The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2011

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Page 88 of 128

WINE NEWS Exploring the World through Wine A n avid aviator, Adam Richardson has given double meaning to the term "flying winemaker." The Australian native spends a good deal of time up in the air—for his own pleasure and for Cupcake Vineyards, a portfolio he sources from local and far-flung regions. Based in Soledad, in Central California, Richardson launched Cupcake Vineyards in 2008, with a Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Central Coast. Finding a winning formula with his fruit-forward and well-structured wines, he expanded the next year with a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, a Mendoza Malbec, a Yakima Valley Riesling and a Central Coast Petite Sirah. Now, seemingly, there's no place Richardson (often accom- panied by his dog) won't go. His portfolio now numbers 14 and includes another Riesling from the Mosel, two Italian sparklers and some playful blends such as Angel Food (Viognier and Chardonnay) and the four-variety Red Velvet. Branding a wine after something as feel-good as cupcakes seems counterintuitive for a guy who likes life on the extreme. Richardson, a mountain trekker and cyclist who fancies barreling down single tracks on his mountain bike, readily admits that the label appeals to the soft side—the audience skews female. But his numbers over the years are all about hard business. "We're going after the emotion—an affordable reward," says the winemaker. "What we found with the Cupcake brand is [consumers] bouncing from one wine to another in the portfolio and moving through the world that way." Millennials were, and still remain, the target for the brand because of their sense of adventure, says Richardson, adding, "They have no baggage about wines like Riesling." The wines feature soft, creamy profiles, which Richardson unabashedly describes as lemon-chiffony or other such lofty concoctions. Retailing for the sweet spot—less than $15—he says they "look and taste like a $30 bottle." The eclectic choices reflect Richardson's experience as International Wine Director for Underdog Wine Merchants, a marketer of under-the-radar wines across the globe. He trav- els to selected source vineyards, working on-site to craft the wines for the new American palate: oak (when used) that's "more of a feel than a taste," and Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc from which he has "engineered out the green aspect." Richardson said consumers "went berserk." "We had to make wines to satisfy the demand, and we're happy to let customers guide us," says Richardson. "All our choices represent cutting-edge varieties targeted to people on the outside and on the edge of the next new thing." —Lana Bortolot Cupcake Vineyards winemaker Adam Richardson. PHOTO: TRACY ELLEN KAMENS 88 / the tasting panel / december 201 1

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