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.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Issue LII: Alexander Valley Sin Zin Edition

Alexander Valley Sin Zin [Zinfandel]

Zinfandel, as a grape, is a big, bad bruiser and this was very evident in the first mouthful when I tried this one. It was so bracing that I was ready to write it off as another one not quite up to HSC level, but the second was much better and by the end of the bottle, I had found a very well-rounded, nicely balanced, somewhat smooth, but charged with some acidity libation. 

As I’ve directly stated repeatedly, I will buy a wine based on the label and this one, with its old-timey black and white drawing of a scantily clad women drinking from a wine skin, was an immediate and instant hit with me there, reminiscent of many old graphic novels, which stylistically were reminiscent. This technique has also been used repeatedly to draw symbols and demons, sometimes in centuries past and I’ve always had an innate fondness for it. The drawing also fit the name of the wine somewhat in a more than passing sense, but it’s mostly in cheeky playfulness hinting at naughtiness rather than getting all the way into outright bawdiness, though I’d have no objections either way, truth be known. It would not, after all, be the first winery to tie sex in with wine… However, the main spirit here is that it’s all in good fun and the winery seems to not only recognize that but also relish in it.  

Heady stuff…but I digress. Zin, like some of the other heavies out there, is one I typically do not gravitate to but it’s one rather that’s nice to take out for a spin ever now and then and like an exotic sports car, it’s better to feel it a trusted friend than potential adversary. This one is a very good representative of what a Zinfandel can be at the higher levels, though truth be told, like the other heavies, a wine this potent will need significant air time, figure more like 45 minutes or so…
I don’t know if this goes on SPA or not as I rarely shop that section, but I can’t think of any Zinfandels that would be a Standard for me, this included. Thus, it comes in as a Mixed.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Issue LI: Toasted Head Untamed Red Edition

Toasted Head Untamed Red [Blend]

For quite a while, in the beginning stages, this was my running all-around favorite wine and nearly every shopping trip would involve 1 or more bottles of it…then, by a mannerism best described as capricious, typical to the DABC, which is the alcohol controlling arm of the state of Utah, it vanished entirely and has not been seen again. This may have been due to a winery change, which I had understood them undergoing and indeed, the blend has changed somewhat. In the past, it was Syrah, Zinfandel, Petit Syrah, Tempranillo and Carignan. The newest blend is Petit Verdot, Zinfandel, Syrah, Petit Syrah, which I managed to find easily and enjoy out of state, so perhaps a return is imminent. They add and delete wines somewhat regularly, cycling through with sometimes annoying frequency.

The previous version, as expected, was a lot richer. The new one is considerably lighter, but the excellent taste and balance between a hefty wine and a nice lighter one with just the right touch of astringency is still there. This is one that is flexible enough to either go with food or drink alone. This is also somewhat of a fruity wine, but not enough so that one doesn’t forget that it’s a more sophisticated wine rather than some frivolous oversweetened mess.

I wouldn’t call it particularly complex, but there are various subtleties in there that show up here and there. Probably it’s not something to sit around and mull over in the mouth, finding a variety of touch tastes to identify, as its lightness and accessibility kind of precludes that. One can experience most of what this wine has to offer without any of that, which is a very drinkable aspect with somewhat low air time. Very few of the wines on the list are ones I would spend any time seeking out; it’s just the intent or that kind of list and this one follows that trend as well. If it’s at hand, well worthwhile to pick up a bottle.

Formerly this was a Standard, but with this list as deep as it is, there are simply a lot more wines I’ve discovered that are better than this for the same price. For nostalgia, I’d definitely pick up a bottle here and there if I ran across it and I’ve not seen it on SPA, let alone at all, for quite some time, but it’s not quite up to the level of Standard, so thus a Mixed.