Faced with an onslaught of cute little animals on the labels of mass-produced industrial bottlings, cautious wine lovers might be inclined to carefully avoid any wine with an animal on the label.
But such an excess of caution wouldn't be wise, considering that a hard-core "no animals" approach would rule out such treasures as Chateau Cheval Blanc, California's excellent Stag's Leap, and Piemonte's pricey La Spinetta red wines with the rhinoceros label.
Now add another tasty treat to the approved animals list: From my pal and one-time Rhone Valley traveling companion Erich Russell at Rabbit Ridge in Central California's Paso Robles comes a special seasonal red, just in time for Easter: Rabbit Ridge "Bunny Cuvee," a hearty drop that Russell bills as "a lush red blend created and bottled once every spring, in limited quantities, to celebrate the Bunny's favorite time of the year."
I might have guessed Zinfandel from its exuberant, fruit-forward berry aromas and flavors and its blockbusterish 14.9% alcohol level, but it's actually a wild blend of varied red grapes that are rarely found in the same glass - about 60 percent of the Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc with about 40 percent Petite Sirah - a non-vintage blend of 2004 and 2005 grapes aged in new oak barrels.
Lovers of austere, earthy European wines might want to steer clear, but if you like a big but balanced California red in the older style, this is an honest wine with real character.
The Rabbit Ridge Website indicates that this wine is available only to winery club members, but for what it's worth, I found it on retail sale in Louisville for a penny under the $12 suggested winery price, so with a little sleuthing (and asking about it at local shops that carry Rabbit Ridge wines), you might be able to find it in your neck of the woods, too.
<table border="0" align="right" width="170"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/rabb0408.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>Rabbit Ridge Paso Robles "Bunny Cuvee" Red Wine ($11.99)
This is a very dark reddish-purple wine. A burst of ripe berry fruit and a whiff of vanilla leap out of the glass. Big and ripe in flavor, a mouth full of berries mirror the nose. Fruit-forward and full, oak is present but doesn't dominate, and its hefty alcohol content makes it warm but not incendiary. (April 8, 2007)
<B>FOOD MATCH:</b> It worked nicely with a range of dishes on a casual Easter buffet, from sliced ham and Italian-style <i>gardiniera</i> to a variety of pizzas. Hold the hard-boiled eggs.
<B>VALUE:</B> No complaints at all about this low-teens price point.
<B>WHEN TO DRINK:</B> The winery Website indicates that this wine, bottled Nov. 7, 2006, "should age well for a long time." Based on its varietal content and its balance, I would agree. Certainly five years in a quality cellar would do it no harm.
Here's a fact sheet on the Bunny Cuvee on the Rabbit Ridge Website:
<B>FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:</B>
Wine-Searcher.com lists only the winery as a source for Bunny Cuvee, but you can use this link to find vendors and comparative prices for Rabbit Ridge wines in general:
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