I haven't been to a Cork Poppers gathering since Rick and I hosted in July and it was so good to see my fellow vino tipplers! Our theme of the day was "Wines from Anywhere but the U.S." and our food theme was Appetizers and Desserts.
Works for me! Here are our totally non-professional reviews of five wines. What can I say -- we know what we like, and what we don't! And we don't hold back!
The afternoon tasting began at our hosts, Kate and Mike, and was kicked off by a celebratory glass of Prosecco.
Then, on to the tasting! We started out with Dick's offering -- a 2021 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand. The Marlborough region is said to have a cool climate with warm days and cool nights, which extend the growing season
As one might expect with our group, no one held back. "It's manure-y or barnyard-y," said Barb. "It's grassy," Roger said, adding "It makes me see rocky cliffs!" "It's not like any grass I ever had," said Mike M., while Kate said it "reminds me of a badly washed glass."
Oyster Bay's materials say it tastes like grass, gooseberry, grapefruit, mineral and flint. We decided the mineral was lead. At $9.95 on sale at the local Meijer store (and $11-12 retail), I don't think our group will be buying a bottle for the holidays.
Roger was next with another New Zealand/Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, a Pikoura 2016. We sampled this immediately following a similar wine and it was quite amazing how different they tasted.
I certainly enjoyed this more and so did most of our group. Rick said the first was stronger and more harsh while Mike said, "I like Roger's better. It doesn't taste like pee." Always a good thing! Roger paid $11.99 at a local market. Online prices are about $15.
At this point, missing our two white-loving members, someone noted, "Why did we buy wines for the people who aren't here today?!"
Overall, I'm not a big fan of Pinot Noir - it's a little wimpy for me. But since we were going international, I figured I'd go with something unique -- a Stone Castle 2018 Pinot Noir from Kosovo. Farmed and bottled in Kosovo's Rahovec Valley, which has been producing wine since 1952, it is prepared in a combination of stainless steel and wooden barrels with a 13 percent alcohol level.
"This is good! I can smell this!" said Bob, who recently recovered from Covid and hasn't been able to smell much yet. Barb declared it "Excellent!" while Rick (who had just driven us across the pothole-ridden roads of Lansing that he equated with a war torn country said it was "Worth driving over the streets of Kosovo for!" Another Popper said "I've not enjoyed a Pinot for awhile but this is good -- it has actual flavor!" I purchased this at a wine store on the far east side of town as part of our 6-for-$55 package, which made it a few pennies over $9. The retail price in that store was $12.50 Dick, who lives on the far west side of town said, "It's good, but I'm not driving that far to get it."
(Then we took a break and talked about Michigan's tragic school shooting the week before and what seem to be the national policy of "duck and cover" rather than legislation that might help stop the problem.)
We resumed with Bob's Layer Cake Shiraz from South Australia at $10.99 available in many stores. "This is good!" Barb pronounced, and Dick agreed. "I'd like to pair this with chocolate," he said, and then took a dark chocolate from the appetizer table to prove his point. (He was right. I did this, too.)
"Cheap wines, that's all this group needs," someone said. "When I joined this group, it was kind of classy," Roger observed. ""I think we figured out the problem," Dick declared, pointedly looking at Rog!
Then some of us discussed Stephen Sondheim and the great hole his death leaves in the American theatre and offered a toast to one of our favorite composer/lyricists.
Barb and Mike's Le Crosare Ripasso della Valpolicella DOC from Veneto Italy was next. "It smells great!" I noted before tasting and it would be fabulous with a wonderful roast or a hearty pasta. It is a grape in the Amerone family which is higher level of grape or, as Rick narrowed it down, "In other words, this is a good wine!"
It came from the local wine store at $20. It was worth it.
Our last wine was Mike and Kate's Vina Temprana Old Vine Tempranillo 2018 from Spain. I like a tempranillo and this one held well with a wonderful fragrance and just a bit spicy. At $11.99, it was a good buy.
Mike said it "pairs well with Godiva or a Snickers bar and has its place alongside the pool or curb. The easy on-and-off twist cap is a delight, particularly when you spot the police arriving and must drop the bottle back in the bag. And should your hands be shaking when you drop the bottle, no worries! Our bottles are the most durable in the industry and have consistently out-performed Ripple Boones Farm and Bali Hai in blind drop tests!"
You'd think by now we would be ready for food more intense than bread, cheese, nuts and chocolate, so it was on to the appetizer table (which I must say, we did start sampling prior to the tasting!
Among the things on the appetizer table were an antipasta tray, fabulous bacon-wrapped water chestnuts served hot, shrimp cocktail and spanikopita.
It was a wonderful day, filled as much with friendship as it was food and drink. As Barb said, "I forgot how much I love these people."
I couldn't agree more.
(For more Cork Popper posts and our wacky wine discussions, visit the Cork Poppers tab on the menu bar above! Wines are separated by category (red, white, Italian, French, etc.)