The other day I was at my local Safeway perusing the wine aisle. Dressed in hobo fashion – camo bdu pants, gray hoodie under an worn leather bomber jacket, stocking cap, old tennis shoes, two days worth of stubble – I expected to be left to my own devices while I checked for new selections, price drops, etc. Much to my surprise, I was almost immediately accosted by a very friendly young couple who wanted help choosing a wine to take to a party. Say what?! I was NOT the only person in the wine aisle.
They told me they were thinking red – maybe. The other people at the birthday party would be from Spain and Ecuador. What did I suggest? They wanted something that wasn’t embarrasingly cheap but not beyond a young couple’s budget. We started at Malbec, then moved to Merlot, even sparkling wine as I was trying to ascertain what kind of wine they might want to take as a host gift. The young lady saw the Cupcake Vineyards Prosecco label and got very excited, but decided they wanted red after all. So I suggested they run off with a bottle of the Red Velvet. I said I thought it would make a good party wine. I hope their friends liked it because the couple I was talking to don’t drink!
Winemaker: Cupcake Vineyards
Wine: Red Velvet
Varietal: Red Blend
Notes: And, indeed, I think this is a fine little party wine. It was a pretty red in the glass, and tannins were fairly light. On the palate I found lots of berry flavor at the fore with a lingering cherry accompanied by warm spice notes. Alcohol was at 13.5%. I didn’t get goosebumps while sipping it, but I can’t imagine anyone spitting it out, either. I do think my Safeway may be overcharging. Pretty sure this selection can be found elsewhere for $10 or less. Luckily, it was on sale when I recommended it to the nice couple.
This German import is sold under the Cupcake label but is bottled in Germany by a company given the designation D-RP – 907 009. That’s a sexy name for a winery, isn’t it? After some digging, it appears to me that the responsible party is likely one J.F. Brems GmbH in Zell. A small town of roughly 4,300 residents situated on the Mosel River, Zell is best known for another wine. One I remember my mother buying and sipping when I was just a little tyke. Zell is the home of the Zeller Schwarze Katz. But this particular bottle is not a Schwarze Katz selection, it is a Qualitätswein Riesling from Pfalz.
Notes: The color was bright golden yellow. The bouquet held scents of tart apple and fragrant peach. Alcohol was at 10.5% in this Pfalz white that was light-bodied and somewhat low in acidity. Flavors I tasted centered around a core of tart apple. Not green apple, but more of a Braeburn type sweet and tart. I also caught hints of peach and a touch of lemongrass on the finish. Clearly, given the flavor profile I’ve listed, this wine is not devoid of acidity. I just think that a tad more would have given it the play-on-the-tongue quality that I enjoy in my favorite Rieslings. If your preference is for something a little more mannerly … well, here you go! It isn’t overly complex and the price is reasonable, so it’s a decent candidate to pair with a relaxed meal – maybe a lightly spicy vegetable stir fry or a quick pan-fried pork chop.
Vineyard: Cupcake Vineyards
Varietal: Red Velvet (blend)
Price: $11.99 at Whole Foods
Notes: This pleasing and fairly complex red is a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah. It has a dark, almost purple color in the glass. The bouquet is bountiful with lots of blackberry, blueberry hints, floral notes and an earthiness similar to that typical in many Chateauneuf-du-Pape selections I’ve had [but in a lesser degree]. On the palate the wine is medium-bodied with a good weight/viscosity that I enjoyed. Flavors for me were plentiful blackberry – at first tart but settling nicely as the wine breathed. Also a very present floral which I’d describe as purple clover.* In addition I tasted plum notes and an earthiness. Finally, there were hints of carob in the finish – not chocolate, carob. This is a great wine for sipping and enjoying on it’s own. I can also see it pairing well with a nice roast beef or a juicy mushroom and Swiss burger, etc.
I took this wine to a dinner party not long ago simply on the strength of it’s name. I hadn’t tasted it yet, so I was taking a risk. Turns out, it was no risk at all. Even though the hosts had other reds open, the guests uniformly took to this wine and drank nothing else until it was all gone (before dinner was served). Like them, I enjoyed this one and will certainly be having it again.
Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur. Please see “About” for the full disclaimer.
* Purple clover? Well, yes, what I remember of it. When I was very young, my family lived next to a farm. One of the fields actually abutted our yard, and in the spring there was purple clover everywhere – especially around the edges of the field. The bees seemed to seriously enjoy the purple clover, so I gave it a try too. That HAS been quite a long time ago, though. lol