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Category Archives: Wine reviews

Cupcake wine review 2014

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Cupcake wine review 2014Cupcake Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($9, purchased, 13.5%)

Cupcake Pinot Grigio 2013 ($9, purchased, 12.5%)

Whenever the Wine Curmudgeon reviews Cupcake wines, I always end up writing as much about the brand and the company that owns Cupcake as I do about the wines. That’s because Cupcake may be the most fascinating wine brand in the world today, where what’s in the bottle doesn’t matter nearly as much as how the wine is marketed. It’s genius, actually, all those red velvet cake descriptors propelling the brand to national awareness without any help from the Winestream Media or scores.

Who else would have the nerve to market a wine called Chloe, with a suggested price of $17, targeting “weddings, birthdays and other celebratory gatherings” without any hint of what it tastes like? Or that calling it Chloe has more than a little to do with the name’s popularity for baby girls over the past decade?

Which doesn’t mean Cupcake wines are bad. They inhabit the region between the boring grocery store stuff and the best cheap wine. In this, think of the chain restaurant business, where Cupcake is an upscale steakhouse like Capital Grille or Fleming’s, and the rest of it is Red Lobster and Texas Roadhouse. The food is better at the former, but in the end it’s still chain food, and these wines, no matter how much Cupcake dresses them up, are still chain wines.

The cabernet, from California, is full, fruity, and almost balanced, with soft tannins, cherry fruit, and an odd sort of chocolate flavor. It’s not quite sweet, though the residual sugar is higher than in most red wines. It’s much better than I expected it to be, and certainly drinkable. If you’re going to make a focus group wine, this is the way to do it.

The Italian-made pinot grigio, on the other hand, is surprisingly disappointing, given how easy it is to make cheap, palatable pinot grigio. It’s oddly disjointed, with a dollop of sweet white fruit in the middle, a quality that doesn’t go with its traditional, Italian-style quinine approach that makes up the rest of the wine and is so popular among women of a certain age. My guess is that the dollop is there to sweeten the wine in line with Cupcake’s flavor profile, a winemaking trick that is cheaper or easier or more legal than adding sugar.

So one yes and one no. Assuming, of course, you can’t find a better $10 wine, which isn’t all that difficult. The labels just aren’t as much fun to read.

For more on Cupcake wine:
Cupcake wine review 2013
Cupcake wine review 2012

Mini-reviews 64: Muscadet, Stoller, Prosecco, Villa Maria

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Labor Day wine reviewsReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month. This month, four more wines for Labor Day.

Noël Bougrier Muscadet 2012 ($8, purchased, 13%): This French white wine, a private label for the Total Wine chain, was tart and sour, with little varietal character. Muscadet, made with the melon de bourgogne grape, should be light and refreshing. This reminded me of bad cheap French wine in the old days.

• Stoller Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 2012 ($25, sample, 13.8%): Delicious Oregon pinot noir, with berry flavors, zingy tannins, and as balanced as it should be. A fine value, even at this price. Highly recommended, and another example of the fallacy of scores. It scored 86 on CellarTracker, the blog’s unofficial wine inventory app, while the barely drinkable Bourgier scored 88.

Deccolio Prosecco NV ($13, sample, 11%): This extra dry Prosecco is not too sweet, which is saying something. Extra dry is sweeter than brut, the most dry, and can be almost syrupy. It’s well put together with lemon fruit, a little minerality, and better bubbles than I expected. But extra dry cava will give you the same thing for a couple of dollars less, as will something like La Marca Prosecco.

Villa Maria Pinot Noir Private Bin 2012 ($15, sample, 13%): A wine I desperately wanted to like, but that shows again Villa Maria’s fall from grace. This New Zealand red is nothing but sweet cherry fruit, without any pinot character.

Labor Day wine 2014

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Labor Day wine 2014

Rose with that barbecue?

Labor Day weekend marks not just the end of summer, but the Wine Curmudgeon’s annual appearance at the Kerrville Fall Music Festival to talk about Texas wine (and to drive 5 mph). Whatever you do to enjoy the weekend, these wines will make it that much more interesting:

A to Z Pinot Gris 2013 ($13, purchased, 13%): Delightful, fresh Oregon-style pinot gris with ripe melon fruit and a little citrus (lime?) that offers terrific value whether porch sipping or with food. I don’t know that I’ve had an A to Z wine that didn’t enjoy or want to buy again.

• Pedroncelli Zinfandel Mother Clone 2012 ($17, sample, 14.8%): Nicely done California zinfandel from Dry Creek in Sonoma with dark jammy fruit, lots of oomph, and some black pepper. Nice rendition of the post-modern style for those who appreciate this sort of thing, and will pair with barbecue and burgers.

Pierre Morey Bourgogne-Aligoté 2011 ($20, purchased, 11%): Not cheap, unfortunately, but this white wine from Burgundy in France that isn’t chardonnay is exceptionally well made. Look for white pepper and a bit of lemon fruit, and it’s just enough different from chardonnay so that someone who is paying attention will notice.

Muga Rosada 2013 ($10, purchased, 13%): This Spanish rose, made with grenache, is annually one of the best roses in the world. It’s always very crisp, and this year features tart strawberry fruit. Highly recommended, and a $10 Hall of Fame wine.

Finally, the Wine Curmudgeon’s regular appeal to try your local wine. Dave McIntyre and Mike Wangbickler (the past and present of Drink Local Wine) and I went through a dozen or so Texas wines during one fine Saturday afternoon of tasting earlier this month. Almost all of them were worth drinking again — even the ones I didn’t think I would like. Thanks to Haak, Llano Estacdo, McPherson, and William Chris for supplying the wines.

I was especially impressed with the William Chris sparkling blanc du bois ($30, sample, 11%), which was bubbly, citrusy, and quite fresh. It was a bit simple for the price, but William Chris never seems to have a problem selling its wines.

For more on Labor Day wine:
Labor Day wine 2013 
Labor Day wine 2012
Wine of the week: Robert Hall Rose de Robles 2013

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