Uncorked: Four unique wines deliver a ‘trick’ and a ‘treat’

Suspense builds after the doorbell rings.

A series of trials had taken place before “trick or treat” was said. By the time bags were filled with candy, its quality had been well debated. Friends and I wondered if we’d get something good, and could it be determined by the landscaping or style of the house? Or maybe was it the make and model of the car in the driveway?

Fortunately, the dreaded “trick” of a few pennies, the orange Circus Peanuts or, even worse, the homemade popcorn ball, were always outnumbered by Reese’s peanut butter cups, Kit Kats, Snickers, Skittles or another popular brand “treat” that kept my dentist busy through my adolescence.

This Halloween, the wines featured here are a “trick,” not because they are as unwelcome as Circus Peanuts for my taste, but because they share being drastically different from the norm. They’re sure to deliver a “treat” for anyone at a Halloween party.

Because he’s running constant trials, Patrick Saboe long ago laid the groundwork for the blend of the Anarchist Wine Co. Freudian Slip 2017 ($38) that was 57% sangiovese, 19% grenache, 19% pinot noir, 2% viognier, 2% gewürztraminer and 1% sauvignon blanc.

While nothing about the wine moves in a straight line, the juicy red fruit that’s so fresh on the nose leads to similar flavors of raspberry, strawberry with notes of conifer, with a fresh minerality. There’s a lot going on, but the supple mouthfeel plays well off the fruit flavor’s fresh acidity.

“I like to experiment and see what we come up with,” Saboe said. “The best parts in life are unexpected and ones where you are challenged to look at things in a different way.”

It’s a “trick” that meets the criteria for which wine club members and Anarchist followers search.

“By and large, our Anarchist wine community members are curious,” Founder Valerie Von Burg said. “They love the new blends, the creativity and the freshness of the brand. The core characteristic of the wine stays the same, but keeps things fresh for the consumers.”

With the wine, Saboe said his vision was to “try to bring together varieties that touch of Chianti with Burgundy, the Rhone with some Alsatian whites.”

If the experience seems familiar, it’s probably because the best things about each region are rolled up into a ball with Freudian Slip. He’s a postmodern artist with this wine; there’s a “been there done this before” aspect, but it’s in an entirely different package.

“On paper, for sure, people wonder what I was thinking that day,” Saboe said. “But I want to make something that’s delicious that people can love.”

If the 2021 Halloween party is bigger than the one in 2020, which is probable for most, consider Gratsi, which pulled a “trick” on me in that it turned out to be quite a “treat.” It was my first boxed wine experience, and I went in with an open mind, but was aware that the category doesn’t carry the best reputation. The sleek white box is easy to carry, and holds the equivalent of four, 750 ml bottles of wine.

The Gratsi sauvignon blanc was approachable, fresh, fruit forward and had just enough crispness on the finish to be true to the varietal. Gratsi co-founder and President Aaron Moore said most retail box wine is loaded with sugar and other mystery ingredients.

Gratsi ships direct to consumer, at www.Gratsi.com, is $45 for a single box, but also offers reduced pricing on multiple purchases and membership. Gratsi’s commitment to socially responsible environmental practices will be part of a future column.

“We get that there is still a stigma with boxed wine,” said Moore in a Zoom call last week. “Most wine in boxes is at a lower price point and not near the quality of wine we are putting in the box.

“We’ve had to educate the consumer on our wine,” he said. “You can have wine, in a box, that is grown. Our partners and growers use impeccable practices, and are incredible growers – we don’t need to add anything to the wine.”

Because sangiovese is not typically associated with California, the Foxen Volpino Santa Ynez Valley 2017 ($36) can “trick” the wine lover with a varietal made famous in Italy. At 77% sangiovese and 23% merlot, the wine over-delivers with fruit flavors of cherry and fig. There are also tobacco and Christmas spice notes with a green-herbal hint on the finish.

Also from Anarchist Wine Co., the Imaginary Friend 2019 ($28) had banana peel and pear on the nose, with flavors of honeydew melon, green apple, kiwi and almonds on a zesty finish. It’s 53% chardonnay, 45% viognier, 1% pinot gris and sauvignon blanc.

It’s another “trick” – a unique blend that Saboe has embraced and mastered. The chardonnay offered some weight on the mid-palate, but the acid on the finish kept things crispy.

At first glance, Saboe’s blending habits are as mixed as a bag of Halloween candy. But he’s always categorizing the wines he makes and tastes to see how they might play in a future wine.

“One of the most important things to do when trying all kinds of different wines is to characterize the results so you can sort back through your data after you do all the experiments,” Saboe said. “It builds your repertoire for future years. The wrong answer is often just as important as some of the right ones.”

• James Nokes has been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Email him at jamesnokes25@yahoo.com.