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Seven Deadly Zins

Seven Deadly Zins from Michael David Winery in Lodi, photographed at JV Wines and Spirits in Napa, is one of many weird wine labels that pair well with Halloween. Sasha Paulsen/Register

For some wine lovers, “sparkling white zinfandel” is scary enough, but many wineries have marketed wines with truly spooky labels. 

Maybe the most obvious is Vampire wine. Oddly, it’s not from Transylvania in Romania where vampires reportedly originate (though Romanians have supplied wine to the label in the past) but from Vampire Vineyards in Los Angeles. It comes in a variety of flavors, from pinot grigio to cabernet. Vampire Vineyards also markets Dracula syrah, pinot noir and zinfandel, Trueblood pinot noir and Chateau de Vampire wines.

It should be noted that unlike vampires, Dracula was a real person. Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia (called Vlad Tepes — the Impaler) or Count Dracula was a hero among Romanians for fighting the Turks that occupied his country in the 15th century. He learned his unpleasant form of execution from them.

Werewolf wine does come from Transylvania. It comes in a number of popular varieties, and costs under $10. It’s aged in Transylvanian oak barrels.

Wineries generally choose these off-beat names in hopes of attracting attention — and sales — but not all of the wines are novelties. Some are serious wines with long traditions.

One is Bull’s Blood (Egri Bikaver), the well-known table wine from Hungary. It’s a blended red wine with a long and respected history.

Some say that the name refers to the deep color of the wine, but according to legend, the name originates from the invasion of Suleiman the Magnificent around 1552. During the siege of Eger castle, the soldiers were served delicious food and a lot of red wine. Among the Turkish soldiers it was rumored that bull’s blood was mixed into the red wine, as otherwise they could not explain the strength and firm resistance of the town and castle of Eger.  

Another serious wine with a long history is Concha y Toro’s Casillero del Diablo ( “little cellar of the devil”) from Chile, one of the company’s most popular reds. Founder Don Melchor created the legend that the devil lived in his cellar when he discovered his finest Concha y Toro wines were missing. Since then, the wine has been known as Casillero del Diablo, the devil's cellar.

The popularity of the wine has led to a whole range of excellent wines, most great values.

A Haunted Winery wine seems an obvious candidate for Halloween as does one from Blasted Church Winery in British Columbia.

An Australian wine to look for is Cockfighter’s Ghost.

From here in the valley comes Big Red Monster Rutherford red blend. Also local is Napa Wine Company’s Bonder Wine No. 9 Ghost Block brand, based on vines in the former Indian site just north of Yountville. According to local lore, George C. Yount, the first person to plant a grapevine in the Valley, wanders the hillside overseeing the vast spectrum of an industry he founded on this very land. 

The Louis Martini winery has a Ghost Pine vineyard in Chiles Valley, while Gray Ghost Vineyards is in Virginia. Many ghost wineries have been brought back to life in Napa Valley, of course.

In Washington, in-your-face winemaker Charles Smith makes “The Velvet Devil” merlot, “Old Bones” syrah and “Skull” syrah.

From Spain comes Spanish Demon Tempranillo from 25-year-old family-owned vineyards close to Laguardia, a medieval village in the heart of Rioja Alavesa, the northern region of Rioja, Spain.  

Black cats figure on some wine labels, as well. Zeller Schwartzkatz  (black cat cellar) is a well-known riesling, but Black Cat riesling is another option. There’s also a Black Cat cabernet for those who prefer darker cats.

Eye of the Toad and Bat’s Rock could be used in potions with a bit of Hocus Pocus wine. The former comes from Toad Hollow winery in Healdsburg, the latter from South Africa.

These potions might be used by witches like those that inspired Witch Creek Winery in Carlsbad. Witches Falls Winery in Australia or Les Sorcières in Roussillon in France. 

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They might also use Poizin, Sonoma Couty “wine to die for” according to its producers, Armida Wines.

Evil Cabernet Sauvignon comes from R Wines in Australia, and Pinot Evil has come from Romania in the past, too. The latest is from southern France, and it’s part of the Wine Group’s generally good value wines in distinctive Octavin cartons.

Lodi seems to inspire odd names like Twisted Vines Old Ghost Old Vine Zinfandel from Klinker Brick Winery. Michael David Winery in Lodi produces a long list weird labels including 7 Deadly Zins (and 7 Heavenly Chards), along with Sixth Sense, Lust, Sloth and Rapture.  

Both Owen Roe’s Sinister Hand and Australia’s Dead Arm Shiraz suggest evil goings on, too. In Roe’s case, the family crest depicts a severed left hand that tells the story of a rowing competition among the O'Neills and the O'Reillys (Owen Roe was an O'Neill). Whoever touched land first after rowing across a lake was rewarded with the land he touched. Since they were lagging, one of his kinsfolk grabbed his sword to cut off his hand and pitched it ashore to touch land first. He won the land and eventually ruled over it as king.

Twisted Oak Winery in Calaveras County makes a wine called River of Skulls. Elk Creek Vineyards in Kentucky produces Bone Dry Red cabernet sauvignon, with an eerie skull on the label, as well as Ghostly White chardonnay. 

The Prisoner has become a popular name in spite of — or perhaps partly because — of its odd name. From Orin Swift Cellars in Rutherford, it’s made by winemaker Dave Phinney.

It’s not surprising that a weird name from iconoclast Randall Grahm shows up, for he developed Big House Red and White, named after the prison at Soledad near its original vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  

Grahm’s Le Cigare Volante (flying cigar, a French name for flying saucers) could hold sinister aliens. He also offers Vinferno.

And, finally, at least one Halloween-themed wine seems to have a benign name: Pumpkin Wine produced by North Dakota’s Maple River Winery, though the idea of the wine itself is certainly scary.

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