Need a spirit with the spirit of Halloween for those creepy cool parties coming up?
The 2014 Velvet Devil Merlot, with its pitchfork label, has the theme down pat, and it's wicked delicious as well. It's widely available at about $15 a bottle.
Made by Charles Smith Wines, a Washington state outfit led by the eponymous self-taught winemaker, this deep-red wine is made mostly from merlot grapes from several vineyards, with touches of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and malbec to add complexity.
The first aromas of this wine are a blast of dark, juicy fruit, blackberries and currants and cherries, sharpened with a whiff of cedar.
All that fruit is lush on the tongue, with plum and raisin chiming in, all smoothed with mocha. On the finish there's a bit of bramble and pipe tobacco, but this is a true merlot, mouth filling, easy drinking and, well, velvety.
I enjoyed it with a lamb shoulder chop, but it would party well with anything from sliders to steak, and make a sinfully good partner for slow-smoked barbecue.
Colette Bancroft, Times staff writer