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The value-oriented wines of cupcake vineyards

Friday - 10/21/2011, 11:48am  ET

Scott Greenberg, special to wtop.com

What happens when a naval aviator for the Royal Australian Navy turns his sights to winemaking? You get wines that take off in the mouth with well-grounded prices. You get Cupcake Vineyard wines.

Adam Richardson has always loved aviation. He earned his pilot’s license before he learned to drive. But the winemaking bug bit him late – and hard.

Adam joined the Cupcake team in 2008, bringing with him the same passion for winemaking that he shared for flying as well as a sense of organization and efficiency that he learned in the navy.

His inaugural release of three wines, a chardonnay, a cabernet sauvignon and a merlot, all from the central coast of California, were an immediate success.

Since then, Richardson has expanded the Cupcake Vineyards portfolio to consist of wines from five different countries. His repertoire now includes sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, malbec from Argentina, Prosecco from Italy, riesling from Germany and Shiraz from his native Australia.

I am a fan of Prosecco in general and this one in particular. The Non-vintage Cupcake Vineyards Prosecco is produced using the traditional glera grape varietal and possesses a brilliant nose of citrus, green melon and nectarine. The bubbles are remarkably tiny and precise and give the flavors of creamy lemon, roasted nuts and nectarine a wonderful lift in the mouth. Charming toasted bread notes chime in on the bright, clean citrus-fueled finish. $14

The 2011 Cupcake vineyards Sauvignon Blanc hails from the Marlborough region of New Zealand and proves that not all sauvignon blancs are created equal. While the wine does sport notes of traditional grassy scents on the bouquet, it is the extended exposure to the yeast sediments during maturation that really bring out the best of the fruit. Flavors of grapefruit, lemon and lime hit the front of the palate with a refreshing citrusy blast, but the creamy mid-palate expands to incorporate yellow cake and mango. The creamy texture continues onto the medium-balanced finish, with just enough acidity to keep it clean and crisp. $14

If you’ve been looking for a reasonably priced, high quality domestic Chardonnay, then the 2010 Cupcake Vineyards Chardonnay from the Central Coast of California is your wine. About 30 percent of the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation which imparts a creamy texture in the mouth, where flavors of apple, nectarine, lemon/lime and buttery highlights meld together. Use of American oak barrels (about 20 percent new) imparts additional complexity and notes of toasted buttered bread and vanilla on the soft finish. $14

It’s only appropriate that Adam’s talents shine even brighter when he gets a chance to make a wine from his native Australia, like the 2010 Cupcake Vineyards Shiraz from the Barossa Valley. Deep, dark and brooding, it features full-throttled flavors of ripe blackberry, dark plums, smokey cassis and rich chocolate on the front of the palate and just enough black pepper spice on the medium-bodied finish. $14

The 2009 Cupcake Vineyards Red Velvet is a blend of zinfandel, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and petite sirah grapes that has been sourced from vineyards located throughout California. Each varietal has been vinified separately and then blended. The result is a wine that actually is reminiscent of a blackberry cupcake with chocolate icing. Hints of red fruit and mocha add a delicious note on the creamy finish. $14

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