By Rick Riozza
There’s nothing more disturbing and frightful than an empty glass of wine on Halloween. Whether you’re by your lonesome stuck in some haunted house or with a bunch of zombie-clad costumed characters, no one is happy when the wine bar is bare.
The days of quiet wine packaging and labeling are done. Wine bottles are partying hearty with outfits as clever as yours. Just a couple of years ago, most of the Halloween wine parties had the same few wine garbs that included Bogle Phantom lurking about, and the Apothic Red hiding in the shadows, even the 7 Deadly Zins was masquerading as a love-potion.
Now there’s a plethora of evil vino and every wine shop worth their weight is decorating spooky with eerie labeled wine bottles on every cob-webbed shelf in the store. Labels with unnerving names such as Cockfighter’s Ghost—an Australian wine named after a ghostly steed said to reside in the vineyard after drowning in a nearby creek; Poizin Zinfandel, “the wine to die for”—from the Armida Winery in Dry Creek Valley priced at $25 and the Reserved bottling, which comes complete with its own wooden coffin, costs $60; and yet another Zin, California’s Zombie Zin, where probably the best thing about this wine bottle is the punk rock Zombie daring you to sip some of his evil elixir.
Heading to the Wicked Wine Trick or Treat Tasting Halloween Party in Death Valley, California, the pressure was on to bring some startling good ghoulish grog to match the mystery wine category of the night! So I grabbed my Ouija board as the spirits were howling and right before my blood-shot eyes the hobgoblin wine wizard appeared and clutched onto me crying in a spine chilling whisper, “What could be scarier than an over oaked high alcohol California Cabernet or Chardonnay that costs over $100?” Everyone’s a comedian these days—huh?
Anyway—besieged with many haunting voices of wine marketers of the past, a couple of wine recommendations really stood out: Ravenswood Limited Release “Besieged” at only $14.99.
This wine is a blend of Old Vine California heritage varietals that you vino lovers will recognize: 35% Carignane, 20% Petite Sirah, 18% Zinfandel, 13% Mourvedre, 9% Alicante Bouschet, and 5% Barbera which were sourced from vineyards in Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma Valley, Russian River Valley, Knights Valley and Sonoma Mountain. Small quantities of grapes also sourced from some of the best vineyards in California’s North Coast, Central Coast, and Lodi winegrowing regions.
No tricks here but an absolute treat for the bargain price of a focused wine from famed winemaker Joel Peterson. You readers will remember my interview article with him during the summer. This “Godfather of Zin” is the consummate multitasker and perfectionist in the vineyard and winery.
Besieged is red-black in color, rich, robust, with full flavors igniting your senses of blackberry, black cherry, plum, cardamon, resolving into a delicious, smooth, satisfying finish.” Now before you assume that this has all the earmarks of a “flabby fruit bomb”, re-think immediately: This wine is elegant, dry, well-balanced with all the complexities stirring from the heritage varietals.
Everyone I shared this wine with thought it was a delicious dinner wine for around $25! It’s a “limited release”, so my advice is to get out and get some quick! It’s not just a wine for Halloween it’s one for all of our fall and winter meals. At Pavilions in Rancho Mirage it’s selling at the bargain price of $ 11.99 and is just going out the door.
The other fun wine to have around Halloween time with its great eerie looking label is Elk Creek Vineyard’s Ghostly White. Comes in both a Chardonnay , which is on the tart side and a Mellow Sweet White on the aromatic side. Elk Creek says, “this Chardonnay is served by 9 out of 10 ghosts at all Halloween parties”—if you wish to run with that, at $18 a bottle.
The Mellow Sweet is a crisp and fruity complexity of the Cayuga grape balanced beautifully with the solid body and foundation of the Vidal Blanc grape. Together these grapes produce a Halloween wine with nicely balanced notes of apricot, melon and peach and no tricks! $10.
On a generic note: Nothing says Halloween like Graves. Located just southeast of Bordeaux on the left bank of the Garonne River, this gravelly sub-district of the greater Bordeaux area is known for its intense red wines based on Cabernet Sauvignon, look to Chateau Haut Brion, and, its Sauternes, often blends of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, look again to Chateau D’Yquem. The ghastly truth here is that these wines sell for over a thousand bucks a bottle!
Of course in French, the area’s pronounced “Grawv” so that eeriness might lose in translation—especially at those prices!
And finally—the most blood thirsting wine is from the famous Sangiovese grape, which translated from Italian means “the blood of Jupiter”. This grape surely makes your favorite Chianti and even Brunello di Montalcino from the Tuscany area. So next time you’re at a blind wine tasting and you sense and taste blood notes—think Chianti. Indeed wasn’t that Hannibal Lecter’s wine of choice when he dined on a living brain?
Don’t be scared! Enjoy your favorite blood favored wine tonite! Cheers!
Rick is your sommelier-de-ghost entertaining at all haunted venues. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org