Cupcake Vineyards Chardonnay 2017, Monterey County
Cupcake Vineyards Butterkissed Chardonnay 2017, California

Cost: $12-14
O ne thing I try to preach year after year is that an inexpensive wine isn’t necessarily a cheap wine. While it is generally true that as the cost of the wine increases, the quality goes up, price isn’t the determining factor in the quality of the wine.
You can find great wine at any price. Cupcake Vineyards is a great example of that. It started 11 years ago with a few fruit-forward wines that were pleasant if not exciting. As the company grew, they added more varietals and different styles until now they have 20 different wines to offer, including two distinctly different chardonnays.
As the company grew it attracted a lot of fans. It has been the top premium brand wine by volume for more than five years. Customers noticed that Cupcake delivered value with its great-tasting wines. There are no gimmicks, unless you consider good taste at a great price a magic trick.
While buttery chardonnays often have a pleasant flavor and mouthfeel, I prefer a lean, crisp chardonnay with a meal. The Cupcake Monterey County chardonnay is a beautiful pale yellow in the glass with inviting floral aromas. Balanced acidity brings out elegant, crisp flavors, mainly lemon, vanilla and apple.
The grapes come from cool-climate Monterey County where the long growing season adds flavor to the grapes. Morning fog and warm, sunny afternoons allow the grapes to ripen slowly and retain their natural acidity.
The wine is barrel fermented to bring out some creaminess, balanced by the crisp acidity. It has a smooth mouthfeel and a long finish with notes of melon and oak.
The Butterkissed chardonnay will appeal to traditionalists who have long loved the oaky, buttery style of California chardonnay. I love this style, too, but prefer the leaner, more mineral style with a meal.
The Butterkissed is a deeper gold in the glass with lovely fruit aromas. It is rich and full-bodied.
All of the grapes undergo malolactic fermentation, adding to the smooth buttery texture this type of chardonnay is known for.
If you want to taste the two modern styles of chardonnay side by side, you could pick up a bottle of each of these and do a taste test with your friends. If they are chardonnay fans the discussion with be lively and they will thank you.
Winery: Even though they don’t own any vineyards or a tasting room, Cupcake Vineyards has taken the world of wine by storm since its launch in 2008. Their success shows that wine drinkers appreciate value.
The name is appropriate because it is meant to evoke an indulgent treat that produces joy and anticipation, much like the wines behind the label.
Winemaker Jessica Tomei works with grapes from all over the world to produce pleasant, balanced wines across the taste spectrum. But the chardonnay grapes come from vineyards right on their doorstep.
With headquarters in Livermore, California, Cupcake is close to all the fantastic grapes in the Central Coast region.
Tomei received a bachelor’s degree in Viticulture & Enology from the University of California, Davis. Since then, she has completed 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.
Her hands-on approach starts in the vineyard, working alongside growers to ensure the grapes reach the perfect ripeness. With each wine she allows the vineyard characteristics to shine through to create a true expression of the grapes.
Cupcake is part of The Wine Group, which 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.
Goes with: We had both of these chardonnays with shrimp tempura and French fries. Because the wines come with twist off caps we were able to try both and save the leftover wine for another night.
I thought they both paired well with the shrimp but the Butterkissed was better as a sipper. I loved the Monterey County better with the shrimp but my wife Teri preferred the Butterkissed.
That’s what’s great about chardonnay these days. You can find a style to fit every preference.
The crisp acidity in the Monterey County wine was a great match for the shrimp that I doused in soy sauce. It would pair well with fish, crab cakes, scallops and oysters. I would chill it thoroughly and let it warm up in the glass.
The full-bodied Butterkissed chardonnay was fine with the meal, but I liked it better as I sipped it after dinner. It has such a full flavor it can overpower some lighter meals. It should pair well with pizza, parmesan crusted chicken, halibut, soft cheeses or while just sitting on the deck with your sweetheart watching the sun go down. This wine also should be served well chilled.
If you have questions about wine you can email Dennis Sodomka at

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