Red Blend | Reds | Zinfandel

Cupcake line cooks up success

How much sweeter can business be for California’s Cupcake Vineyards?

The selection of wines under this brand keeps growing, and popularity is soaring.

Eric Novak, wine buyer for Hiller’s, says the brand has more momentum than any other in his stores.

“I devote as much space to them as I can,” he said this week. “I think they are aimed at younger drinkers, but it’s not just the young buying them.”

Adam Richardson, winemaker for Cupcake and director of wines for its parent company, Underdog Wine Merchants in Livermore, Calif., says the success has been daunting: “Our main focus is just trying to keep up with demand.”

Speaking by phone, Richardson said: “One of the greatest things for us is that the Cupcake consumers are some of the coolest people out there. They are always looking for new things.”

The Cupcake line, which has 14 offerings, has recently grown with the introduction of the Shiraz from Australia, and a new white and new red, which not only are the first blends for the line, but the first to play with the Cupcake name: The white — a floral, spicy, herbal, citrusy blend of Chardonnay and Viognier — is called Angel Food; the red is Red Velvet, a blend dominated by Zinfandel with massive flavors and just a hint of sweetness.

“Our marketing guys came up with the names,” said Richardson. “They were looking for emotive words for a style of wine to back them up. The Angel Food is the most cupcake-ish.”

Cupcake-ish means something to Richardson, who has developed a style repeated in all the wines, but he points to the Sauvignon Blanc specifically: “It has an essential creaminess in the midpalate. There is breadth and softness.” He also used words like generous, structure, typicity — meaning the wine is true to its type.

As a division of Underdog Wine Merchants, Cupcake shares the innovative, scrappy vision of the whole Underdog line, which includes brands like Pinot Evil, Herding Cats, FishEye and Big House.

Underdog’s Cupcake and these other brands are sourced from key growing regions around the world. Richardson’s global ties for Underdog gave him the Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough district of New Zealand, the Shiraz from the Barossa Valley of Australia, the Riesling from the Mosel; and Moscato d’Asti from Italy. The wines are made in California, or in the case of the Riesling, in Germany.

Cupcake wines generally are priced from about $10-$13, but this week, they are on sale at Kroger and Hiller’s for $8.99.

I love everything about the wines — from the name itself, to the playfully elegant label, to the full-throttle flavors and the guiding principle stated on the back of each bottle: “Cupcake: Live Deliciously.”

A taste of Red Velvet

Cupcake Vineyards makes 14 offerings. This is one of the newest.

Cupcake Vineyards Red Velvet California 2010, $10: This red blend tastes like a dark chocolate truffle with a chocolate ganache filling flavored with blackberries, cherries and mocha, and nuances of coconut and caramel. It’s medium-bodied with supple tannins, acidity and a hint of sweetness. The blend is mostly Zinfandel. Winemaker Adam Richardson sums it up: “softness, richness, big bold fruit.” It’s the hottest of all the Cupcake wines at Hiller’s, according to buyer Eric Novak.