Cupcake Chardonnay 2014, Monterey
Cost: $10-12
What: With great wine grapes being grown all over the world, a winery doesn’t have to own its own vineyards to produce fine wine. Cupcake Vineyards is a great example of that.
Founded in 2008, it was selling three million cases of wine a year by 2012, making it the fastest growing premium wine brand in the country. A winery doesn’t grow that big that quickly unless it offers value to its customers.
The value in Cupcake is premium taste at an affordable price. Each of their wines is representative of the varietal on the label. There are no gimmicks, no tricks. Just very good wine.
The grapes for the chardonnay did come from Cupcake’s backyard, Monterey County, and they produce a wonderful wine. Previous vintages have come from throughout the Central Coast region, but for 2014 winemaker Jessica Tomei found the grapes she wanted in Monterey.
The coastal influence of warm days and cool, breezy nights helps the grapes ripen slowly, allowing them to develop maximum flavor and complexity.
In the glass the wine is a beautiful pale straw color with aromas of vanilla, spice and toasted oak. The palate is rich and creamy, with flavors of peach, apricot, honey crisp apple, lemon and hazelnut. A crisp acidity nicely balances the buttery, creamy taste.
Monterey County is known for producing outstanding chardonnay as morning fog protects the grapes from too much sun. Cupcake’s chardonnay is barrel fermented and aged for nine months in American oak barrels, not something you would expect in a wine at this price point. Extended time on the lees, and a partial malolactic fermentation add to the buttery flavor and toasted oak that make this wine so exceptional.
I would serve this wine well chilled and allow it warm up slightly in the glass.
Winery: Cupcake Vineyards started with a few fruit-forward, creamy wines in 2008. It has now grown to offer a wide variety of red, white and sparkling wines.
Winemaker Tomei sources grapes from all over the world to produce the balanced wines Cupcake is known for. With headquarters in Livermore, California, the winery also has access to grapes grown in the Central Coast region, which is where the Chardonnay grapes are grown.
The Cupcake name is supposed to evoke an indulgent treat that produces joy and anticipation, much like the wines behind the label.

Tomei received a bachelor’s degree in Viticulture & Enology from the University of California, Davis, one of the world’s most respected universities for the study of winemaking. Since then, she has completed nearly 20 harvests around the world, working at vineyards in Tuscany, Italy; Napa; and Chile. After settling in California, Tomei created original wine for her family label and consulted for a boutique winery in Napa.
Cupcake is part of The Wine Group that includes such brands as Big House, Concannon, Fisheye, Franzia and Corbett Canyon. The parent company started out as part of Coca-Cola Bottling of New York before it was spun off in 1981. It is now a privately held company, the world’s third-largest wine producer by volume.
Cupcake offers Moscato d’Asti from Italy; Black Forest, a blend of five reds; Prosecco from Italy; Red Velvet blend; shiraz from Australia; pinot noir; petite sirah; merlot; malbec from Argentina; cabernet sauvignon; sauvignon blanc from New Zealand; riesling from Germany; pinot grigio from Italy, and Angel Food white blend.
This is a wonderful winery that has found a successful formula and stuck with it. You can take a trip around the world of wine with their reasonably priced offerings. I only wish they would change their label. It doesn’t look Old World, and it doesn’t look modern. The type is too small, and swirling lines are supposed to represent grapevines, but they look more like weeds.
That should tell you that if they can sell so much wine without catchy labels to attract consumers, the wine inside must be awfully good.
Cupcake Chardonnay paired well with fried shrimp and red beans and rice.
Cupcake Chardonnay paired well with fried shrimp and red beans and rice.

Goes with: My wife Teri and I had this wine on a recent trip to Edisto Beach with a group of friends. After taking a trip to Napa Valley with three other couples five years ago I have stayed closed to them. We especially look forward to our yearly trips to Edisto.
We cook seafood most nights, although one night we grilled terrific elk steaks given to us by another friend. Every night we drink a little good wine, stare at the ocean waves, play cards or read, and think about how fortunate we are to be at one of the most beautiful places on earth.
John B. serves some leftover seafood we warmed up.
John B. serves some leftover seafood we warmed up.

John D. and John B. peel shrimp.
John D. and John B. peel shrimp.

The night we had the Cupcake we had fried shrimp, red beans and rice and salad. What a feast!
This creamy Chardonnay really paired well with the shrimp, as the fruit flavors of the wine balanced the tangy shrimp and homemade cocktail sauce made by John D that is laced with plenty of horseradish. I could tell we all were pleased with the wine as I looked up and saw smiles all around the table.
We drink wine with a wide array of prices, and this bargain was one of the favorites among the whites.
Even though one couple had to return home early because of illness, it was a good week. I had shrimp in one form or another for seven straight days, from shrimp cocktail to fried shrimp to stir-fried shrimp. It was all good. And I brought home a cooler full of shrimp that I will use to get me through the months before I can get back to Edisto.
You also could serve this wine with a cheese and fruit platter, pan seared trout, crab cakes, oysters on the half shell or roasted chicken.

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