Ghostly Wines for Spooky Times

You can perk up just about any holiday with the right wine, so why not drink something different and delicious to celebrate Halloween?

There are a couple of direct connections with the scariest holiday of the year in Wine Country — both spooky events and spook-tacular wines.

First, the wines.

Old Ghost Zinfandel

One of the most on-the-topic-of-Halloween  wines you can get is the Old Ghost zinfandel produced by Klinker Brick Winery in Lodi. I recently sampled the 2008 vintage ($37) and it was great. The grapes come from two low-yielding vineyards planted 89 and 98 years ago. The wine is rich with red cherry and blackberry fruit tinged with an exotic spice note (cinnamon?).

I wouldn’t hesitate to serve this wine alongside something exotic like this recipe from Food Network for pumpkin risotto or the yummy pumpkin curry cooked up by King Thai Noodle at 1635 Park Street in Alameda.

Many experts link today’s trick-or-trick festivities to a Celtic celebration called Shamain, a word that means summer’s end. Have you noticed those long summer days are gone and nightfall is inching earlier and earlier every day?

Those Celts got the last part right when they decided the passing season deserved a unique celebration.

Ghosts in the Pines

There are four wines marketed under the Ghost Pines label from Louis Martini. The name comes from a specific vineyard in Napa (Chiles Valley, actually) that is bordered by whispy pine trees. Today, some of the grapes for the Ghost Pines wines come from that same vineyard, but the finished wines are actually blends made with grapes from other parts of Wine Country.

There are three reds — merlot, cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel — plus a chardonnay. Suggested retail is $18-$25 per bottle.

I picked up a bottle of 2007 Old Ghost Pines Winemaker’s Blend cabernet sauvignon at Lucky’s at a bargain price of $12.95. This wine could easily compete with California merlots selling for $20-$30.

There’s bit of mocha in the nose that follows through in the mouth along with some restrained tannins that provide the proper edge to the fruit. The broader mid-palate flavors — think juicy ripe cherries — tasted great with a bowl of leftover beef stew.This wine is a mix of 51% Napa and 49% Sonoma fruit.

Tricks, Treats and Tastings

Harvest season open houses are rampant in Wine Country now with some wineries promoting Halloween-oriented special events and tastings. Here are a couple of suggestions for the holiday weekend.

Francenstein Fest at Flora Springs

How do you announce a new wine with an odd name? Throw an event called “Francenstein” to unveil Flora Springs 100% cabernet franc wine called “Ghost Winery.” The party runs from 9 p.m. to midnight on Saturday (Oct. 30) at the winery’s tasting room in St. Helena. Advance tickets are $20.


They will be pouring award-winning wines from the 2008 vintage to celebrate the harvest at Dutton-Goldfield in Sebastopol on Saturday (Oct. 30). The first corks will be pulled at 11 a.m. and the event runs through 4 p.m. Admission is $15. Costumed attendees receive an extra discount on any purchase.

You can score brownie points by congratulating winemaker Dan Goldfield on winning the Winemaker of the Year award from Sunset magazine. Then, ask him for an extra pour of his estate pinot noir. The Dutton Ranch 2008 ($38) is delicious, if you like to walk on the rich cherry side of pinot.

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