Monday, August 20, 2018

Cork Poppers Sample the Wines of Grand Traverse

Let me say at the start, I wasn't expecting much from our wine tasting of Michigan's Grand Traverse region wines. The reds, for the most part, aren't well suited to our climate. The whites stand a better chance. But when Roger and Meredith suggested this theme for our August Cork Poppers, we all rallied. After all, Roger had hosted the "Wines of Minnestota" a few years ago to abysmal results and if nothing else we would be able to rib him about one state or the other.

(Apologies to my Minnesota readers. Perhaps the ones we tried didn't do your beautiful state justice.)

Our gathering started with a fabulous set of appetizers -- an antipasto plate from Kate, a veggie plate from Jan, Rick's bread and loads of cheese from Bob and Dick.

Then it was onto the wines, starting with Clayton and Anne's offering from Aurora Cellars on the Lelenaw Peninsula, a 2013 Gerwurztraminer. It was nicely chilled and we started off with a bang!

"It's delightful!" said Cheryl, our white wine expert.  "It's zingy! On your tongue! I love it -- I had seconds already!" I noticed it had nice legs and called it a "beach wine" and Clayton said, somewhat surprised by his own choice, "This is really good!" Score one! ($17.99 at the winery and available at Michigan Whole Foods.)

Dick and Cheryl offered a Laurentide Sauvignon Blanc 2015 next (21.99). "This one is GOOD!" said Barb in surprise. I noticed it had nice legs (those little drips that hold on the inside of the glass and slowly drip down) and someone else added "It goes down fast, I know that!"

Roger was next with Hawthorne 2017 Semi-dry Gerwurztraminer from the Mission Peninsula (where I ventured on my birthday!)

I didn't like this one as well as the first Gewurztraminer -- to me it felt more like a Chardonnay, which Dick described as creamy and oaky. Roger found it for $14.99.

Jan offered the first red of the day, Cuvee No. 7 Unrestricted. This was a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Franc grapes from Petoskey's Mackinac Trail Winery.

I found it "thin." More like a Pinot Noir. Roger said it was the one he liked best so far. Jan didn't remember the price but said it was close to $20.

Kate offered Chateau Chantal's 2015 Malbec "Tango" next.

This was an interesting story. The chateau purchased a vineyard in Argentina specifically to grow the Malbec grapes. They were crushed and fermented in Argentina. The "must" (the mixture of the crushed, fermented grapes) was then sent up to Traverse City where it was turned into wine and bottled.

"It tastes like a Malbec they made yesterday," Kate observed and Roger agreed, saying it was "weak." I found this also to be more like a Pinot Noir than a Malbec. But someone nominated it for "best story for the worst wine."

Well, about here, things started to disintegrate. "This is much better than the wines of Minnesota," Mike M. pointed out. "I wish you'd forget that," Roger said. "I'd like to," chirped up Rick. "Well," Roger said to Mike, reminding him of a past tasting when Barb jokingly brought a Boone's Farm, "it was your wife who brought the blue stuff." (I should add here that when I posted about the wines of Minnesota, the reviews weren't all as bad as I remember the conversation being!)

Barb tried to be the peacemaker. "What I liked about the wines of Minnesota were the labels." Mike did acknowledge they had better labels that the wines of Michigan.

So, I had to follow this discussion, which by now was out of hand. It was somewhat fitting that I presented our wine, "Asylum," by Black Star Farms (on the Mission Peninsula as well). It was specially bottled for the Northern Michigan Asylum and purchased at their shop for $15.99.

"This isn't as bad as I thought," I admitted after tasting it. "It's pretty good," agreed Mike S. Vindicated. Henry. And I did get to share a bit of my story. Barb (who may or may not be a distant cousin) and Rick (who also may or may not be a distant cousin) and I offered a toast to my great grandfather

Bob offered Arcuturos 2013 Pinot Noir, also from Black Star Farms. Bob's son had bought a case of it. The vineyards were formed from former horse farm property in 1998. Someone called it "sweet and yummy and red."

As you can see, by now the conversation had disintegrated into issues on how picky it was for an organization to serve liquor at an MSU fundraiser, how many unnecessary hoops had to be jumped through and that if everyone held their event off campus it would be a lot easier. We also bemoaned the fact that you can't carry anything much larger than a phone into the stadium and no food or beverage whatsoever.

Ï always swore I would never be last at this group," Barb said. Anne sympathetically agreed. Ït gets worse every time, doesn't it."

Barb brought Artisan Red, a Michigan semi-sweet red table wine, again from Black Star Farms. She read a riotously scathing review which she had written and should be posted on all wine sites. "If you were born before 1960 this is not the wine for you."

It is a blatant party wine, we decided, and too sweet. "It won't last," someone said. "It won't last is for damn sure," Barb's husband said. "This tastes like a headache to me," someone said. However I decided (and Barb agreed) that it would be good for poaching pears. "I like it," Jan said.

Rick summed it up. "It reminds me of the wines of Minnesota." At which point, we drank a toast to Aretha.

Part of the fun of Corkies at Rog and Mere's is the boat ride up the Grand River with Captain Roger.

While some stayed home to work on their dinner offerings, I enjoyed this one tremendously, partly for the companionship...

...the beautiful views...

...the wildlife...

...the birds...

...and the relaxing atmosphere.

Somehow, Kate and Mike got the boat appropriately docked!

Meredith's table theme was cherries, as Traverse City is considered the "cherry capital of the world," at least that's what they tell you. The men had candies as  their favors. The women had the most fragrant cherry almond soap bars.

Dinner? Can't beat it! Anne's enormous Caesar....

...was a perfect companion to Mere's Frogmore Stew.

For dessert, Barb's mega-cream puffs.

For Dick and me, birthday candles!

And all in all, another great day of popping! Good food, good friends good wine.

Even if it was Michigan wine.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Postcards from the Lake: Home Alone

I saw Rick off for home on Sunday, taking him halfway so the bike ride home wouldn't have to involve an overnight. As we said goodbye, I was reminded again of how lovely our weekend was.

I told you about our day in Traverse, but my "real" birthday was good too. I attended quite a lovely art fair and even got a good handle on Christmas shopping. Perfect peaches from the farmer's market. All good!

Now I'm "home alone." Nice, actually. Today I saw my neighbor with the big blue thing who made our beach so lovely working on his own. I don't think he was weeding -- just moving sand around. Jim loves his toys -- whether it's the mower or blower or tractor or power washer, he's always busy.

This is a good thing. His area is spotless and beautiful. But I'd feel guilty! His wife, Cathy, often stays in Detroit-area. Cathy's idea of fun at the lake is a really good book. I quite agree. Jim moves sand! (They are wonderfully compatible, not unlike Rick and me, I might add!)

I fear Rick's next visit. He started scraping paint off the shutters last weekend and realized the windows needed reglazing and all painted. No book next time I'm here with him! We'll be working dogs!

It's a warm day -- in the mid-80s -- but the breeze is strong so it feels quite comfortable. I haven't been able to walk, which is a little frustrating. About a week ago my foot went into super-pain. I thought it was plantar fascitis and it may be but the woman who makes my orthotics, aka The Foot Goddess, thinks it has to do with a bone related to my flat feet. This is what happens when you forsake your orthotics for bare feet and regular sandals in the summer. Either way, searing pain on the foot and up the achilles. I see the doc next week.

She adjusted my orthotics, told me to more or less stay off it (which I did not do on asylum day and I paid the price), ice it and do several foot exercises. Which I am, faithfully.

I can swim, though, and swim I do. Today I did the equivalent of 35 pool lengths. One length short of a quarter mile. The water is warmish but still cool enough to feel good on the feet and back (out of whack because of walking funny).

Painting? Yes indeed!

Sweet Jemma (did you see her on "Making It?" I was so proud of her!) sent me a couple of her projects to capture in paint. Here's one of them. It's a bird feeder made from a cup and saucer on a grapevine heart.

And here's another.

This one will be going to someone I know and love, thanking him for his wonderful birthday celebrations.

Of course I'm reading, too. I finsihed the wonderful and deeply thought-provoking "Annie's Ghost,"

Then I started (and can't put down) "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society." How did I not know about this book? It ticks all my boxes. England. Writing. World War II. Wonderful characters. Books. Now I want to see the movie!

And writing in my bullet journal. I haven't journaled in a long while. This tiny book is the perfect size to start again!

Tomorrow will be housecleaning day -- I've been lax. Whistle while you work.

And soon home for a few days. Appointments and Cork Poppers. We'll feature Michigan wines from the Grand Traverse area where we went for my birthday. Needless to say I found one. I won't say it's good. Most Michigan reds leave much to be desired. But it's unique!

Soon Sweet Lizzie will get her act together and realize it's time for dinner. Serious cat nagging expected. She's good company. As for me, I am so overloaded, eating all the wonderful fruit of the season that it is probably a good thing that I am home alone.

One can only eat so many cherries without side effects.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Postcards from the Lake: Roadtrip to the Asylum and More

When talking with Rick about birthday celebrations, I said, "There's one way I'd really like to spend my birthday." And he said, "You want to go to the asylum?"

The man knows me well.

Background first. My great grandfather, Henry, was -- I learned, in my genealogy studies -- the secret my grandfather never shared. He was an inmate at the Northern Michigan Asylum in Traverse City, Michigan, from 1900 until he died in 1913, only a few days after my aunt, Iris -- the oldest of her sisters -- was born. In a long (and ongoing) journey through records, I was able to land my hands on his commitment papers. (Three months later and they would have been sealed.)

I've wanted to visit this place ever since I learned about Henry. And I was so grateful I could share that experience with Rick.

I'll post more about the site itself separately. But I can say that if I had to have a relative in an asylum in the early 1900s, I'm glad he was here. In fact, it could have been a very happy place to spend one's last years. It was that innovative for the time.

But our day wasn't just the asylum!

We enjoyed champagne and dinner at the Apache Trout Grill in Traverse City and it was delicious.

Our table had a view of the bay and it was a perfect blue-sky day.

Then we drove out onto the Mission Peninsula. Many of the vineyards from the Grand Traverse region are located here. (Don't bet the farm on the reds.)

But it is gorgeous territory. I'd never been out on the peninsula before so it was a wonderful experience.

Great old buildings as well as the water views and the hilly vineyards.

At the tip is a lighthouse. Well, you know I'm a sucker for lighthouses!

There's also a restored log cabin, similar to the kind the early settlers would have had. It wasn't open but we got a good peek at early life through the windows.

There were loads of people there, especially considering that we were approaching dusk. Lots of families were enjoying the water.

And of course, there was lovely woodland.

This is what 67 looks like.

Very, very happy.

A wonderful end to a wonderful day.

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