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Cork Dorks: A Journey of Wine Discovery

A few weeks ago, my friend Patrick suggestion a group of us read a book called Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker. Basically, the book is about a journalist who gives up her full-time gig to take the steps needed to become a sommelier. She spends time networking in wine groups and making friends in the industry, even assisting a sommelier at one of New York City's finest restaurants.

Our group, which I will call Cork Dorks - basically a group of guys with nothing better to do on a Friday night than read a book and taste wine - has decided to use Bosker's book as our guide. Sort of like our take on Julie & Julia, the movie which a woman decides to blog her way through Julia Child's cookbook.

For our first group meeting to discuss the initial chapters of the book, Patrick, Tyler, Colin and I met at 1933 Lounge in downtown Indianapolis. The restaurant is part of Indy's famous St. Elmo's Steakhouse and offers one of the most extensive wine menus in all the city. However, for whatever reason or another, none of us opted to drink wine that evening. Maybe we subconsciously wanted to consume our final liquor based beverage for a while.

As we dined on their world-renowned shrimp cocktail and petit filet, we discussed the workings of the group. How we are going to choose the wines we taste, what we will pair them with and the notes we will take on our journey to become wine experts, or more specifically, wine dorks. We concluded that our tastings would be determined by different regions of the world and paired with foods from that region.

On Friday, February 17 at 6:30pm, the first meeting of the Indy Cork Dorks commenced. Colin graciously offered to host the event, which focused on smell. This of course is one of the most important aspects of wine tasting as highlighted in Bosker's book. To begin the evening, we smelled about two dozen products ranging from white wine vinegar to almonds to cranberries and tried to guess the smell. Of all the scents, only the soap and grapefruit stumped all of us. Some scents were quite obvious: cinnamon, cocoa, honey and Maraschino cherries while others including cloves, black pepper and thyme were a bit more challenging.

Once our noses were prepped, it was time to taste the wines. We decided on pinot noir as our first grape variety. To make things fun, we sampled a variety of pinot noirs ranging from an inexpensive bottle of Barefoot to a $70 bottle of 2019 Gary Farrell Martaella Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley region of Sonoma, California. The other two wines were priced somewhere in between the two spectrums; a Cloudline Cellars from the Willamette Valley and a Humo Blanco Lolol Valley Pinot Noir from Chile.

For our blind taste test, Patrick numbered each cup and poured a generous portion of each wine (Colin poured Patrick's to keep him guessing). As we were 4 people sampling 4 wines, we needed 16 cups, so we decided using plastic would be the easiest way to do this for cleanup purposes. I'm sure every sommelier in the world just let out the loudest gasp. Yes, we are amateurs, but we corrected our misstep later on in the evening.

One of our biggest fears was mixing up the cheapest bottle with the most expensive. As we went through the Five S's of wine tasting: see, swirl, smell, sip and savor, we tried to put our expertise to the test and match up each wine. None of us labeled them all accurately, but we were able to select the two cheapest wines and the two more expensive wines. This was a victory for us. After a few rounds of tasting, it became quite obvious to us all, which wines were the Barefoot and Cloudline and which wines were the Humo Blanco and Gary Farrell. Some of us did mix up the two in each batch but being this was the first time we performed this exercise, we thought we did well.

Once we determined which two wines were the most expensive...I mean, tasted the best, we decided to use wine glasses and taste them again. This is where the Gary Farrell really shined. The taste of the wine in a plastic cup verse a wine glass was exponentially different, and better. The glass elevated the Gary Farrell pinot to an entirely different level.

The rest of the evening was spent enjoying the two wines, talking about our group, solving the world's problems and enjoying delicious food. Tyler prepared bruschetta, while Colin purchased a delicious charcuterie from Goose the Market and a baguette from Amelia's bread, two of Indy's most popular establishments. For dessert, Colin made a wonderful blueberry galette, which will all determined didn't pair well with any of the wines we chose.

For our next meeting, we are focusing on Italian wines. Since I am the token Italian of the group, I will be hosting that meeting at my house. I am already thinking of the menu and music selection. You know we will be blasting Andrea Bocelli that night.

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