Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk | AspenTimes.com
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Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk

Kelly J. Hayes
Aspen Times Weekly

Read the wine press and the stories are all about the same thing.

“What to drink in a failed economy,” “Cheap wines for hard times,” “Bargain bottles for a depression.” The press has had a field day with the topic of poverty and vino. I also must offer a mea culpa or succumbing to the hysteria and taking the easy way out by penning a column or two that dealt with and dwelled on the state of the state.

It is, however, out of my system and I firmly believe that tough times call for the consumption of good wine as much as prosperous times do. The saying “Life is too short to drink cheap wine” applies as much today as it did six months ago.

So I was happy to have received an e-mail from a friend who was visiting San Francisco and had stopped into a great Russian Hill wine shop called William Cross. Instead of ringing their hands about the economic “adjustment,” the shop is still having fun putting on special events and selling their wines. This past week William Cross hosted a tasting called “Scary Wines for Halloween.” Much more fun than, say, “Scary Wines for Scary Times.”

According to Steven Sherman, proprietor of the Polk Street shop, William Cross has been hosting events of this sort for the past eight years or so. The Halloween-themed event selects wines with scary names and/or labels that are quaff-worthy and offers them up at a fun and lighthearted tasting.

This year the wines included “The Old Ghost,” a single-vineyard Zinfandel from Klinker Brick that is so good it is scary. You may remember that this wine was featured in WineInk this past February. At around $40 a bottle, it is the product of 90-year-old vines in Lodi, Calif., that produce tiny, berry size grapes that pack a punch. Steve Felten nurtures, cajoles, cradles and ultimately wills a wine from the vines that is, in his description of the taste profile, “spooky.” A great wine for Halloween or any other occasion.

Sherman also poured a pair of wines from another of our favorite winemakers, David O’Reilly, who bottles and sells wines under the Owen Roe label. “The Kilmore” is one of Owen Roe’s very best Oregon Pinot Noirs and the name is, well, spot on for the event. O’Reilly’s “The Sinister Hand” is a Rhone-style wine (a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, what the Aussies call a GSM) from a variety of vineyards in southeast Washington’s Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley and Horse Heaven Hills (my personal all-time favorite name for an appellation) appellations.

So why include it in the Halloween tasting? Best to let the Owen Roe website describe it: “The Sinister Hand label is a family crest ” a depiction of a severed left hand that tells the story of a rowing competition among O’Neills and O’Reillys (Owen Roe was an O’Neill).

Whoever touched land first after rowing across the lake was rewarded with the land he touched. Lagging behind, one of the kinsfolk grabs his sword and cleaves his hand and pitches it ashore to touch land first. He won the land and eventually ruled over it as king.” Gruesome.

And then there is a wine from Australian winemaker Rolf Binder that has been getting rave reviews called “The Watcher.” Binder, the son of Hungarian immigrants who came to the Barossa Valley in South Eastern Australia in the mid-1950s, has long been a valued and sought after consultant by a number of high-end Aussie wineries. He has been making wines under the “Fetish” label for about four vintages now and “The Watcher” may be the most acclaimed.

“The Watcher,” with 100 percent Shiraz, sells for less than $20, provided you can find it.

Obviously, one place to look would be William Cross. I should not neglect to mention that William Cross does not have a website but can be reached at (415) 346-1314 and they do ship wines. And I want to thank Joe Nevin for his heads up on this auspicious event.

While Halloween and the Halloween tasting are about scary stuff, do not be afraid of the headlines. Wine will be a good companion in the days ahead.


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