The costumed crowd that gathers at your doorstep this Halloween is hungry for sweet treats, and you can toss them out while reserving something scrumptious for yourself: a bar of bittersweet chocolate.
Kids consider bittersweet chocolate a trick rather than a treat, but wine lovers know it’s the real deal — complex and intense like a good wine.
This serious chocolate pairs exceedingly well with value blends that tend to have a little residual sugar in them. The touch of sweetness softens the pairing and allows the bittersweet chocolate to play center stage.
The wine-of-the-week winner of our Halloween Reds Tasting is the Cashmere, 2016 California Red Wine at $23. It has bright cherry and raspberry upfront fruit, with a hint of sweet ripe plum and chocolate.
It’s buoyed by crisp acid, and it has a sassy finish of cracked black pepper and clove, a tap dance of spice.
“This wine started out as a single-barrel donation to the Hospice du Rhone almost two decades ago, and little by little we were able to increase the blend size until now it is one of our most popular reds,” explained winemaker Charlie Tsegeletos.
This Rhone red is a blend of mourvedre, grenache and syrah, and you have these three varieties in a bottling it’s referred to as a “GSM.”
“With Cashmere our mourvedre brings a cherry and chocolate character, the grenache has bright raspberry fruit and the syrah has boysenberry notes along with great color and tannin structure,” Tsegeletos said.
Creating the blend is a painstakingly detailed process, and there are plenty of fingerprints on the final bottling.
“Every year our winemaking team will taste all the potential lots of wine that could go into that year’s Cashmere blend,” Tsegeletos said. “Once we create the best wine we can, we present it to the sales and marketing team and the winery’s owners. Oftentimes we bring in a few different blends for them to try.”
Tsegeletos, 62, is the director of winemaking for Sonoma’s Cline Cellars, which makes the Cashmere brand, and for Jacuzzi Family Vineyards. He has a degree in Agriculture Science and Management from UC Davis.
“It’s easier to make a red blend than a stand-alone varietal because you have more choices in your ‘spice rack,’” Tsegeletos said. “A wine has to be delicious if you want folks to buy that second bottle.”
Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at 707-521-5310 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
THIS WEEK’S BLIND TASTING: Halloween Red Blends
TOP PICK: Cashmere
Cashmere, 2016 California Red Wine, 14.5% alcohol, $23. ★★★★: Bright cherry and raspberry upfront fruit, with a hint of plum and chocolate. This Rhone red is a blend of mourvedre, syrah and grenache, and it’s buoyed by crisp acid. It has a sassy finish of cracked black pepper, a tap dance of spice.
Donelan, 2014 Cuvee Moriah, Sonoma County Red Wine, 14.6%, $50. ★★★★: Cherry, cranberry and pomegranate aromas follow through on the palate. This tart Rhone red is a blend of grenache and mourvedre. It has racy acidity and it’s a touch earthy. Well crafted.
Rodney Strong Vineyards Upshot, 2016 Estate Red Blend, 14.5%, $28. ★★★★: This edgy red is a blend of zinfandel, merlot, petite verdot and riesling. It has high-toned red and black fruit, snappy spice and crisp acid. Smart.
Pedroncelli, 2016 Sonoma Classico, Dry Creek Valley Red Wine Blend, 14.4%, $19. ★★★1/2: This is a full-bodied blend that has good bones —–– structure —–– and generous fruit. A touch of oak and spice in the mix. Lingering finish. Pretty.
Decoy, 2016 Sonoma County Red Wine, 13.9%, $25. ★★★1/2: This is a concentrated red with a bevy of varietals in the blend —–– zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah and petit verdot. It has aromas and flavors of currant, blueberry, cassis and caramel. Seamless texture. Tasty.