#31 TREATS

After so many spooky weeks, there’s not much more room left for fright. So, instead of tricks, this is all about treats.

GRAND REDS

Duckhorn Vineyards has long been a master of merlot. That continues with the 2018 Napa Valley Merlot Three Palms Vineyard (★★★★★ $110). Put the meticulously made, full-bodied benchmark near the top of holiday gifts for wine lovers. Complex and elegant, this beauty is layered with flavors and boasts berry and cherry aromas plus a suggestion of cocoa. It was aged 18 months in French oak. Velvety, earthy, delightful.

The supple and very satisfying 2018 Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot (★★★★ $56) is more accessible today than the Three Palms number, which will age comfortably for years. You’ll find the plummy, generous red best with lamb or beef dishes. It’s like a taste tour of Napa Valley’s sub-appellations.

The Duckhorn portfolio includes Goldeneye, which launched 25 years ago and specializes in stellar pinot noir. 

Silky and stylish, the 2018 Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir The Narrows Vineyard (★★★★ $88) uncorks with ample dark fruit, lots of berries, and a gentle undercurrent of earthiness. It’s a seamless package, inviting and fragrant from a vineyard situated about 10 miles from the Mendocino Coast.

And the balanced, fruit-and-spice spurred 2018 Goldeneye Anderson Valley Split Rail Vineyard (★★★★ $88) is a focused, graceful wine, with aromas that take in black raspberry and black plum, licorice and traces of black pepper.

These superior pinots are made for all the classic pairings, from duck to chicken, lamb to beef, soulful stews to meaty casseroles.

… AND VERY RIPE ONES 

Nero d’Avola is the rich, increasingly well-known red wine of Sicily. And it’s one of the world’s most fairly priced, full-bodied choices.

Cantine Ermes stands out with its 2019 Quattro Quarti Nero d’Avola Appassimento Sicilia DOC (★★ $18). The wine is made with partially dehydrated grapes. The process leads to more intense flavor. Black cherry and plum lead the fruit harvest that defines the Quattro Quarti, which comes in at 14 percent alcohol by volume. This Nero d’Avola is a match for grilled or roasted meat, especially beef; and hearty, red-sauced pastas.

MacRostie Winery and Vineyards excels with its 2018 Wildcat Mountain Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast (★★★ $58). The heady wine was aged in French oak for 10 months and bottled in August 2019. Black fruit drives the flavor-packed red, which also offers traces of licorice for a harmonious package, all leading to a long, lush finish. The Healdsburg winery’s pinot is ideal with roasted or grilled red meat.

From J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines in San Jose comes a trio of vivid reds.

They’re led by the 2019 J. Lohr Fog’s Reach Pinot Noir Arroyo Seco (★★★ $35), a Monterey County mouthful with notes of concentrated strawberry and cherry. The bright, minerally wine should age gracefully for three to four years. Uncork it when you’re serving cured meats, sausages, roast chicken, or roast salmon.

The J. Lohr Estates 2020 Falcon’s Perch Pinot Noir (★★ $17) is a more modest production, which has hints of spice, berries, and sage. It’s adaptable enough to complement dishes ranging from peppery sausages to unadorned roast salmon.

J. Lohr’s 2018 Tower Road Petite Sirah (★★ $35), which is made more aromatic with a splash of viognier, delivers plenty of red fruit and light, floral notes. Try it with roast lamb or roast beef, goat cheese or blue cheese.

HIGHER OCTANE

Ciroc Vodka, which has a repertoire of flavors, has added a new one in time for the holidays. The “limited-edition” Ciroc Pomegranate sports the apropos hue and is subtler and smoother than numerous flavored vodkas, with hints of red berries in addition to the headlining fruit. A 750ml bottle is $29.99.

It’s fine in cocktails and by the shot. Among the suggested “signature cocktails” are the Ciroc Pomegranate Jewel, with one ounce of the vodka, one-half ounce of Grenadine, and ice, stirred and strained, then topped with sparkling wine and garnished with a twist of lemon; and Ciroc Pomegranate Passion, with 1.5 ounces of the vodka, and 4-5 ounces of cranberry juice, in a highball glass with ice, stirred gently and garnished with lime.

NO ALCOHOL

Sovi Wine Co. has entered a category that’s likely to grow – canned, non-alcoholic wine.

Currently available: Sovi Red Blend ($32 for 4-pack of 8-ounce cans). The dealcoholized wine stems from a blend of sustainably grown Spanish and French grape varieties in California. The alcohol level is 0.5 percent. The process to get there yields a beverage of 20 calories per serving that also keeps some fruitiness, mainly cherry and black raspberry,

Sovi’s first such wine, a sparkling rose, has sold out.

Sovi is available at drinksovi.com

SPICE THINGS UP

Bushwick Kitchen and Angry Orchard have collaborated to create some lively hot sauces dubbed Weak Knees. They’ll spark a variety of dishes.

The new offerings include strawberry-jalapeno, suggested to ignite pizzas, rice bowls, and sushi; mango-Scotch bonnet, for tacos, guacamole, and macaroni-and-cheese; and crisp apple-jalapeno for eggs, burritos, and fried chicken. They’re $13.99 each for a 10.5 oz. bottle. bushwickkitchen.com

HOT FLASH

Blazing in at 15.9 percent alcohol by volume is the 2018 Apothic Inferno ($12.99), a red blend produced by E.J. Gallo in Modesto. This is billed as “wine with a whiskey soul.” And it has been “whisky barrel-aged for 60 days.” The result is an uncomplicated drink that does have a little burn and an overtone of char. With that haunted label, Halloween definitely is its holiday. But the wine might overwhelm the candy corn.

SEASON’S READINGS

It’s never too early for holiday books about wine and spirits, beers and food. 

One of the highlights this season is “Gastro Obscura” (Workman Publishing, $42.50) by Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras, with contributions by Rachel Rummel, Anne Eubank, and Sam O’Brien. It’s the smart, snappy offspring of “Atlas Obscura,” that eclectic and addictive “guide to the world’s hidden wonders.” Here, the compilation of curiosities, peculiarities, and the uncommon is more precise – “a food adventurer’s guide,” a globe-trotting, informed tour sure to be dipped into year-round. Seasoned with history, the cultural and edible tour is a spirited journey across the continents. A sampler: beer made from fog, a lunch box museum, Amish charcuterie, manna, the Bounty’s cargo, Chinese dining in the Arctic, Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone cafeteria, food currencies, Francois Mitterrand’s infamous last supper, Renaissance wine windows, the language of soda jerks, and a temple for true high tea, 7,000 feet-plus in the air. More than 400 entertaining pages. Book passage.

The vintage stocking stuffer returns with “Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2022” (Mitchell Beazley, $16.99). Johnson is retiring after 45 years and turning the corkscrew over to Margaret Rand, the guide’s longtime general editor and contributor. The current edition, as compact and informative as readers have come to expect, is fully revised and updated.

In its second edition, “The Beer Bible” (Workman Publishing, $24.95) by Jeff Alworth is a doubly valuable, encyclopedic guide to brews of all styles, deftly written and sure to be a popular addition to your bookshelf. It includes a “beers to know’ section, in case you’re getting ready to shop. And for all it gives, you’ll want to raise more than a pint.

HERE’S JOHNNY!

That’s neither Ed McMahon, who delivered the late-night intro for Carson, nor Jack Nicholson, who ad-libbed and immortalized it for Kubrick. For this year’s Halloween viewing, consider a few movies with versatile Johnny Depp, who has starred in enough thrill-chill-scare fare to merit his own little film festival.

He debuted in Wes Craven’s 1984 slash-o-rama, “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” But that’s not really a top-5 Depp fright flick. 

And while Depp is a howling, scene-stealing Big Bad Wolf and a white-streaked, well-coiffed demon barber in the films of Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” (2014) and “Sweeney Todd” (2007), they don’t really make the Halloween cut.

These do.

“Sleepy Hollow” (1999) – Washington Irving via Tim Burton, with Depp as now-constable Ichabod Crane and Christopher Walken as … guess? Suitably dark, with sharp camerawork, production design, and a music score to match.

“The Ninth Gate” (1999) – Roman Polanski directed Depp in this warning to book collectors, especially if the text they seek is, well, devilish. Far from “Rosemary’s Baby,” but still a respectable thriller with that Polanski signature.

“From Hell” (2001) – Depp, as an opium-aided investigator, pursues Jack the Ripper and eventually Heather Graham. Era-evocative and vivid, from the Hughes Brothers, suggested by a graphic novel. Ian Holm, as always, is memorable.

“Secret Window” (2004) – Adapted from a Stephen King novella, the creepy, though sometimes over affair addresses issues such as Depp’s writer’s block and a certain kind of gardening, with a twist. John Turturro co-stars with style. 

“Dark Shadows” (2012) – The campy, vampire-driven TV soap opera is the source of this very Tim Burton horror-comedy cocktail. Depp playfully overdoes it, backed with equal flair by Eva Green, Helena Bonham Carter, and, yes, Jonathan Frid.


ABOUT THE BLOGGER

For 34 years, Peter Gianotti reviewed wines, spirits, restaurants, and books at Newsday. He twice won Press Club of New York awards for food writing. Before he became a food critic, Gianotti was a Washington correspondent, a financial writer, and New York City reporter for the newspaper. His books include “Food Lovers’ Guide to Long Island” and “A Guide to Long Island Wine Country.” Gianotti received his B.A. from Fordham University, where he taught journalism; and his M.S. from Columbia University, where he also was a Bagehot Fellow. Harry, his Creamsicle-hued assistant, prefers the bouquets of riesling and pinot noir.

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