Wine Review: Cupcake 2013 Central Coast Pinot Noir
Contrary to what many of you may believe, I (typically) do not drink an entire bottle of wine upon purchase. Not only would this greatly impair my abilities to write, it would likely lead to a false impression of the wine’s character. Most wines taste better after several glasses, after all, and I have journalistic integrity to uphold.
Storming through the wine aisle with absolutely no idea what I wanted to buy, I took to my known favorites. With an inviting name like Cupcake, I just couldn’t say no. The Cupcake brand is one with which I am familiar. The brand’s sauvignon blanc is one I’ve purchased several times when I cannot decide in what wine I wish to imbibe; it’s become a go-to in the white wine category for its crisp bite, light body and zesty profile — not my favorite, but decent. Their 2013 pinot noir, however, left little, if anything, to be desired.
My initial impression of the wine was generally positive. For a measly $9.99, drinkers receive a moderately balanced bottle of vino. At its uncorking, bright aromas of currants and raspberries tickle the nostrils — a tender and welcoming embrace among winter’s bitter sting — and warm spices, nutmeg and vanilla, waft through the air like cookies on Christmas Eve. It looked lovely in the glass — deeply cherry-colored, rich and ripe.
With the bottle’s back label advertising, “The bright aroma of cherries carries through the palate with a touch of red currants and a hint of spice.” I was excited. With a big berry burst, the wine comes alive with juicy, fruity flavor. The nutmeg accompanies a soft tannic finish and the vanilla sets the mood — quite pleasant for a wine with such a low price tag.
While I enjoyed its start and found the finish to be OK, I found the wine to be imbalanced in flavor. The berries didn’t blend as well as they could have, and in the mouth the wine felt light and weak. Despite being aged in oak barrels for nine months, it came up short in stature. Mrs. Doubtfire may have liked them “light and woody,” but she was drinking chardonnay. I expected more from a robust pinot noir, which should have a bold, rounded, sexy flavor. The company’s website states the wine, “opens up to a flavor of red raspberry and a hint of spice with a creamy finish.”
Quite frankly, I think they’re lying.
But, despite its lack of body and the obvious lies of the winemaker, I found it to be a decent complement to crispy lentil crackers and a rousing episode of “Martha Stewart’s Cooking School,” and I enjoyed two glasses.
The following evening, as I usually do, I found myself in the mood for a small nightcap before bed. Generally speaking, red wines are best served at room temperature or just slightly chilled, and so mine was kept, tightly corked, on the countertop. Wines do spoil after time, their sugars oxidizing into vinegar, but tightly corked can typically be kept at room temperature for a couple days with few noticeable ill effects.
You can imagine my surprise when, opening my bottle after just 24 hours, my bright and lively vineyard had transformed itself into a compost facility. Have you ever smelled a trash can? If for some reason you haven’t, I implore you, purchase a bottle of Cupcake’s pinot noir and smell for yourself.
I reluctantly poured myself a glass, and — in the name of good journalism — gave it a whiff: overripe banana; a sliced apple left out overnight; the bag of salad you intentionally let go bad. Do they fertilize the grapes with the wine? All of the spicy aroma was gone, the comforting embrace turned a firm snub. Surprisingly, the flavor was more well-rounded than the day prior, but subdued and not fresh. I sipped, swished and spit it out, and grabbed a beer instead.
Produced in California’s Central Coast, where “the bright sun is paired with the cool maritime fog,” Cupcake claims its wines, “all share a balanced style that makes it easy for you to switch from one Cupcake wine to the next, celebrating the small moments of joy.”
In these trying times I ask, what joy? I paid $10 to make my own vinegar. The winemaker claims it cold soaks its grapes for “a couple of days” to preserve the “bright cherry fruit.” Well, it doesn’t work. The taste was a far cry from its cutesy yet completely unnecessary description as “reminiscent of a cherry cupcake with currant coulis.” Okay, we get it. The metaphor has been exhausted — stop trying to make “cupcake” happen; It’s not going to happen.
If you should find yourself craving a pinot noir, by all means, get one. But Cupcake’s 2013 Central Coast pinot noir is not the one for you, nor anybody, for that matter. There are innumerable affordable pinots readily available, and there is no reason you should pay for one that will turn sour within a day. Immediately, I think of Gnarly Head, or one of my recent reviews, The Crossings 2013 pinot noir (still modestly priced at just $12.99).
And, should you be so unfortunate as to cross paths with Cupcake’s attempt at a pinot noir at a company barbecue or family gathering, a word of advice: quit your job or become emancipated. You’re better than that.