Earlier this fall my wife and I were visiting family and friends in Dallas. At a dinner, we were offered wine. Knowing we were from California, our host proudly proclaimed he had a nice selection of California wines. Sauvignon Blanc is one of my favorites, and our friends proudly offered up a selection from Cupcake Vineyards. He handed me the bottle, and I glanced at the label to check the California appellation. In relatively small print, at the top of the label was printed “Marlborough.” I did not recognize it, but that is not unusual. There are far too many appellations to recognize them all.
A sip confirmed my host’s pride in his wine selection. It was a very nice Sauvignon Blanc.
I rolled the bottle to read the label on the back. First thing I look at is usually where it was bottled. So many wines today are bottled in Modesto, Calif., a dead giveaway that it is from Gallo. However, before I could read the fine print at the bottom of the label, the words “Marlborough” and “New Zealand” on the top right of the label popped out. I pointed out to my host that his California wine was actually a New Zealand wine bottled by a California winery. He seemed a bit incredulous at my revelation until I showed him the label. He had been hoodwinked, but obviously did not want to admit it. He thought he had discovered a cute little California winery with a catchy name and a good wine.
Little did he know that his little winery is part of the The Wine Group, a 58-million case world wine conglomerate. Google Cupcake Vineyards and you will find it’s in Monterey County, Calif., near Soledad, Calif. You have to wade through a myriad of different labels and marketing organizations to discover that the cutesy sounding winery is part of the second largest wine corporation in the world that has marketing plans to sell 1 million bottles of Cupcake wine.
Nothing wrong with any of that. New Zealanders make a nice Sauvignon Blanc. U.S. wine labeling laws are so convoluted, The Wine Group had done nothing illegal. However, I will never buy or drink a Cupcake Vineyards wine — foreign or domestic again.
When browsing wine selections, I want to read on the front label exactly (or relatively close considering all the allowable, highly bendable blending rules) what is in that bottle. I am a Californian, and I want to buy only California wine. Grape growers deserve my support.
California grape growers have been battered around for more than a decade in the “new worldwide wine business.” They have been told to get tough and be competitive. Most wine grape growers know that is baloney. The fate of the California wine grape market is just another country’s wine glut away.
What irritates me more than that is that consumers — like my dinner host — are being duped by legal, yet clearly deceptive labeling. And don’t tell me there is no California Sauvignon Blanc equal to Cupcake’s New Zealand offering.