Summer is over, fall is here, and two major holidays celebrating the harvest season—Halloween and Thanksgiving— are on the way.

Halloween derives from Celtic customs and beliefs. In medieval times it symbolized the end of harvest and the descent into winter. It was believed that on All Hallows’ Eve, the veil between the real world and the netherworld parted, allowing the souls of the dead to revisit their homes. People dressed in costume, went door to door gathering offerings for them. Apple bobbing foretold the future, and bonfires were lit to protect against evil lurking in the shadows.

Today we carry on the pagan tradition with apple bobbing, trick-or-treating, and costumes, and pay little regard to the netherworld. The real dilemma is, what do we serve all those partying ghosties and ghouls? 

Butler Winery Spiced Apple wine. Photo by Rodney Margison

Cider is the traditional Halloween drink, cold from the jug or mulled with spices and served warm. For those who need additional zing, serve hard cider. Oliver Winery Beanblossom Original Hard Cider and Peach Hard Cider ($6 at the winery, 500 ml) are two good choices. The Pilot Project Ginger Apple Fizz ($6 at the winery, 500 ml) is a new twist that could be fun. Or wine. Oliver Bubblecraft Red or Bubblecraft White wines ($11 at the winery) can be served cold by themselves or in a spritzer or cocktail. 

Butler Winery offers Apple Wine ($10.99 at the winery) that can be served cold on its own or in a wine cocktail, and a Spiced Apple wine ($11.99 at the winery) made with a blend of secret spices.

Thanksgiving began as a day for giving thanks and sacrifice for the harvest. Our modern holiday dates from a 1619 Thanksgiving celebration in Berkeley Plantation, Virginia, and a 1621 event in Plymouth, Massachusetts. I consider Riesling and Gewürtztraminer ideal companions to Thanksgiving dinner. Their minerally flavors and acid play well off the fullness of turkey and gravy and the sharp/sweet flavors of the cranberry sauce.

My preference is a very, very dry wine. You may prefer something slightly sweet or very sweet. Kilikanoon 2015 Killerman’s Run Riesling ($17.99, Big Red Liquors) is dry and sharp with that slight essence of diesel common to all Rieslings. Eroica Riesling 2016 ($19.99, Big Red Liquors) carries a smidge of sweetness. Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewürtztraminer 2016 ($10.99, Big Red Liquors) carries delicate spices against an acid backbone, and just a dash of sweetness. Schloss Vollrads 2015 Kabinett Riesling ($24.99, Big Red Liquors) brings the Riesling character in a sweet context.

Fall will soon be gone. Let’s take a quick breather to prepare. The winter holidays are coming. And I’ll drink to that.