinking. Honestly, I don't even know if she's good at wine, or if we just have similar tastes. I like to think both.

I do like chianti, and I didn't know that about the rooster on the bottle, so thanks for that.

Have a Daily Cup of Mrs. Olson said...

What a fun time with friends! That bread Rick made looks delicious!! I'd be no help at all in the wine department. I've only tried it once and didn't care for it. :) I hear it's an acquired taste. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

Calypso In The Country said...

What fun! It's been years since I have been to a wine tasting... Thanks for linking up to Best of the Weekend. You were one of my features this week! Enjoy your weekend!

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