21 Sep 2011

The Author

Amy Zavatto writes about wine, spirits, and food for a mess of different publications, including Imbibe, Edible Manhattan, Every Day with Rachael Ray, and Frommer's. She's the co-author of The Renaissance Guide to Wine & Food Pairing and the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Bartending. Amy lives, eats, and drinks in NYC and cannot live without pasta.


What’s New, Cupcake?

Sometimes in the wonderful world of wine, you (and by you, I mean me) feel like you have to choose teams, declare your loyalty, and sneer at all who even smell like a contradictory presence in the face of your chosen side of the line. Boo big corporate wineries. Yay little boutique wineries-that-can! Hisssss micro-oxygenation-purporting finaglers of juice. Whoopie adherers to honest winemaking and lovers of a true sense of place!

So you see where I’m going with this, right? Here’s what happened: I had lunch last week with the winemaker for Cupcake Vineyards, the 1,000,000 case, nomadic, brand-brandy-brand-brand operation that is making no secret about to whom they’re marketing (women), and who I would go so far as to say I would have boo, hissed prior to my lunch with the surprisingly down-to-earth and candid Adam Richardson, the Aussie Head of Winemaking for Cupcake (and International Wine Director for Underdog Wine Merchants) who helped launch the confectionary-skewed label back in 2008. And while I won’t sit here and tell you (or him) that I loved every single of the 16 wines he has to offer at this point in the label’s short history (it started with just 3 – Char, Cab, and Merlot), I’d be lying through my loyalist teeth if I said I didn’t dig the following:

Cupcake Prosecco NV, srp $13.99 — The label may suggest last course, but this new-ish foray for Richardson’s desserty-named line (it was just released last fall onto the market) is an aperitif all the way with its super dry mouthfeel, wash of teeny, tiny bubbles, and pretty nose of orange blossom and biscuits. I was dubious when I saw it being poured, I’ll admit it (“He’s not Italian! This is insanity!”), but the 100% Prosecco grapes are sourced from the D.O.C. – I’d totally buy this.

Cupcake Chardonnay 2010, srp $13.99 – The bottle that launched a 1,000 Sex in the City wine-drinking devotees. The Monterey-sourced fruit here is juicy and fresh, full of some lovely apple and pear notes, a wink of vanilla bean, and some fun toasty coconut and dried pineapple, too. The finish has a really lovely buoyancy to it that hangs in there and isn’t at all the dirty flat-leaver that so many mass-produced wines amount to. Kudos.

Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc 2011, srp $13.99 ($8.99 at PJ; dig it!) — Said Richardson: “I wanted a Sauvignon Blanc that was more representative of New Zealand in the $14 and under price-point range,” so he sourced the grapes from the SB-loving lands of Marlborough, and it’s absolutely a stand-up bottle. Richardson said he wanted the wine to have elements of that trademark greenness of antipodean Sauvignon Blanc’s, but not as a dominant note. I thought the green was dominant here, but I dug it: Grass and fresh green beans, raw almonds and grapefruit, with a really nice minerally finish.

The reds, in total, I didn’t embrace as easily. The Shiraz—with its juicy, bright raspberries and black berries, strawberries and spice, black pepper and super fine tannins was the one I liked best; the Red Velvet—which, as a colleague whispered to me, smelled exactly like cake batter—the least. But I liked that I was surprised by some, and that I learned that if I were faced with a wine shop that touted a big-box-only hit parade of producer selections, I would happily grab a bottle of one of the varietals that I liked and know I was getting a decent, consistent pour.

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