The Layer Cake rose is California pink wine with style and a fair price
In the early days of the blog, I wrote about Layer Cake wines quite a bit, if for no other reason than the producer sent me samples. Then I wrote this, got a comment from the producer, and the samples stopped.
So when I bought the Layer Cake rose ($12, purchased, 13.2%), I did so with an ulterior motive. If I liked the wine and wrote a positive review, would the samples return?
That means cherry pinot noir fruit, fine rose-style acidity, and even some flintiness in the back — not flabby or soft at all. The latter is an especial problem with many grocery store wines, which prize focus group smoothness above all other qualities.
This is a rose to enjoy whether it’s a record-setting 96 in Dallas in October or if you just like rose. And it’s also a wine to keep in mind as the holidays approach.
And not to worry, Layer Cake. You don’t have to start sending me samples again. I’m OK with our relationship the way it is.
The Wine Curmudgeon has always been ambivalent about the Layer Cake wines, which have always seemed to focus more on the chocolate cake label than what was in the bottle. It’s not that some of them weren’t eminently drinkable, and I have reviewed them favorably (and those that weren’t elicited a reply from the producer). Rather, they always made me wonder if they would have been better with a more ordinary label and if had they cost a couple of bucks less.
Not this time, though. This version of the Layer Cake shiraz ($13, sample) is less expensive and isn’t as over the top as some of the other vintages. There’s less sweet fruit, the tannins are much more integrated, the 14.9 percent alcohol isn’t overbearing, and the wine shows some unexpected polish, especially on the finish. Having said that, it’s still a very Australian-style wine, with lots of cherry cola-ish fruit that practically explodes on your nose and in your mouth.
It’s a big wine that even those of us who aren’t all that fond of big wines can enjoy. Drink this with barbecue (beef, pork or chicken) or burgers and enjoy the label. Which is quite clever, especially when it doesn’t get in the way of the wine.
The Wine Curmudgeon is never quite sure what to make of the Layer Cake wines. A year-old review of the shiraz was one of the most popular posts on the blog in 2010, and it's still getting comments. Is it the quality of the wine that elicits so much enthusiasm, or the quality of the label, what with it featuring a chocolate cake?
For the primitivio ($12, sample) the answer is the quality of the wine. It's made in Italy, but done in a decidedly New World Style — lots of oak and lots of dark black fruit, with vanilla thrown in for good measure. But it also offers plenty of traditional zinfandel-style spice and brambliness, which helped balance the wine — and the alcohol is only 13 1/2 percent. Another point in its favor: I tasted the wine about a year ago, and it wasn't as interesting as this. Another year of bottle aging seems to have helped.
Why the zinfandel reference? Because primitivo is apparently the same grape, though there is still some debate about the subject. In this, too many Italian primitivos I've tasted, including one the other night to compare to the Layer Cake, go whole hog for the New World zinfandel style without understanding what's involved. It's not a pretty sight.