Halloween wines go red, white and boo

Splatter a bit of blood on your wine label and you might just have a seasonal superstar.

At least, that has been the experience for Michael Machat, founder of Vampire Vineyards and a rather busy man this time of year.

His wines, which feature a drop of blood on the label, are available year-round — certainly benefiting from Hollywood's enduring interest in things that go bite in the night — but "it just becomes easier selling this time of year," Machat says.

His isn't the only meeting of ghoul and grape.

In Northern California wine country, there's Ghost Block, made of 100 percent cabernet from the Rock Cairn vineyard in Oakville, next to Yountville's Pioneer Cemetery in Napa Valley.

The graveyard is a great place to visit, says Paul Torres, national sales manager for Ghost Block. "It's really so cool."

Andrew Carmody, owner of International Cellars in Oldsmar (3689 Tampa Road; (813) 855-8099), had a few bottles of Ghost Block 2006 for $50 each a few weeks before Halloween and thought he might be getting more in. Carmody says distributors contact him and other wines shops in the weeks leading up to Halloween with spooktacular wine offerings, which could include Vampire Vineyards wines. He also has a few bottles of Bonnie Doon Heart of Darkness tannat, a pungent red.

Twisted Oak Winery in California's Calaveras County (home of Mark Twain's Celebrated Jumping Frog) puts out River of Skulls about this time of year, with a label featuring a vivid red skull.

The wine, which is difficult to find in Florida, is a limited-production single-vineyard mourvedre (a red wine grape) that comes with a suggested food pairing of "Dead people! — just kidding! How about lamb, pork and risotto?"

This is the third vintage of the wine, which derives its name from the English translation of calaveras, "skulls."

"Other than just being an inherently cool name, it actually has some significance to the area," points out winery owner Jeffrey Stai.

The wine is ideal for a Halloween party, says Stai. Just not for him, since this time of year generally coincides with the controlled frenzy that is harvest.

"We've always wanted to have a cool Halloween party in our wine cave. We just never seem to have the energy to pull it together," he says.

From the Armida Winery in Healdsburg comes Poizin, a zinfandel, with some bottles sold in a little wooden coffin inscribed "the wine to die for." Look for Poizin at Total Wine & More in St. Petersburg (4880 Park St. N; (727) 544-6018) and Tampa (1720 N Dale Mabry Highway; (813) 350-9601). It's $24.99 a bottle but Total Wine stocks it without the coffin container.

Machat got the idea for Vampire Vineyards in the 1980s, partially inspired by his discovery of Bram Stoker's Dracula — "I couldn't believe how good that was."

The first bottling was a syrah from Algeria, though he later took the concept further with grapes from Transylvania, a region in Romania.

Vampire sells several varietals, with merlot, cab and pinot noir generally the most popular, Machat says.

Apparently it's better red for the undead.

Janet K. Keeler of the Times contributed to this report.

Halloween wines go red, white and boo 10/27/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 5:30am]

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