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Main | When Should I Drink That Wine? A Question of Aging »

A Spooky Wine for Halloween

I often get asked questions about wines to fit the seasons, and with Halloween arriving tomorrow, the requests for wines that are well suited for the holiday have started to trickle in. As the weather surrounding Halloween is often unpredictable - I can recall trick or treating in snowstorms in some years, and 70 degree temperatures in others - it is often tough to suggest wines that are appropriately matched for the weather. With that in mind, allow me to make a case for my favorite wine that fits the spirit of the holiday.

"The Sinister Hand" by Owen Roe is my favorite Halloween wine, hands down. Every Halloween night for the past five years, I've enjoyed a bottle of this wine. Don't get me wrong, there are other great wines with spooky, macabre names that embody the Halloween spirit, like the Bogle Phantom, or Charles Smith's Velvet Devil Merlot. However, what pushes The Sinister Hand to the top of my Halloween wine list is the fact that it's a great wine with a fascinating, ghoulish story behind its name. After all, isn't Halloween all about great ghost stories?

Owen Roe is one of the top wineries in the Pacific Northwest, and is strongly influenced by owner and winemaker David O'Reilly's Irish heritage. The winery is named after Irish patriot Owen Roe O'Neill, and pictures of Irish castles decorate the labels many of Owen Roe's premium wines. The story behind the name "The Sinister Hand" also draws upon O'Reilly's Irish heritage, specifically the story of a seventeenth-century battle for land between the O'Reilly and O'Neill families in Ireland. The Owen Roe website recalls the tale in the following manner:

"Long ago, during the 17th century, the O’Neills and O’Reillys were two revolutionary Irish families. They formed a rowing competition to reserve rights to some highly regarded land. The two rowing teams agreed that the first to touch the land, after rowing across the lake, would become ruler of the land. O’Neill’s boat was falling behind so a member of the crew grabbed his own sword, cut off his hand and threw it ashore, winning the title to rule the land. This land still remains in the family."

The wine is made in the style of a Côtes du Rhône or Châteauneuf-du-Pape, always featuring a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre at its core, although the percentages of each grape that are used vary from year to year. For the 2011 vintage, O'Reilly has added a touch of Cinsault to the wine, resulting in a final blend of 63% Grenache, 19% Syrah, 16% Mourvedre, and 2% Cinsault.

The wine is young, and needs time to open up, but on Halloween night, what could be better than allowing a wine to evolve over the course of the evening? Aromas of spice and red fruits dominate the nose, and lead into gorgeous flavors of cassis, raspberry and blackberry on the palate. The fruit is slightly tempered by hints of garrigue and mineral. Crack open a bottle with dinner, and allow it to open up as you tell your favorite ghost stories, and greet trick-or-treaters. I think you'll find that the tannins in the wine will soften as the evening progresses, and the red fruits will become more predominant.

Of course, if you don't have the patience to enjoy your bottle of Sinister Hand over the course of an entire evening, I recommend looking for an older vintage, or buying a couple bottles of the current vintage, and saving one for next Halloween. This evening, I'll be debating between opening the 2011 vintage of "The Sinister Hand", or turning back the clock and enjoying the 2007. I haven't made my decision yet. However, I do know that whichever bottle I choose, I'll be enjoying a terrific wine that comes replete with its own ghost story.

Happy Halloween! 

Reader Comments (2)

Sinister Hand is a fun choice for tonight... thanks for the history. Hope you opened the '07

October 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarkDVT

Thanks, Mark. Hope you enjoyed your bottle as well, and that your Halloween was a happy one!

November 1, 2012 | Registered Commentertruthinjuice

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