Gnarly Head offers wicked Halloween flavors

October 30, 2013 

Although we often think of Halloween as being a night for children to dress up in their favorite costumes and go door to door saying "trick or treat," it is actually one of the biggest party days of the year for all of those big kids that remain in each of us.

Even though many people don't want to admit it, deciding on that perfect party costume can be loads of fun. Once we get dressed up in a wicked costume, then it's time to get downright gnarly. Uh, Gnarly Head Wines, that is. And, even better, these wines won't scare the bejeepers out of your wallet as they retail in the $8 to $12 range, depending on which varietal you choose.

If you have ever encountered some 50-year-old Zinfandel vines during one of your trips to wine country, then you completely understand what "gnarly" describes in the world of wine.

In searching for great Zinfandel, Gnarly Head Wines founders started their search in California's Lodi appellation that is synonymously called "Zin-famous" due to climate and soil conditions that are ideal for growing the Zinfandel varietal. It was there that they found vineyards holding vines that were anywhere from 35 to 80 years old. It was fitting that they named their wine company Gnarly Head because, according to the winery, "after all, it is all about the vine."

The first taste of the 2012 Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel made my mouth water for some of those spicy barbecue baby back ribs that are a staple on my grill. The deep purple color of this Zinfandel benefits from being blended with a small amount of Petite Sirah that also adds some dark fruit flavor components to this powerhouse

that contains blackberry and black cherry flavors with a hint of chocolate.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines are usually my favorites. It makes sense that the 2011 Gnarly Head Authentic Red was a big hit and it also goes nicely with the spicy ribs. Although this wine is about half Zinfandel, the remainder of the blend is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, creating a well-balanced and smooth tasting wine that has dark fruit flavors with hints of spice and plum.

If you are a fan of lightly oaked Chardonnay wines, try the 2012 Gnarly Head Chardonnay since only 40 percent of the juice underwent malolactic fermentation, creating a wine that is well-rounded and contains citrus flavors with honeysuckle overtones. As you are finishing up the ribs, add some skewers of large fresh Florida shrimp to your grill for the perfect complement to this Chardonnay.

On the other hand, if you want a refreshing, zesty wine, don't look past the 2012 Gnarly Head Pinot Grigio. Although the nectarine and citrus flavors wine will help this Pinot Grigio pair nicely with the grilled shrimp, it doesn't need food to be enjoyed.

It seems like often we don't step outside that invisible box and try wines that are unfamiliar, but don't be a scaredy cat and give the Gnarly treasures a swirl.

Jim Rawe, a family attorney in Bradenton, is an avid collector of fine wines. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at

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