by Katie Kelley…

Wine samples arrived unexpectedly at my door today, in a bright pink box. When I opened the bright pink box, I found another bright pink box inside. This one looked to be a cake box from an upscale bakery, with the Cupcake Vineyards logo printed on top of it. Already a fan of the Cupcake Chardonnay, I began to understand what I’d find inside.

When I opened the cake box, I found an 8 1/2 x 11 glossy photo of a chocolate cupcake sitting on a “tile” of wine corks. This added another dimension to the beautiful presentation that was unfolding before me. When I removed the paperwork, I found a cardboard insert that was holding a container of Sprinkles Bakery Dark Chocolate Cupcake Mix. This was too good to be true! I’d already deduced that there was wine in the box, but to actually also find REAL cake was way more than I expected. It was only once I lifted out the cardboard insert that I found the wine at the bottom of the box. There was one bottle each of the 2007 Cupcake Chardonnay, 2005 Cupcake Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2006 Cupcake Merlot.

If Underdog Wine Merchants’ goal was to create a memorable experience for me that would help to differentiate their samples from the others that are sent to me, they certainly succeeded. The packaging was so beautiful, it really felt like my birthday. (Do you remember the scene from Alice in Wonderland where the Mad Hatter throws an “unbirthday” party? I found myself singing that song.) This was, by far, the most memorable shipment of wine to every cross my threshold. Pure genius.

I should also mention that the wine is quite enjoyable. I opened the Merlot last night, and was really pleased with how nicely balanced the fruit and spice are. The wine is full-bodied with a lovely, smooth texture. There’s a hint of chocolate on the finish. I found the wine to be really delicious.