I'm like Pavlov's Dog. After years of training, whenever I see pink I think about breast cancer.
I can't help it. The marketing machine has penetrated my normally hype-resistant brain, but thankfully it's not a campaign for hotdog consumption or something else similarly vile. I'm actually pretty excited that organizations like Susan G. Komen are making headway on the public consciousness, and now, since October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, wineries are even bellying up to the cause.
What industry wonks call "cause marketing" works sales wonders for wineries, but most donate with little fanfare and are often motivated by emotion. 2 Brothers Winery was founded in 2001 to raise money for cancer research after the brothers lost their mother to the disease. Their flagship brand, Big Tattoo Red, a robust Chilean blend of cabernet sauvignon and syrah, has amassed over $600,000 since its inception in 2002 by donating 50 cents from every bottle sold to various charities through their mother's foundation, Liliana S. Bartholomaus.
Fat Bastard, the cute brand from France that has already raised $150,000 since 2002, announced it would donate 25 cents from every bottle sold during September and October. Peter Click, of Click Wine Group that owns Fat Bastard, chose breast cancer research as the recipient of funds because the disease affects so many people.
Brown Forman, with its Five Rivers Winery in Paso Robles, has pledged to raise at least $30,000 for the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) in the month of October, by donating $1 a bottle. It's working with local distributors to funnel the money to local chapters of NBCF and other related charities.
Apparently, we need all the help we can get. The NBCF Web site states that this year in America more than 211,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 43,300 will die. And it's not just a female problem: 1,600 men will develop the disease in 2006. I have a close friend who survived and know of several women who didn't win the fight, so it's a personal problem for me. And since no one can say how or whom breast cancer will strike, it's even more personal. I'm just hoping wine ends up preventing it, rather than causing it, like some Web sites claim.
Below are reviews of the best wines that are trying to make a difference. This month and always, put your cause where your mouth is.
Five Rivers 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles Best of the Breast show. Fragrant eucalyptus and mint herbiness on the nose, followed by a soft, velvety blackberry and blueberry combo. Fruit has a lazy, cedary finish that hangs out a while. Sw = 2. $10. ****
Fat Bastard 2004 Merlot Vin de Pay d'Oc Oozing raspberry, hearty cassis and strong brewed tea, with a lovely lingering aftertaste. Has some guts to it and a gorgeous aroma. Sw = 1. $10. *** 1/2
Five Rivers 2004 Chardonnay Monterey Sweet peach, crisp tangerine and ripe honeydew melon flow from this wine. Doesn't have much on the finish, but you enjoy the slight honey taste while it lasts. Sw = 3. $10. *** 1/2
Fat Bastard 2003 Shiraz Vin de Pay d'Oc An entirely drinkable shiraz with a flowery, blackberry flavor, tinged with spicy black pepper. Not super complex but it's not trying to be. Sw = 1. $10. ***
Five Rivers 2005 Pinot Noir Central Coast Light in body, with a musty smell and a bing cherry nose. But the flavor disappoints, with very little fruit to grab onto. Sw = 1. $12. **
Big Tattoo Red 2004 Colchagua Valley I really wanted to like this wine, but I couldn't hurdle the overbearing green pepper taste. It's beefy and sports a cherry cola flavor and a raisiny finish. Sw = 1. $11. * 1/2
Sweetness (Sw) rating is out of 10, 10 being pure sugar. Star (*) rating is out of 5, 5 being wine nirvana.