When it comes to Halloween, wine isn't the first thing you think about. Okay, with things like jack-o-lanterns, costumes, candy, trick or treating and the like on the table, it's probably not the second, third or fourth thing either.
But, I've found one wine that should be on the bar at any (adult) Halloween party, if there really is such a thing. And it doesn't even come from New York.
It hails from a lesser-known region of California called Calaveras County and a unique producer called Twisted Oak Winery, a winery that eschews the grapes California is best known for, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, and instead focuses mostly on Spanish-style wines using grapes like Tempranillo, Garnacha and Graciano.
Just look at the label on Twisted Oak Winery's 2006 River of Skulls ($35)! The eery red skull alone would look great at any Halloween party. But this is no made-for-Halloween plonky wine. Yeah, the name of this 90% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah blend might seem a bit gimmicky, but there is a story behind it. This isn't a made-for-Halloween wine like the Vampire Pinot Noir we've all seen on store shelves.
You see, the name is really a raise of the glass to the history of the region where the grapes were grown. In 1805, a Spanish Lieutenant who was exploring the area found a number of skulls scattered along on the river bank. He named the place "El Rio De Las Calaveras" which means "River of Skulls."
A dark, rich crimson-ruby in the glass, the River of Skulls clocks in at 14.9% ABV. This is a young wine, but with swirling, alluring aromas of overripe blackberry, black cherry, leather, star anise, black pepper, Allspice, and vanilla rise from the glass like fumes from a witches bubbling cauldron.
The palate is hefty and mouth-filling with flavors of blackberries and black cherries and a sprinkling black pepper and sweet spice, sweet oak, cigar box and fine leather. The finish is long and a little smoky-sweet, with fairly firm -- though well integrated -- tannins and a little bit of acidity that provide a sturdy frame for this flavor-filled wine.
River of Skulls is only available via an allocated mailing list, but the list still seems to be open. Visit www.twistedoak.com to sign up or to learn more about this great little winery.
Producer: Twisted Oak Winery
Rating: (3 out of 5 | Recommended)