¡Feliz Dia de los Muertos!

Flora Springs creates beautifully balanced red blends that could knock the socks off of even the most discerning wine drinker. But the winery also knows how to have some fun. Each year, the winemaking team creates a unique Halloween-themed wine in honor of their “Ghost Winery” in St. Helena. Apparently the historic stone cellar, built in 1885, has a few — shall we say — lingering guests.

The Flora Springs 2013 Ghost Winery Red Blend, available through the winery’s website, comes in three different labels, designed by Virginia-based artist Wes Freed. While technically “Halloween-themed,” something about Freed’s artwork this year just said “Dia de los Muertos” to me so…

¡Feliz Dia de los Muertos!

About the Wine: The Flora Springs 2013 Ghost Winery Red Blend is made from 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 17% Syrah, 8% Petite Verdot, and 3% Cabernet Franc all harvested from vineyards in Napa Valley. The wine was aged in combination new and seasoned French (80%) and American (20%) oak barrels.

14.5% ABV

Flavor Profile: Pop the cork of this mysterious red blend and enjoy immediate aromas of wet oak barrels, worcestershire sauce, and blueberries on the forest floor at midnight. As the Flora Springs 2013 Ghost Winery Red Blend flows from bottle to glass, it has the most beautiful hue of un-penetrable crushed velvet violet. It settles into the glass as a royal purple, meaning there’s a twinge of blue, though just at its very center, and fades towards a more feminine red-violet at the very edges of the perimeter of the tilted bowl.

Initial aromas are of crushed black and blueberries smashed into the damp forest floor; mint; eucalyptus leaf; dried oak wood; and just a hint of smoke at the very top of the glass.

The palate is surprisingly — and pleasantly — smooth, with a backbone of tannins that work structurally as opposed to texturally. Dominant flavors are of blackberry, black cherry, dried eucalyptus leaves, black olives, oak, and a subtle background of white pepper. The finish is like popping a whole cherry — stem, leaf, and all — into the mouth.

Food Pairing: I paired the Flora Springs 2013 Ghost Winery Red Blend with a cedar plank salmon smothered in my a l’orange sauce on top of an herb salad tossed with mandarins, cranberries, feta, and balsamic vinaigrette. What I loved about this pairing was that the smokiness of the sauce, along with the smoke infused into the fish, brought out a bit of hidden smoke and latent woodsy-earthiness in the wine, developing an extra level of flavor. Meanwhile, the smooth texture of the salmon along with its natural oils seemed to enhance the round, smooth body of the wine. The mandarins, the element I was most wary about in the dish, actually added a bit of fun — of course it added a pop of sweetness to the meal as a whole, but with the wine, because of its low acidity, it didn’t fight either flavor or texture. Instead, it actually brought out a bit of a dark chocolate note I hadn’t noticed when sipping the wine alone — again, adding an extra level to this red blend.

More Info: I received the Flora Springs Ghost Winery Red Blend as a sample for review. (Cheers Mora!) Retail: $44. For more information about Flora Springs, their wines, and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Flora Springs website.

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