Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cupcake Chardonnay - Hedonists Rejoice!

What do you think of when you imagine a cupcake? Something sweet, rich, creamy? Maybe a bit of sprinkles on top, adding a textural dimension or additional flavor to the overall taste? I bet the association is a positive one, because it's hard not to like cupcakes. I'm rambling on because I figure this is about as close to a perfect marriage of label name and wine style as we're likely to see.

Cupcake Vineyards makes a bunch of wine. By "a bunch", I mean 14 different wines are listed for sale on their website. I was sent two to review, a Sauvignon Blanc and this Chardonnay (100,000 cases produced). Hopefully they send me some reds to review soon.

The 2009 Cupcake Vineyards Central Coast Chardonnay is textbook California. From it's pale-straw color in the glass to the buttery, apple and pear scented notes wafting out of the glass, this is the juice that put California Chardonnay on the map. While there has been the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) movement over the past five or six years, sales of this style continue to grow.

I freely admit to disliking overly oaky, buttered up Chardonnays, regardless of where they're from. I can see people rolling their eyes at this, because that's a trendy thing to say right now. Still, I'm sticking to my guns because I feel that those Chardonnays are not indicitative of terroir.

Back to the Cupcake, which embraces the traditional California style to the hilt. Rich and creamy as it washes across your palate. Given it's $14 SRP, I couldn't help but be impressed by the quality of the fruit used. I loved the pineapple and passion fruit dance as the wine finished, a good foil to the ripe buttery wallop of cream that smacks you in the face on your first sip. Still, if you don't like buttery chardonnay, this probably won't be for you. Loads of butter cream intertwined with oak all the way through, no way around that.

I like the quality, the fruit is well sourced and the winemaker knew what he was doing. I'll reiterate, this is textbook California Chardonnay that delivers above it's price point. A quick google search brought up prices from $7-$14, quite the range. Wine Spectator loved the 2009 Cupcake, giving it an 88 points. Me? Not quite that exuberant, but I'm no Jim Laube. I give this a B-, or 83 points for those more accustomed to numerical values. Above average quality, well made wine but for me at least, too much butter and oak. More information on the 2009 Cupcake Chardonnay is available here.

This wine was a sample for review purposes

Beau Carufel


  1. I'll defend buttery chard, not because I can argue that it has a sense of terroir, but because sometimes I just like it. I think it tastes good. I can't say the same for wine that tastes like cheap oak though...

  2. The comment about people rolling their eyes really caught my attention. I the interview we're going to post later this week, I rant a bit about it being cliche to say that you like "old world style", and telling people who like the drank to speak up. Even while saying it, I was second guessing myself, but I didn't want to ramble even longer about that. The center of this doubt is that I wonder if more and more people are really moving away from the heavy fruit and oak, or whether this is just something common amongst people who are heavily into wine as a hobby or business. You're getting into trends within trends within cultures here, and it gets a bit confusing. But, it's certainly to the point now where I'm surprised at how few wine friends are into the drank, or butter chard. I suppose that stuff is still winning the war in regard to sales volume though, and I imagine that's what fuels the idea of "old world", "terroir driven", or "elegant" as a unconventional preference.

  3. I wasn't all too impressed by their Sauv Blanc, so hopefully this is a little better.

  4. I personally don't prefer buttery Chardonnay, but obviously enough people do to drive the market firmly in that direction. It's all a matter of taste and not a matter of right versus wrong. That's where things seem to get caught up in the debate between ABC types and CA Chard lovers. The beauty of wine is the stylistic differences (and terroir based ones) that allow us to find styles we like, even of the same varietal.

    Dan I think you absolutely nailed the trend within trend within culture. That to me is a one sentence summation of the wine blogging community and the wine drinking community (albeit on a larger scale).

    I still maintain, find what you like, enjoy it, and keep trying new wines to find something else you like.

  5. When are you not feeling slutty, Chas?

  6. Cupcake is making quite the name for itself lately, with this Chardonnay in particular. A lot of advertising for it on TV lately. I am not a huge fan of the buttery chards either. I like the write up you did on their Sauv Blanc and definitely want to give that one a try but for the people I know that really appreciate the buttery chards, I have recommended this one to them.