It’s been inexplicably reported that there is nothing more frightful than a empty glass of wine on Halloween. Whether you’re by your lonesome stuck in some haunted house or with a bunch of zombie-clad costumed characters, no one is happy when the wine bin is bare.
Late-late last night, an unnerving eerie feeling came over me as I walked into Ye Old Wine Shoppe located just outside of town where the weeping willows meet up with an old desolate graveyard. I counted only 13 candles alit in the cob-webbed premises as I groped around for a bottle or two of wine.
Yes—I found the Bogle Phantom lurking about, and the Apothic Red hiding in the shadows, even the 7 Deadly Zins masquerading as a love-potion, but I was headed to the Wicked Wine Trick or Treat Tasting Halloween Party and I had to bring some startling good wine to match the mystery wine category of the night! Fortunately the spirits were howling and revealed a clue of the mystery to the hobgoblin wine wizard behind the Shoppe’s wine bar, who divulged in a spine-chilling whisper. . . . . . .
But—of course! The word, the idea, the shocking category was: NOIR: Noir as in dark, bizarre, spooky, macabre, film noir, etc. As in Pinot Noir!
It became clear as day—on that midnight hour, the wine that I needed to bring to the party. So I picked up a 2009 Bayliss-Bower Pinot Noir, from—well you’ve may have guessed it already: GHOST HILL CELLARS !!! (Eerie sound effects please!)
I gotta tell you the ghastly truth!: This is pretty much how it went down. Call it a pre-Halloween party if you like, but we decided to dress up as wine snobs, have a Pinot Noir “throw-down” of sorts, pair the wines with grisly grilled pork chops, and watch the DVD “Sideways” again—as it had been a few years since we’d seen that wonderful “Pinot Noir” wine-fueled movie.
And our Pinot Noir tasting?—well it was as serious as a bat attack! Three Pinot Noir heavy-hitters! The 2008 Brewer-Clifton Zotovich Vineyard, The 2009 Foley Rancho Santa Rosa, both from the posh Santa Rita Hills, and, the challenger of the bunch, direct from the Burgundian Williamette Valley of Oregon, my thrilling contribution, the 2009 Ghost Hill Cellars Bayliss-Bower Vineyard Pinot Noir. And the question of the evening was whether Pinot Noir from Oregon stood a ghost of a chance of matching up to the two Southern California wines.
The wonderful aspect of the Pinot Noir tasting was that it took place over a span of about three hours—meal and movie. And to you readers, this is the right amount of time to really experience a full flavor profile of your wine. Especially the good stuff.
When first decanted, the Foley was right out of the gate with big aromas of black cherry, blackberry and a touch of earth. Brewer-Clifton was tight—no surprise there: A little plum, a little tea aromatics. Their elegant wines are rarely bombastic. The Ghost Hill was not tight but definitely “quiet” with light aromas of summer cherries and touch of spice and dust.
About 45 minutes later, we began the meal. Grilled pork chops always work well with a Pinot and with an assortment of roasted vegetables that included red potatoes, rutabaga, beets. Further we enjoyed spicy Italian sausage stuffed mushrooms for appetizers and throughout dinner. The meal would definitely allow the Pinots to express their wares.
The Foley continued with its big expression of the black fruits and cranberry. Spicy earth was present and a nice acidity. Brewer-Clifton was still brooding with dark plum, dried cherries, mushroom and a little spice. The Ghost Hill at this point had a great streak of acidity with light flavors wild strawberries, red currants and enticing wood spice.
An hour later, the rich Foley picked up a little mocha and chocolate and maintained its acidity. It was a delicious quaffer. Brewer-Clifton began to show its great structure and balance of light tannins, acidity and its firm hold of black fruit, dried mushroom, earth, and cocoa. Such an elegant California Pinot.
The Ghost Hill Pinot Noir started to scare us. It was transitioning right before our palates. After the lighter red fruits had dominated, the wine began to emerge ripe, generous, picking up dark berry flavors, smoke and herbs. And another half hour later, even a richer complexity of mature spices, anise and mushroom flavors developed with gorgeous mouth texture undergirded by that wonderful fresh acidity. It finished like an expensive French Burgundy. Impressive!
When you go to the Ghost Hill Cellars website, you’ll read: “The legend of Ghost Hill dates back to the late 1800’s when a miner took a respite on our property after prospecting and was slain during the night for his gold. His searching spirit inspired our name and reminds us of the treasures our land continues to give.
“Our winemaker, Rebecca Pittock-Shouldis believes that Pinot Noir should be listened to and gently encouraged to reveal it’s beautiful haunting and ethereal flavors; the elegant style of our wines reflects her patience. We invite you to visit our rustically beautiful property, hear the legend and taste the Ghost Hill spirit of Pinot Noir.”
Don’t be scared! Contact the winery or ask your wine purveyor to obtain the 2009 Ghost Hill Cellars Bayliss-Bower Pinot Noir for a holiday treat! Give the wine the respect it deserves and decant for a couple of hours…..then enjoy!
Rick Riozza is the valley’s “sommelier-about-town” hosting and entertaining at private and business wine events and tastings. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org