On Fridays, Deb Harkness of Good Wine Under $20 drops by with Serious Grape. This week, she explores Halloween wines.
Two weeks from tonight, all the young ghosties and ghoulies will be out in full force, donning costumes and collecting candy.
If you're over the age of twenty-one, you might have a different plan for the evening--one that maybe involves costumes, but certainly involves wine.
When it comes to Halloween wine, of course it's as important as ever that the wine is good value and tastes great. That's the treats part of trick-or-treat. But how about the wine's costume? For me, the trick to Halloween wine is to find one that is not only affordable and tasty--it has to have a label that's perfect for the Witching Hour, too.
Here are my recommendations for six terrific, eye-catching Halloween wines that are perfect for any party you may be attending or hosting.
2004 Domaine Les Roches Bleues Côte de Brouilly Cuvée des Lys (pictured far left): This wine is brought to the U.S. from Vins Gagliardi-Allard. It hails from the Beaujolais and is made from Gamay grapes. You can look forward to tasting something very traditional in a style that will slightly remind you of raspberries sipped through a gravel straw. This is a restrained, elegant wine with lots of minerality, and is one of the best Beaujolais wines I've had in recent years. The spooky American McGee series label with its creepy Red Riding Hood sets just the right mood for Halloween. ($25.00, Vins Gagliardi)
2005 Domaine de L'Engarran Vin de Pays (pictured center): Another bottle from the Vins Gagliardi-Allard's American McGee series, this label features a ghostly Rapunzel on the label. The wine is from the Southern Rhone and is made from a juicy blend of Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Merlot. Aromas of roasted herb, leather, and cherry blend seamlessly into flavors of cherry, earth, tobacco, leather, and spice. This is beautifully made, and another great value. ($21.00, Vins Gagliardi)
2006 Twisted Oak River of Skull Mourvèdre (pictured far right): What says Halloween better than a blood-red skull? Made from fruit picked in the Dalton Vineyards in Calaveras County, this is the finest domestic Mourvèdre I've ever had. This is a big, fruity red that's surprisingly light on its feet, and has a decadent, silky texture in the mouth. You will detect aromas of cherry jam, cinnamon, and baking space, and taste flavors of cherry pie, allspice, and cloves. The wine has a dark, smoky aftertaste that is very mysterious. An allocated wine, it has limited availability. Sign up for next year's release if they are sold out, which is traditionally released in time for Halloween. (sample; available through the mailing list for $29.00, Twisted Oak)
NV Big Red Monster (pictured here): This is a big red wine made from Syrah, Zinfandel, and Petite Syrah. The label is reminiscent of a B-movie, and tells you explicitly to let the wine breathe for an hour before you try drinking. Expect big, brawny red fruit flavors, and a touch of alcoholic heat. (sample; expect to pay $10-$12)
2007 Owen Roe Sinister Hand (pictured here): A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre goes into this Rhone-style red that is reliable from year to year. Its label shows the severed, bloody hand of Irish hero Owen Roe O'Neil with Halloween spirit to spare. Expect a peppery red with lots of raspberry and blackberry fruit. This is also a wine that keeps well, so if you see a 2005 or 2006 vintage in your store, don't hesitate to snap it up. It will be drinking beautifully right now. (expect to pay $21-$31 depending on the vintage)
2006 Michael-David Vineyards Incognito (pictured here): A delicious Viognier bottled behind a simple, masked label, this wine plays on the fact that the vineyard owners weren't sure what this grape was when they started making the wine. Tests later revealed it was the aromatic French grape Viognier, known for its honeysuckle aromas and fruity flavors. Expect luscious honey and peach notes in this wine. This will go quickly if you take it to a party. (expect to pay $12-$20)
With one of these bottles in your possession, you'll be ready for a grown-up Halloween celebration. Enjoy, and watch out for things that go bump in the night.