When I first started in the wine business – a scant 12 years ago – there was a frightful lack of Halloween-themed wines.
In fact, you can probably imagine the parade of people coming through the doors of the Hell’s Kitchen wine store where I worked and demanding Bull’s Blood, their numbers increasing like rampaging zombies as the calendar inched closer and closer to October 31.
Although this Hungarian (!) wine is still around, there is no need to give up the ghost when it comes to seasonally themed vino – and I mean that literally! To wit:
Klinker Brick Winery (a longtime fave) makes an old-vine zinfandel dubbed “Old Ghost”. The grapevines are 90+ years old, giving this wine its amazing depth and complexity. Expect notes of bramble, spice and berries. $35
Ocean’s Ghost Pinot Noir is named for the ancient maritime soil in which these vines grow – a modern remnant of a prehistoric sea. From Babcock Winery, this little number offers, in winemaker Bryan Babcock’s words, “layer upon haunting layer of black fruits, forest floor, dried rose petal and…violets.” $55
For something a little different, follow Ghost Signs to their petite sirah. This lush, full wine offers plumy spice notes and a jammy feel on the palate. Bonus? It’s a great value to boot. $15
Finally, Ghost Bridge Cabernet Sauvignon might well be the Casper of this list – a friendly (i.e. easy-drinking!) little number with red fruit notes enhanced by flavors of currant and earth. A pretty good deal for a Napa cab! $35
If the thought of ghosts makes you go white as a sheet, what about things that go bump in the night? There are plenty of monster wines to choose from, and I don’t just mean high-alcohol beasts.
South African estate Radford Dale produces a “Frankenstein” Pinotage, so named because
the red pinotage grape is a seemingly unholy cross of pinot noir and cinsault, much like Mary Shelley’s stitched-together monster. $35
Or go for the dark and brooding Ink Monster Zinfandel, from Italy’s Puglia region, where the grape goes by the name primitivo. It shows notes of blackberry, spice and vanilla. $12
Another creature is Fog Monster, from a California estate that makes a red and white wine under this label. The grenache is powerfully sassy and fruity – and needs decanting before drinking. The white is a chenin blanc, which has lots of peach and melon notes and a zingy acidity. $54 and $52, respectively.
Feeling nostalgic? Seek out Monsters, Monsters Attack, whose label parodies a 1950’s creature feature. With its flavors of peach and tangerine, this is a decidedly sweet but crisp riesling from up-and-coming Aussie label Some Young Punks. $20
Superstitious types might want to steer away from Moselland’s Black Cat Riesling – the bottle is shaped like a black cat. The wine inside is simple, crisp and fruity. (The cats come in other colors as well, for those so inclined.) $18
Worth the splurge are wines from Napa’s Black Cat Vineyard, which offers makes several different cabernets along with a syrah and a zinfandel. (Sorry, it was hard to pick just one!) These are hand-crafted, small-batch wines sure to please the palate. $60 to 80
If less-spooky spirits are more your speed, seek out the Pertaringa Scarecrow Sauvignon Blanc, a fresh and fruity wine so dubbed for the creature planted among the estate’s vines to scare away the local, grape-loving birds. $18
Alternatively, try the Fruit Bat, a single-vineyard shiraz from the crazy (and crazy-talented) folks at d’Arenberg. This is a juicy, spicy, peppery wine with a sweet-savory feel. They also make a white wine from the roussanne grape dubbed The Money Spider – a fruity, floral and nutty flavored little gem. $70 and $23, respectively
Happy (responsible!) drinking and have a spooktacular Halloween!
*As always, prices are average retail and may be higher or lower in your area. Cheers!