With Halloween coming up, there is the inevitable party or dinner that screams for fun labels. Luckily there are a host of Halloween friendly labels out there that identify some very good wines. Vampire Merlot 2012 is a perfect party wine, with soft supple tannins supporting bright fruit flavor and a hint of vanilla from the French and American oak used in its aging, and costing $10.99. Next up is Spellbound Petite Sirah 2012 , and it is a bargain at $13.99. Petite Sirah is a grape that produces big, often very tannic wines, but this one is very approachable. There aromatics of black fruits, vanilla and coffee. On the palate there is lush black fruit with supple tannins lending just the right amount of support. This is a really nice wine.
Charles Smith is a very irreverent winemaker form Washington who makes big flavorful wines. His Velvet Devil Merlot 2011, at only $11.99, is typical of his and of Washington state wines – jammy, and big on fruit and flavor. There are aromas of dark cherries, cedar and tobacco. When you take a sip, black fruit and chocolate covered cherries comes to mind. The tannins are soft, making for a very easy drinking wine.
Michael David winery from Graton, California, is a very hot winery right now. They are known for their Seven Deadly Zins, Sixth Sense Syrah, Petite Petit, and their Earthquake series, all big bold fruit driven wines. Their Incognito wines, with the simple mask on the label, are no different. The red is a blend of primarily Rhone Varietals (up to eight different ones) and is full of fruit and spice. The white is a full bodied Viognier based blend with rich flavor and decent acidity for this varietal if grown in California. These wines run about $18 and are worth it.
Ghost Pines is actually a separate label owned and bottled by the Louis Martini Winery, known for its luscious Cabernet Sauvignons. Several varietals are found under this label, but my favorite by far is the Zinfandel. California Zinfandels can sometimes be overblown and hot with high alcohol levels and almost a raisiny quality from over ripened fruit. Ghost Pines has a more laid back and elegant style that is very enjoyable and makes it very food friendly. It is worth the $17.99 price tag (a bit high for a California Zinfandel unless you are looking at Turley, Storybook Mountain and Ridge, wines that can top out over $40).
In 2009, three college buddies form the Midwest and the East Coast met up in California, pooled their money and made a Pinot Noir from purchased grapes. The wine sold out in three months and by the end of the year Banshee wines was their full time pursuit. While they bottle several varietals, the Sonoma Pinot Noir 2011 and the Mordecai Red Blend are particularly noteworthy. The Pinot has tons of red fruit, but also has the earthiness and complexity to back it up. This is an excellent wine for the $22.99 price tag. The Mordecai is a true kitchen sink wine…containing something like thirteen different varietals. The main grape is Cabernet Sauvignon, with some Syrah for spice, some Grenache for red fruit and some Mourvedre for a lift. All the others add complexity and richness – Bordeaux meets the Rhone. This is about as much flavor you can fit in your mouth for $22.99.
Last, and by all means not least, are Reaper Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 and Pinot Noir 2012. These are the wines you’ll want to pour for your Halloween dinner. The truly macabre labels (complete with blood red faux wax capsules) will certainly catch the attention of everyone at the table. The Cabernet is made by Jake Bilbo, the owner of Limerick Lane and Marietta Cellars wineries. The grapes come from the famed Chalk Hill appellation, one of California’s greatest sources of this varietal. The nose is of super rich black fruit, leather and tar. On the palate there is a mouthful of blackberry and mocha with vanilla notes from the oak. Well balanced and utterly delicious, it is well worth the $33.99 price tag. The Pinot Noir is even better. Made by Pinot Goddess Penny Coral Gadd-Coster of J vineyards fame, there are aromatics and flavors of cherry, pomegranate, strawberry, and persimmon with notes of earthy mushroom and sweet herbs. This is what California Pinot Noir is supposed to taste like. $27.99 will seem cheap after you taste this wine.
Hopefully I’ve been able to scare up (sorry) a couple of good ideas for Halloween at your house. Just because the atmosphere may be frightening, there’s no reason the wines have to taste that way. Enjoy!