Each year at this time, I reflect on all of the family, friends and pets who have passed on. Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of The Dead, is a revered holiday with indigenous roots, observed November 1st & 2nd, primarily in Mexico, but also in other parts of the world. The purpose is to honor loved ones who have passed and beckon their spirits back to earth, by creating elaborate ofrendas or altars. Possessions from the departed are placed on the altar, including their favorite foods and beverages. Additional decorations are calaveras de azucar/ sugar skulls, papel picado/ perforated paper and cempasúchil/ marigold flowers, bringing vibrant colors and invoking positive feelings for missed loved ones.
Dia de Los Muertos recognizes that death is a natural and inevitable part of the human experience. This likely accounts for why so many people from across the globe are drawn to the imagery and concept of the holiday, even if it is not in their family, community or faith tradition. It is a festive and joyous time to remember and honor those who have passed. It is celebrated as a way of retaining connections with the unseen world, a world we will all return to one day.
Day of the Dead Wine?
Yes. You have likely seen some of the labels of wines that have a Dia de Los Muertos theme. Not all are my cuppa tea (or glass of wine, as the case may be). As mentioned, the imagery of the holiday is powerful and has therefore been utilized by various producers and vintners. Buyer beware: not all are created equally. Some that I came across in researching this post, are more or less a gimmick for selling wine. I am not against that, as I set out to do a thematic post for the holiday, but I want to actually like the wine. It pays to be somewhat judicious. That said, there are a few that I would like to proffer here.
2014 Boneshaker by Hahn.
Primarily Zinfandel, grapes sourced from Lodi.
Retails for $11-$20. On-line options.
Tasting notes: I love this wine! It is tasty. Notes of dark fruits and vanilla. The palate reveals blackberry and chocolate with a tannic enough finish to pair with some robust foods. Maybe BBQ, pizza or veggie chili? And the label glows in the dark! This is a fun one.
Via Vega Vineyard.
2010 La Perla
Retails for $24, direct from the winery, in-person or on-line.
Tasting notes: The oak it was aged in shows up initially on the nose, as deep comforting smoke. On the palate is tart dried cherry, ensconced in leather. The finish is balanced with bright acidity carrying forth that dried cherry essence. Very nice. Would pair well with smoky, hearty dishes.
Via Vega is a small production winery in Paso Robles, and they are making some thorough wine. They grow 11 different estate varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Malbec, Touriga Nacional, Petite Sirah and Syrah. In their line of wines called "Skeletons", you will find various blends or single varietal wines of the afore mentioned grapes. We had the privilege of stopping by and tasting recently and took home a bottle of the tasty La Perla.
The thematic connection at this winery does not stop there. They also have a large altar in the tasting room and welcome the community to bring mementos, photos, cards or notes for their dead. Additionally they offer a ceremony with pan de muerto (day of the dead breads) every year for people to come together and honor their deceased.
Photos by Gabriel Manzo
I bought this wine for the label.
I fully admit it. I have not even tasted it yet so I cannot comment on it. I just absolutely loved the artwork. I have seen wines of this label (Chronic Cellars) over the years, but have no experience with them. Maybe others do? Please comment! They have quite the Day of the Dead themed collection.
I actually have the exact bike featured on this label, more or less. With the basket too! I just love the image of myself rolling through the after-life on it, hair blowing in the wind, and one of my many departed feline friends riding happily along in the basket, because you know, anything is possible in the next world, so cats may enjoy the motion of riding in a basket on a pink cruiser.
Wine pairing for your dead.
As I thought about how to approach this post, it occurred to me that I could dedicate different wines to those who have passed on. Some wines have a story, or invoke a feeling that reminds us of someone. It could be the name of the wine, or how it was made, or a wine that your loved one enjoyed, or always wanted to try. So I invite you to think about your dead and what wine matches them. What would you pair with the memory of _____? I will give some examples!
My Paternal Grandparents: Jennie Rose Shacklette Snawder and John Warren Snawder. This is their wedding photo, circa 1938. They were country folk, though they are all spruced up here, from Kentucky. Grandpa enjoyed his bourbon, and after he passed, we discovered Grandma did as well. He actually made wine, of the Concord grape. For these two, the absolutely most befitting wine, that I know of, to dedicate in their memory is a Zinfandel, aged in Bourbon barrels! And it is called 1000 Stories, which also reminds me of them, because they had/have lots of stories!
ABV: 15.4% (Grandparents approved!)
Retails for $16-$20 on-line options
Tasting notes: Made in small batches, like bourbon, this wine has the characteristic fruitedness of zinfandel with hints of peppery spice. The finish shows earthy smokiness from the bourbon barrels. Yummy!
Isn't this fun? NEXT!
For my Maternal Grandparents: Lois Geraline Smith Nall and Harold Eugene Nall, I went through a series of wine ideas in my head before settling on one. He liked going to the track and betting on the ponies. With Churchill Downs right there, his hobby was easy to indulge. There are so many wines with horse themes. But did this represent her also? She liked chocolate and always painted her nails and wore red lipstick. What combined the two of them? I thought more about what they both gave me. That is so simple. Love. Lots and lots of love. And I have the exemplary wine for them!
Retails for $18-$20. on-line options here.
Tasting notes: The nose is subtle with a hint of stone fruit. The palate is ripe and refreshing citrus with a strong grapefruit finish. It is so easy drinking, even with that high acidity. Would pair well with lots of creatures of the sea. This wine is pure LOVE!
Bring on the pets.
Next up, I bring you Rosé. The cat. She was a scrappy one, weighing in at half a pound when we first brought her home. She grew into a long and modelesque cat. I adored her. She was always somewhat on the feral side. Not a cuddler. Didn't purr. She was hilarious though. She brought us so much joy. For her, obviously we need a rosé, but a formidable one.
2014 Artazuri Garnacha
100% Garnacha grapes from Navarra, Spain
Retails for $12-$20, on-line options
Tasting notes: This is a lovely and bold rosado. I got a strong sensation of watermelon on the palate. It is fruity for sure, but finishes with a bite. Kinda like Rosé the cat. This is a good one.
Lastly, we remember the dogs. Gabe came across an aptly titled wine in recognition of all the dogs he has had: Sammy Jo, Bear and Buster. You can read about Buster in a previous post here. Good dog. We haven't uncorked this one, but plan to soon.
So how will you honor your dead?
What wine will you choose for them and why?