Tag Archives: Halloween

A Halloween wine tale 2015: I am Legend


i am legendThe afternoon was cloudy, and Robert Neville didn’t know how long he had until dark. Because he had a lot of work to do – he had made 47 stakes.

It hadn’t always been like this. Before the war and the plague and the dust storms, when Virginia and Kathy were alive and people lived on Cimarron Street, life was normal. Or it had seemed that way, driving to work with Ben Cortman, having dinner with Virginia and a nice $10 bottle of wine, and enjoying the weekend barbecues with the other families on Cimarron Street.

Cortman, who lived a couple of house down, always knew where to get the best wine deals. He could find a terrific Sicilian red or a Spanish white or even a French rose for as little as $8, and when Neville asked him how he did it, Cortman would smile and make his usual bad joke: “If I told you, I’d have to kill you.”

Which, of course, is what Cortman was trying to do now. Neville, his 47 stakes driven into 47 lifeless but not dead bodies, was barricaded in the house on Cimarron Street, waiting for daybreak. He had barred the windows, even boarded them up, had reinforced and bolted the doors, and surrounded all with so much garlic that the stench was a permanent part of his life.

Still, the noise from the hundreds of people – if you could call them that – was deafening, and it seemed to get louder every night. Neville knew he must soundproof a room soon; otherwise, the howling was going to make him even crazier than he was afraid he already was.

“Come out, Neville!” Cortman was screaming like he did every night. “We’re ready for you, Neville. We have our Napa cabs and our Super Tuscans, and they all got 98 points. Don’t you want some?”


Neville didn’t remember exactly when the plague started. But he remembered the results – people who had thought Bogle was a splurge bringing cult 15 ½ percent pinot noirs to the barbecues, Cortman subscribing to every wine magazine he could find and talking about cigar box aromas and dusty tannins, and Virginia – God, his sweet, gentle Virginia – telling him to pry open his wallet to buy some wine that actually had flavors she could taste.

Neville, though, seemed immune from the plague. He had been stationed in France during the war, and maybe it was the vin ordinaire he had drunk. All he knew was that as the world went high alcohol and over-extracted around him, all he wanted was a little terroir.

So he made stakes, lots and lots of stakes.


They still came every night, Cortman and their wailing about $2,000 first growths, but Neville had accepted it. It was them and the end of wine as he loved it, or his daylight bloodletting. There didn’t seem to be a choice.

And then one morning, after he had cleaned out a particularly nasty den, with dozens of empty bottles of 97-pointers and wine magazine back issues open to the tasting notes, he saw her.

She was sitting at a table in the park in daylight, drinking what looked like a Gascon white blend, and reading the book with the green bottle and the brown hat on the cover. And it was daylight. Neville blinked, couldn’t believe what he saw, and then ran screaming toward her. Could it be? Could there be someone else?


Her name was Ruth, and she said all the right things. She had been to Italy, had acquired her immunity there, had been running and hiding since the plague started. The same thing had happened to her husband and two sons that had happened to Virginia and Kathy.

Still, Neville wasn’t sure. Maybe it was the way she seemed to be forcing down those 12 percent whites, as if drinking them hurt her. Maybe it was the way she did say all the right things, as if she knew that’s what he needed to hear. But she was out in the daylight. How could that be if she was one of them?


When the end came, Neville wasn’t surprised. “I never really believed you,” he told Ruth.

Ruth and her colleagues, most of whom wrote about wine on the Internet, had captured him that morning. They had mutated, had adapted to the plague the way human beings have always adapted. They could live in the light, but they weren’t like Neville.

“It’s better this way,” she said. “Your time is past. We’re going to remake the wine world, so that there is room for everyone, whether you want to spend $10 or $20 or even $50. Even if I don’t like high alcohol, isn’t it OK if someone else does?”

Neville smiled. He could see the others, standing behind Ruth, crowding to get a glimpse of him. And then, before they led him to his death, as he watched them, he realized why they feared – and maybe even admired – him: “I am legend.”

A tip o’ the Curmudgeon’s fedora to the late Richard Matheson. He was a brilliant horror writer who is too little known to mainstream audiences, no doubt because “I am Legend” was turned into three crappy movies, and whose work included the William Shatner Twilight Zone, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” “I am Legend” is not only a first-rate horror story, but its paranoid, noir style speaks to the Cold War era when it was written.

For more Halloween wine tales:
A Halloween wine tale 2014: Frankenstein
A Halloween wine tale 2013: Dracula

A Halloween wine tale 2014

alloween Frankenstein

“It’s alive….”

Lightning flamed across the night sky, and the Baron saw the dark clouds piling through his laboratory skylight. A storm was coming. The electricity cut out for a couple of seconds, came back. The Baron took a deep breath. “It’s now or never,” he said, and he laughed, loudly, fanatically, and was more sure than ever that what he was doing was right, doing the one thing that would make the world a better place for the wine he knew people should drink – darker, heavier, fruitier, more alcoholic.

“Igor, prepare the equipment. We are about to create the perfect wine writer.” And he laughed the laugh of the damned.

The Baron had not always cared about wine. He had always enjoyed it, of course, whether cult cabernets from Napa Valley, hard to find Super Tuscans from Italy, or inky, 99-point Australian shirazes. He was an important man, a researcher and a scientist, the son of the one of the most powerful families in the land. He bought wine worthy of his status, to remind people who he was and what he could afford. And he never, ever drank anything that scored less than 95 points.

But the world was changing. People were drinking wine he didn’t like, and he didn’t understand why. How could they enjoy unoaked chardonnays? Or light red blends? Or even, God forbid, rose? And the critics he loved, the men who had defended the 95-point bastion, were not what they once were. One had even retired, and the Baron was shocked at the news. How could his heroes be so frail? How could they be so human?

That’s when wine became something more for the Baron. It became his obsession; his colleagues, whispering behind his back, called it his curse. His fiancee, worried, came to visit the Baron at his ancestral home deep in the mountains, but he barely had time for her. All he did, she wrote her father in long, tear-stained letters, was cut out reviews from Wine Spectator buying guides and clip articles from back issues of the Wine Advocate. And when he wasn’t doing that, she wrote, he was locked in the laboratory with Igor, and she would hear hisses and hums throughout the night.

The night before she left at the end of October, and knowing the man she loved had crossed the line from sanity to somewhere unthinkable, she heard him tell Igor: “The brain is ready. We’ve loaded it with all the information, all the scores, all the descriptors. We are ready to create life!”

“Power on!”

Igor flicked a series of switches, and the laboratory came alive, rotors whirring and condensers humming.

“Now, Igor, now,” and his assistant turned two knobs in succession. The Baron, shaking, knew it was time, and he pushed the button. The machinery burst with light, and the Baron could almost see the power surge through the cluster of wires attached to what looked like a man lying on the table.

The body twitched once, twice. The head rose, fell back. One arm moved, and then the other. Next, the left leg, followed by the right. The Baron was laughing, crying, screaming, when he heard a voice from the body on the table — slowly and shakily at first, but soon steady enough: “The cedar, tar, and black currant are passionately entwined, and the wine is intense, with a smoky, exotic nose and sweet jammy fruit – 97 points.”

The Baron lifted his head to the heavens: “It’s alive! Oh, in the name of God, It’s alive. Now I know what it feels like to be the publisher of the Wine Spectator.”

The first report came from the village market, where a blocky, man-like creature had knocked over a display of sauvignon blanc: “This is not serious wine,” shouted the Monster. “Where is the oak?”

Then the owner of the local wine shop watched in horror as the Monster ripped a dozen books in two – the one with the brown hat and green bottle on the cover – and destroyed the section with the Oregon pinot noir. “Only 12 1/2 percent,” cried the Monster. “Where is the alcohol?”

The townspeople caught up with the Monster near the cliff outside the Baron’s castle; there had been broken bottles of $10 Sicilian whites scattered in his wake for blocks. “Stop him,” cried one, “block his path,” said another, and the crowed formed between the Monster and the castle, cutting off his escape.

The Baron had worked his way to the Monster’s side. “Stop it,” he said, and grabbed the Monster’s hands in his. “This is life. This is creation. This is the perfect wine writer. Never again will a cava get a 94.”

But the Monster wasn’t listening. “Do you want to advertise in our Wines of Bordeaux issue?” he asked the Baron. The Baron, confused, shook his head no, and the Monster picked up him like an empty wine box and tossed him over the side. “The best way to ensure a timely review is to advertise,” he told the crowd, but they would have none of it. First one rock came at his head, and then another, and then more and then bottles and branches, too, and the Monster lurched and sidestepped awkwardly until he was at the edge of the cliff and then he was over it, spiraling downward.

“It’s time to go home,” said the wine shop owner as the Monster fell out of sight. “There are no monsters now, only the wine we want to drink.”

A tip o’ the Curmudgeon’s fedora to Universal Studios and director James Whale for giving me something terrific to steal again this year after last year’s Hammer Film’s Dracula effort. The photos are courtesy of FrankensteinFilms.com, using a Creative Commons license.

Winebits 357: Special Halloween edition


halloween wineBecause the Wine Curmudgeon always gets a giggle when others try to turn Halloween into a wine holiday.

31 Halloween wines: Seriously? Indeed, says GreatWineNews. All of the usual wines are there, like Phantom and Ghost Pines, plus some I’ve never heard of and some that seem like a stretch, including a rose. And the writing, much of which seems to be a cut and paste job from winery sites, manages to find almost every cliche, Halloween and otherwise: “With a name like River of Skulls, you know it has to be good…”

Seriously, though: Food & Wine’s Ray Isle does one of the best jobs among the Winestream Media in making wine accessible and interesting, and makes the same attempt with this slideshow (let’s juice up those page views) for Halloween wine. It’s not a recent list, though difficult to tell how old it is, but the wines included are still adequate for drinking. Maybe it’s the way my mind works, but I’ve written about d’Arenberg’s The Dead Arm Shiraz several times over the past couple of years, and have never once thought of it in conjunction with Halloween.

Do it yourself: I am about the least handy person in the world; my greatest accomplishments in that regard are using a corkscrew and tightening door knobs. So anytime anyone can do something crafty, no matter how silly, I’m impressed. Karen Kravett, an Internet crafting type, shows how to turn wine bottles into Halloween decorations. Again, something else that never crossed my mind. 

Powered by WordPress | Designed by: suv | Thanks to toyota suv, infiniti suv and lexus suv