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Robin Garr

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WTN /WineAdvisor: Easter Bunny (Rabbit Ridge Bunny Cuvee)

by Robin Garr » Mon Apr 09, 2007 3:27 pm

Easter Bunny

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.

<B>WEB LINK:</B>
Here's a fact sheet on the Bunny Cuvee on the Rabbit Ridge Website:
[url="http://www.rabbitridgewinery.com/ts2_bunnycuveeNV.html]http://www.rabbitridgewinery.com/ts2_bunnycuveeNV.html[/url]

<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:
[url="http://www.wine-searcher.com/find/Rabbit%2bRidge/-/-/USD/A?referring_site=WLP ]http://www.wine-searcher.com/
find/Rabbit%2bRidge/-/-/USD/A?referring_site=WLP[/url]

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Dave Erickson

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Easter Bunny (Rabbit Ridge Bunny Cuvee)

by Dave Erickson » Mon Apr 09, 2007 5:24 pm

Robin, you've mentioned a personal connection to Rabbit Ridge, so I offer the following with some trepidation. On the other hand, I think people ought to know the history here.

I remember "Allure" being one of the nicest inexpensive California reds going.

Unfortunately, I also remember everything else about Rabbit Ridge, as in "largest cash settlement ever in an ATF case against a California winery." I won't go into the details, it's old news, but tell me, are they under new management?

I have to admit I was surprised to see the label again earlier this year. I thought they were kaput.
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MikeH

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Easter Bunny (Rabbit Ridge Bunny Cuvee)

by MikeH » Tue Apr 10, 2007 2:08 am

Dave Erickson wrote:I have to admit I was surprised to see the label again earlier this year. I thought they were kaput.


The Rabbit Ridge label shows up in most wine stores in the Cincy area and has for a while. I assume they are still in business.

And the Bunny Cuvee was noted at our local bigg's a few weeks back.
Cheers!
Mike
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Randy Buckner

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Easter Bunny (Rabbit Ridge Bunny Cuvee)

by Randy Buckner » Tue Apr 10, 2007 2:40 am

Unfortunately, I also remember everything else about Rabbit Ridge, as in "largest cash settlement ever in an ATF case against a California winery." I won't go into the details, it's old news, but tell me, are they under new management?


There's a lot more to that story than appears to the eye, but as you say, it's water under the bridge.

Rabbit Ridge is alive and well in Paso Robles under the same watchful eye of Erich and Joanne Russell. I spent a week in Europe with them not knowing what to expect. They are good people, plain and simple.

Erich told me recently he plans to move more towards blends, in the Southern Rhone fashion. It will be fun to see what comes out of the winery.
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Robin Garr

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Easter Bunny (Rabbit Ridge Bunny Cuvee)

by Robin Garr » Tue Apr 10, 2007 9:26 am

Dave Erickson wrote:Unfortunately, I also remember everything else about Rabbit Ridge, as in "largest cash settlement ever in an ATF case against a California winery." I won't go into the details, it's old news, but tell me, are they under new management?

I have to admit I was surprised to see the label again earlier this year. I thought they were kaput.


No need to be trepidatious. As Bucko says, I was also along on the Rhone tour with Erich and Joanne Russell, and they're fine people. They closed the old Rabbit Ridge winery in Sonoma, and opened a smaller new one in Paso Robles, with the same trademarks and logos but a much more hands-on product line.

They're represented in Ohio, Kentucky and a few other states by Vintner Select and in North Carolina by Classic, which is why we see a fair amount of their product in this region.

I'll go along with what Bucko said and add that Erich is a strong personality and a guy who'd rather fight than switch, but I believe him to be an honest man, and he and Joanne are down-to-earth, decent people.

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