Saturday, October 25, 2014

Halloween party wines

Somewhere out there, a Halloween party is looking for wines that fit the theme.

Besieged, a red wine with a scary label from the Ravenswood winery in Sonoma fits the bill. It has just been listed in British Columbia at $25 a bottle.

If you prefer Okanagan wines, choose the scary labels but excellent wines from Moon Curser Vineyards in Osoyoos. Example: Afraid of the Dark is an award-winning white for $22.

The dark label of the Ravenswood wine features three ravens flying against a stormy sky. Apparently, the inspiration was a memory that Joel Peterson, Ravenwood’s founding winemaker, has of once picking grapes ahead of a threatening storm while a flock of noisy ravens wheeled overhead.

A flock is sometimes also referred to with the archaic phrase, a murder of ravens (or crows) because the black birds were associated with ill luck in the early middle ages.

Far from having bad luck, Joel has had a long success as a winemaker, with the ravens being the totem for the winery.

Besieged is an intriguing blend: Petite Sirah, Carignane, Zinfandel, Syrah, Barbera, Alicante Bouschet and Mourvèdre. The percentages are not revealed and it would have been a challenge keeping track during the blending.

Besieged 2013 is a delicious wine. Dark in colour and full-bodied, it begins with aromas of plum and blackberry. On the palate, the fruit flavours are richly layered, including plum, blackberry and black cherry. There is spice and black liquorice on the finish. 90.

The label of Besieged immediately reminded me of Moon Curser’s wines. Most of their labels feature the silhouette of a wolf and a raven with a lantern. The wolf – there are sometimes two –has a spade over its shoulder, as though it was about to unearth or bury something. The raven’s lantern provides the light on a dark night.

The story behind Moon Curser is different than Ravenswood’s. The original name of the Canadian winery, which opened in 2006, was Twisted Tree Vineyards. A few years later, owners Beata and Chris Tolley decided that name was somewhat bland. They hired Vancouver marketer Bernie Hadley-Beauregard to rebrand the winery.

The new name and the scary labels emerged from south Okanagan’s 19th Century history of gold mining. At that time, the nearest smelter was in Spokane, across the border. The miners had to pay duties if they declared their gold at the border. Consequently, there was a certain amount of smuggling at night. The miners cursed the moon when it was bright enough to reveal them to the authorities.

The Tolleys have had fun with this history, with labels such as Afraid of the Dark, Nothing to Declare, Contraband and Dead of Night. The latter, arguably their flagship wine at $38, is a blend of equal percentages of Tannat and Syrah.

However, Moon Curser’s Border Vines is more comparable to Besieged with a price of $25 for a six-grape blend of Bordeaux varieties.

The Moon Curser wines can be found in VQA stores while Besieged is not listed in about 80 Liquor Distribution Branch stores. And there is ample stock, with about 3,000 bottles of Besieged available.

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