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Pair chef David Burtka's frighteningly human-like beef back ribs with one of
these spooky Halloween wines. / © John Kernick
Here’s the way I see it with Halloween wines. There are plenty of wines out there that are propelled by some sort of marketing gimmick—Dracula’s favorite Transylvanian Zinfandel, 2012 Mr. Bones Bug Juice, what have you—but there are also some wines that more organically have a spooky Halloween vibe to them. Here are a few possibilities that would be appropriate served out of black glasses in a Haunted House, and that also actually taste good.
2012 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Reserve Sauvignon Blanc ($10). Crisp and citrusy, this all-purpose white is a good party pour. The name Casillero del Diablo refers an event in the 1800s, when Don Melchor, founder of Concha y Toro, discovered that his workers were making off with some of his best wines. To put the kibosh on that, he spread a rumor that the cellar where those wines were kept was the “Cellar of the Devil.” Which apparently worked like a charm. And there’s still a gold devil’s head on the label of the wine.
2011 Charles Smith Velvet Devil Merlot ($12). A big, blackberry-inflected Merlot from Washington State, this red isn’t long on complexity, but it packs a lot of power (and taste) for a modest price. Plus, it’s got a big ol’ pitchfork on the label.
2010 Edmunds St. John Bone-Jolly Gamay ($20). The name here is actually a play on Beaujolais (Gamay is the grape used in Beaujolais), but anything called “Bone-Jolly” works fine for a Day of the Dead shindig or what have you. The wine itself is juicy and bright, with fine-boned tannins. Of course.
2009 Bogle Phantom ($16). Dark and powerful, Phantom is a blend primarily of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, two of California’s more supercharged red grape varieties. No specific Halloween tie-in was intended when the Bogle folks named the wine, but the somewhat ghostly looking old-vine silhouettes on the label plus the name give it a nice hint of spookiness.
2011 Owen Roe Sinister Hand ($24). A bit pricey, to be sure, but somehow the blood-dripping, amputated, gauntleted hand on the label eases the pain. (OK—maybe that’s not quite the right phrase.) In any case, this is a full-bodied, luscious Grenache-blend from Washington State. The label references the winemaker’s family crest, which in turn references a legendary Irish rowing race in which one person whacked off his hand and threw it to shore in order to reach land first. I’m waiting to see that happen in the Olympics, personally.
Fantôme Saison ($15 for 22oz). First things first: This is a beer, not a wine. But, it’s a superb beer—saisons are Belgian farmhouse beers, crisp, fresh and zesty, and this is one of the best—and it has a nifty black-and-white label with a cheerfully evil looking ghost on it (fantôme is French for ghost). It may take some hunting; Fantôme is handmade by a fellow named Dany Prignon in Belgium in modest quantities, but it’s justifiably sought-after by craft beer fanatics.