I never imagined this would be a difficult entry.
A Hallow'een-themed wine column...easy, right? I figured there would be any number of selections lending themselves to the cause. A quick trip down the beer aisle would keep me in business for weeks if I were writing about hops instead of grapes -- from the Rogue Dead Guy Ale; to Duvel from Belgium (that's "Devil," in case you were wondering); to Hobgoblin IPA; to the countless pumpkin flavored beers lining the aisles this time of year.
Wines, for the most part, held themselves back from this lean towards the lurid, although I did see a display of zinfandels in a coffin at one store. Personally, I find wine much more closely linked to this time of year -- as the weather turns cold, the winds begin to blow, and the air itself seems to crackle with a certain energy. Wine's depth and evolutions in flavor fit autumn well for me. Wine warms us against the cold, and mirrors the season's changes outside.
Plus, since it's Hallow'een, it kinda looks like blood.
That said, here are a couple of wines for the week. Just don't hand these out on Beggar's Night. (Unless I'm visiting, of course.)
Schmitt Sohne 2005 Zeller Schwarze Katz -- No Hallow'een would be complete without a black cat, and this German entry is generally welcome to cross one's path. "Schwarze Katz" is the German translation for the traditional Hallow'een feline -- and is also the name of this wine's vineyard, which is near the village of Zell. This wine is produced from Riesling grapes --and falls in the "basic" category of German wines. That said, if you want the experience of bobbing for apples without getting your face wet, this is a good bet. The nose is lightly perfumed with scents of those apples. The taste is light and crisp, with more of that slightly sweet, slightly tart apple taste -- like a Honeycrisp. The finish is quite long. The fruit flavor holds on for a good portion of the dark evening. This would be excellent as either an inexpensive aperitif or dessert wine. You could also pair it with lighter style foods. With the apple taste in mind, I paired it with some brined pork chops and sweet potatoes, and it worked wonderfully. At $6-9, it's a solid buy -- and I don't think you'll have bad luck.
Yarraman "Hell Raiser" 2004 Cabernet-Merlot -- This Australian number is unrelated to the Clive Barker horror story or Pinhead, but, instead from a horse boarded on the winery's grounds who saw great sport in kicking down his gate and committing various other acts of mischief. This wine was initially known as "The Bolter" -- but I imagine they wanted nomenclature that would be a little more universal to Americans not on the plains or in the Bluegrass. While I'm not driven to attack fences after tasting this wine, I do think that it's very decent for a chilly evening of jack-o-lantern carving. Hell Raiser is 50% cabernet sauvignon and 50% merlot, but I believe the latter grape takes the lead in the taste of this wine. This wine smells more like a merlot to me, with plenty of blackberry -- although there's an interesting minty scent as well. The cabernet becomes evident after you taste. The strong dark berry and plum nature of the merlot gets balanced with the cabernet tannins especially evident on the finish, which is long and dry -- with a flavorful dark chocolate aftertaste. Try this wine with dark chocolate -- it's an absolute killer. You could also put this with some sharp cheddar cheese and crackers to get your trick or treating started right. And for $9-10, open this well before the costumed children arrive and you'll be in a mood to handle whatever comes to your door.
Ravenswood 2003 Vintner's Blend Cabernet Sauvignon -- with apologies to The Bard of Baltimore, Edgar Allen Poe, who set an appropriately macabre mood like no one else…
Once upon a website able, while I pondered at my table,
On a wine to serve my guests as they wandered 'bout my floor.
While I thought, my brain a rustle, all amidst my friends' loud bustle
Something not to break the bank, and something 'twouldn't be a chore
"'Tis a simple wine I need, something folks would not abhore."
Only this, and nothing more.
Fortune smiled upon my trouble, so as not to burst my bubble,
A little something I'd picked up upon my last trip to the store.
"A red!" I said, "A cabernet -- that will surely pave the way
"Into this party so as to stop November's grip upon our corps
"To now relax, to have with cheese, and appetizers more and more."
Only this and nothing more.
For I had wandered down the aisle marked California, with my smile
Emerged successful with a bottle few themselves would dare deplore.
From Ravenswood, this wine it came; and "Vintner's Blend" upon its name
Two thousand three the date upon removal from its barrel's store.
While gold it's not, no problems I would have now mining deep its ore.
So then I did perchance to pour.
Its nose was big, not unlike cherry -- and with preserves of the blackberry
Scents drifted from my glass with notes I could but scarce ignore
The body full, now strong and tannic, with fruit enough to ease the panic
That I'd erred and bought a wine my friends might cast upon the floor.
"They'll drink this up, I know them all, and they'll ask for more, señor."
I know my pals. Them I adore.
The finish came, all long and smoky, a little fruit and slightly oaky
Closing out my tasting -- blinked and came from rapport.
A mere nine bucks I'd spent on this, and I would find myself remiss
If I did not suggest this wine for someday soon you might explore
At dinner big, or even if you're watching for the baseball score.
The Ravenswood -- now pour some more…
Until next time…enjoy things going bump in the night…