Before coming to Taos I worked as a wine consultant at a major wine retailer in Kansas City.
Over time I had many different and interesting experiences with customers as they looked for that "special" bottle for the occasion, whether it was an anniversary, birthday or a dinner party.
Some were very specific regarding what they were looking for while others relied on our suggestions and expertise to select the wine, but all of them wanted to enhance the occasion. But I will have to say that the most unusual requests I got for "special" bottles revolved around the holidays.
Now these customers were not looking for a quality bottle to commemorate the specific holiday. No, they were looking for a bottle with a label that depicted the holiday, either graphically or by the name of the wine.
Depending on the holiday, they may want it to be tender or sweet, humorous or ribald. Furthermore, they were not looking for a wine that was necessarily good but more importantly, one that was inexpensive. Certain holidays elicited more request than others. For instance, the summer holidays, Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day are more picnic holidays that call for cooking out and cold beer.
Other holidays are more amenable to wine being served, such as at a family Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners or Valentine's Day where you may want to snuggle with that special someone by the fireside with a nice glass of Cabernet.
In fact Valentine's Day is the holiday with the most requests for special labels and it is the one holiday when the requests come equally from men and women (for other holidays the requests come primarily from women). They are looking for wines with names like Hart's Desire or Valentine Wine, or with labels depicting Cupid, angels or with hearts on them.
The holiday that receives the second-most requests for special labels is the holiday that is coming up next, Halloween. Therefore, it is Halloween-themed wines and labels that I have selected to review. These wines are priced very reasonably and are good quality.
Two are available in Taos and the third is one I have had before and thought it was good quality and aptly named for the holiday but I have not been able to find it here yet.
2010 The Velvet Devil Merlot ($14.49 at OBL Wine Shop): This wine is produced in the Columbia Valley of Washington State.
It is made up of predominately Merlot grapes with a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon. The color of this wine is a deep garnet. Aromas coming from the glass are concentrated black cherry, blackberry with fresh black pepper notes. As you taste the wine you will detect wild blackberry and milk chocolate with hints of cedar. This full bodied wine with moderate tannins finishes with a long and lingering flourish. Some foods that would pair nicely with the wine are red meats, roasted vegetables and macaroni and cheese.
2010 Spanish Demon Tempranillo ($10.49 at OBL): This wine is produced in the Alavesa Region of Rioja in Spain. It is made up of 100 percent Tempranillo grapes. In the glass this wine takes on a cherry red color with slightly amber tints. The nose is coffee bean, leather and licorice. On the palate the wine tastes of blackberry and chocolate with notes of plum. The wine has an abbreviated finishes with balanced acidity, firm tannins and flavors of black cherry and spice. Good foods for this wine are Spanish tapas, pastas, hard cheese and red meats.
2010 Vampire Vineyards Merlot ($8-11, if you can find it): This wine is produced in Paso Robles, Calif. (formerly in Transylvania, Romania). It is made up primarily of Merlot grapes with some support from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. The color is a deep purple. Aromas of intense dark plum and black cherry with vanilla notes will come from the glass as you bring it to your nose. Predominately black cherry flavors will greet your taste buds with vanilla and toast notes from the oak treatment.
The finish is long and rich with good balance for some bottle aging. Food pairings for this wine include beef, lamb, game and pastas with a tomato-based sauce. Maybe at your Halloween party you will try some of these wines. It would be fun and they are good wines for a small price. By the way, let me know if you can find the Vampire Merlot anywhere in New Mexico.
Steve Nash, of Ranchos de Taos, writes about wine for The Taos News.