Sunday, August 27, 2017

Issue LIV: Big Red Monster Edition

Big Red Monster Edition

There’s a lot of noise about the re-design of the bottle. Sure, I will buy a wine because I like a bottle or the design of the label on the bottle or whatever, but I won’t buy it again, unless I really like the actual wine that’s in the bottle. In this case, I like this wine considerably. It is a fruity wine, decently balanced, not a lot of bite to it, but not particularly smooth, either. It tastes “big” and bold, along the lines of a Cab, but much more appealing and that’s probably due to the blend of Syrah, Zinfandel, and Petite Sirah that comprise this blend.

This is a deep, dark red wine and the color seems to tie in well with the mystery of its respective origins. Most of that won’t matter greatly in a blend as long as it strikes the right notes. This one could use a bit more balance, but is very drinkable and is good for hanging out and sipping while watching shows, for instance, my particular main use of it.

There is no great complexity, especially here, but it does do better with a bit of air time, say 15 – 30 minutes. It would probably be at least acceptable out of the gate though a lot of the rough elements vanish pretty rapidly, so giving it at least some time out of the bottle before drinking will yield best results. 

As enjoyable as this was, there are much stronger entries on the list and this surpasses none of those in my regular current rotation, so it’s not quite up to a new Standard. I don’t recall seeing in on SPA ever, either, so thus, it comes in as a Mixed.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Issue LIII: Cupcake Black Forest Edition

Cupcake Black Forest [Blend]

Ahhh, black labels. Black labels in consumables is now taken to mean some sort of specialness, whether in a reserve (such as in hot sauce) or in a limited edition, like with liquor or here, a special edition wine. I’m not a fan of Cupcake in general, but it is the sacred duty here at the HSC, to monitor all developments in the price arena in which we operate and slapping a special label on a bottle is definitely enough for me to take it through the rounds.

Here, Cupcake goes full tilt, labeling this thing as decadent (over and over, ad nauseam, on the bottle label) and in color, at least, they are on the money. This is a very dark, deep, lush pour. I back that. It was very nice to see in the glass and had my immediate interest. After a very moderate wait time, maybe 20 – 30 minutes, we dove in and while decadent it was not (Cupcake tends to make very light and despite the name, not overly sweet, wines), it was quite tasty. Again, despite the color, this was on the lighter side, but it was a very solid, very respectable and enjoyable sipping wine, just the thing the HSC looks for.

Is this stunning? Nope, definitely not that and if you’ve been sampling bottles from this list prior to this, you will already be aware of several other more prominent worthies. It’s more like how someone (falsely) characterized Pabst Blue Ribbon, as a workingman’s beer, meaning a solid, day-in, day-out, thing to have on tap, a regular for the regulars, if you will. While that description is not apropos for PBR, it definitely is here. This is a nice, inoffensive bottle to have on hand and will generally be well-received for a fairly wide, if undemanding, audience, a stable, “house” wine, so to speak, to stock and have on hand. I doubt it will store, but for parties, especially given the price point, this one will be hard to beat.

About that blend, we have Cabernet Sauvignon doing the lion’s share, Merlot at the next greatest amount, yet only about half of the Cab, Zinfandel then coming behind, followed by the ever-smoothing Petit Verdot and with some grace notes from Petite Syrah. Despite two heavy hitters doing most of the heavy lifting, percentage-wise, this is the wine I’d think of first when asked to describe what “accessible” means in a wine. Mouth-feel, taste, all of it is quite enjoyable and never demanding. Is there better? Definitely, but also way worse and this fits very nicely – and solidly – into a very good niche in the center, a good wine for people who have been hit with an astringent Cab or Zin and are consequently scared of reds as a result. If this won’t convert them, nothing will.

As a special edition, I don’t anticipate ever seeing this on SPA, unless either sales flatline (given that this is a Cupcake entry, probably no chance of that) or they make it a regular SKU. While I found it enjoyable, I like a little more oomph to my wine, so while this is worthy enough to get on the HSC list, I can’t see me buying it regularly enough to be a Standard. Thus, Mixed it is.