Everything Pumpkin Paired with #MerlotMe: Trick or Treat from Napa Ghost Winery Flora Springs

So far 2020 has been all tricks, no treats.

You can change that by treating yourself to this sweet treat: wines from Napa Valley’s Ghost Winery Flora Springs paired with a pumpkin everything dinner.

an inspiring pumpkin themed tableau at the Bees Knees, Los Osos

First off, what’s a Ghost Winery:

  • It’s a winery that died and returned from the dead to haunt us with yummy wine!!
  • In 1920, California wineries numbered 700.
  • In 1933, only 40 were left.
  • The wineries that didn’t make it are known as “ghost wineries” as all that was left was the ghost of the winery.
    Learn more about a few of California’s ghost wineries here.

a selection of Flora Springs wines

While not as devastating as the period when so many wineries became ghosts of their former selves because of Prohibition and disease that wiped them out, in the past few years, scenic Napa Valley has been hit hard: tourism was finally recovering after recent fires, then COVID closures and concerns cancelled many people’s trips, then the 2020 fires came at the worst possible time– during harvest raising fears of smoke taint. Read more in this post about Castello di Amorosa which lost a building full of wine and this post about Charles Krug which is hosting a tent city of workers repairing utility poles and where MusiKaravan visited last week.

And you can help support Napa Fire Relief too!

All Hallows merlot, Ghost Winery Malbec, plus Flora Springs Merlot and Rose paired well with pumpkin empanadas

Speaking of tricks and treats, Sue showed up late to our tasting, and Sue is never late. When she was an hour overdue, I started to worry. Turns out she had tricked herself into locking her keys and her phone in her car!  After that stressful event, these wines were certainly a treat!

Fortunately, we had planned a simple midweek menu, because who wants to be stressed out on Halloween? She still managed to pull off this fantastic meal where the wines were perfect pairings as we had hoped they would be.

For a Halloween cheese board, choose a variety — from creamy to hard, blue to brie– and don’t forget a cheese with a bright orange color like Red Leicester!

Everything Pumpkin Menu
a festive yet easy midweek meal

  • Cheese board:
    prosciutto, blue cheese, pepper Toscana, herbed brie, oil cured olives, Marcona almonds, red leisceter, stilton with mango and ginger, ripe pear
  • Fresh raw oysters
    with a squeeze of lemon
  • Pumpkin empanadas
    frozen from Trader Joe’s on a bed of greens
  • Colorful fall salad
    with feta, roasted beets, squash
  • Pumpkin soup
    fresh from Trader Joe’s served in a roasted pumpkin with sheep feta and sage leaves
  • Squash Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms
    with wild rice, Italian chicken fennel sausage, mushrooms, pecans (recipe below)


a family style meal with pumpkin soup in a roasted pumpkin, squash and sausage stuffed portabellas, roasted squash and beet salad

We served the food family style– heaping the greens on a large platter, placing the soup in the small pumpkin in the middle, the stuffed portabellas around, then adding the beets, squash and cheese. Very colorful and tasty too!

Flora Springs Wines:
all samples for my review consideration; no other compensation

Built between 1860 and 1900 but abandoned in the early 20’s due to vine disease, the Great Depression, and Prohibition, what is now known as Flora Springs was originally planted in 1885 by the Rennie Brothers. A 1900 fire along with these other challenges turned the property into a ghost winery from 1904 until 1933 when Louis Martini bought it and lived there until he died in the 1970s. In 1977, Jerry and Flora Komes bought the property, renovated, and restored it. Since 2010, Flora Springs has offered a special bottling with distinct labels “Ghost Winery” labels on small amounts of estate-grown wines to highlight the winery’s “haunted” history.

  • 2019 Flora Springs Rosé, Napa Valley Family Estate
  • 2017 Flora Springs Merlot, Napa Valley Family Estate
  • 2016 Flora Springs All Hallows’ Eve Merlot, Napa Valley Family Estate 
  • 2018 Flora Springs “Ghost Winery Malbec” Napa Valley Family Estate

We chose these four from the eight Flora Springs samples at my house knowing that the rose would go so well with the roasted vegetables and the sausage.

If there’s one characteristic for these three red wines, it’s SMOOTH. Shop for the Halloween wines here.

The winery also offers a “Drink In Peace” GLOW IN THE DARK bottle of Merlot and a trilogy of winemaker’s terrors; images courtesy of Flora Springs.



Still to come: samples of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet (read about previous vintages here)and the Flora Springs flagship wine, Trilogy; read about the 2015 here.



2019 Flora Springs Rosé, Napa Valley
ABV 14.2%; SRP $26

More than a porch pounder, this wine will bring to life any meal where you are serving ham, or smoked turkey, making this an ideal holiday wine.

A blend of Sangiovese and Syrah grapes grown in sustainably-farmed Napa Valley vineyards, this Rosé was made using the Saignée method where grape skins remain in contact with the juice for a short time to only give a little color. They suggest pairing with paella, shrimp in a Thai green curry sauce, or a vegetarian quiche.

Color: Rose pink, very pink, very clear, almost like candy apple

Nose: Fresh fruit. watermelon, strawberry, carnation, rose petal, interesting nose.

Palate: Cherry, watermelon, strawberry. Sue got an herbal finish, while mine was more bubble gum. Sue picked out pine characteristics that I did not get at first, but eventually came to realize what she was talking about.

Pairing: Fantastic with prosciutto, and pepper crusted Toscano. It loved the red Leicester cleans the palate and brings out fruit in the wine. We loved the wine with our ginger apricot stilton to take it over the top put a bit of the apricot stilton on top of a slice of  pear will take this pleasurable experience to another level. It was amazing.  Great with our pumpkin soup, loved the stuffed portobello, the sausage, the rice the nuts, were perfect with the wine. Also fantastic with the roasted beets and squash in the salad. Great meal matched with a wine that could carry it through. The simple roasted squash and beet salad highlights the fruit in the wine.

2017 Flora Springs Merlot, Napa Valley Family Estate
ABV 14.2%; SRP $38; 6 pack special for $136.80

This was the year of the first big fire in Napa and Sonoma, followed by the Thomas Fire in my hometown of Ventura that spread to Ojai and Santa Barbara. I can assure you– there is no sign of smoke taint in this 2017 wine.

The vintage began with plenty of rain, bringing an end to a five year drought and everything grew like crazy, including the vines. A Labor Day heat wave followed by cooler temperatures in mid-September, gave the fruit a little extra time before an early harvest which finished on Saturday, October 7; the Tubbs fire began the next day, October. 8.

Sustainably-farmed vineyards in Oakville, St. Helena and Rutherford that the family has owned and farmed for decades supplies the fruit for this 100% Merlot which spent 20 months in mostly French oak barrels. They suggest pairing it with cumin-scented roast pork tenderloin, tomato risotto, pizza margherita or pasta with ricotta and lemon (sorry but I’m not on board for this final suggestion!)

Color: Ruby, bright red rim, medium hue

Nose:  Lots of blue fruit, baking spices, herbs, vanilla, cherry, cocoa powder, oak woodland.

Palate: Fruit forward, cherry, silky smooth tannins, oak, if this was not oaked, this would be a fruit bomb, this is a very smooth wine.

Cherry chocolate cordial, very much a cocktail wine, no food is needed to enjoy a glass of this wine.

Pairing: That being said, food on your palate makes all the difference in the character of this wine– food balances the fruit. Really good with the herbed brie, great with prosciutto, but it made me want a pizza with it on it. we were thinking this would be a great brunch wine. Fantastic with our black pepper crusted tocsano, very nice with the beet root salad.

Actually it went very well with everything we had on our plate tonight. This wine loves the grilled flavors of the portobello, and the nutty richness of the stuffing so play off the flavors of the wine.

DON’T BE AFRAID! If this wine sounds good to you, you can pick up a 2017 Napa Valley Merlot Six-Pack for 40% off with shipping included for $136.80. And then you can participate in Merlot Day Nov. 7!

  • Order one or more Flora Springs Napa Valley Merlot.
  • Go online November 7 where they will be talking about Merlot all day.
  • Follow Flora Springs on your favorite social site: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest.
  • Enter to win: Tweet or Instagram Flora Springs on November 7 using hashtag #MerlotDay and tag @florasprings in your tweets/posts.
  • They will pick one lucky Flora Springs fan to win a Flora Springs prize pack.

2016 Flora Springs All Hallows’ Eve Merlot, Napa Valley
ABV 14.2%; SRP $40

“I wanted the label to illustrate how crazy winemakers look by the time Halloween arrives at the end of harvest, after weeks of nonstop work and very few hours of sleep,” Nate Komes told Anthony Yankovic, a graphic artist who designs illustrations for skateboards, snow boards, and album covers.  The result? A be-deviled pumpkin climbing out of a wine barrel and surrounded by flying bat-grape clusters. They suggest pairing it with lemon roasted chicken, slow-cooked lamb stew, or a spinach risotto with taleggio cheese.
With only 100 cases made, this is a special MerlotMe Month treat for $40.

Color: Ruby plum, mauve rim

Nose: Cherry fruit and herbs, nice complexity, baking spice and bramble fruit, some minerality, so many rich layers on the nose.

Palate: This wine rolls across the palate so nicely. Rich and satisfying, very fulfilling. Cherry, eucptalyptus, menthol, balanced tannins, beautiful texture. This can be enjoyed as a cocktail wine as well, but should be exceptional with our evening meal. Very long lingering, pleasant, finish.

Pairing: Fab with sourdough bread. Sue talked me into trying it with a piece of our ginger apricot stilton, and she was right on. So so good. Nice with the Toscano cheese. Great with our pumpkin empanadas. After tasting that, we could imagine this wine being able to tackle the right menu from beginning to end. From a cheese plate, through a rich pasta dish, to a  pumpkin pie ending. Fabulous with our salt cured olives. The saltiness brings out the fruit and the fruit brings out the richness in the wine. Think olive bread, olive tapenade with anchovies, putscanesca sauce. Did not go great with our pumpkin soup tonight, a bit to bitter, too salty and too yuck. The salad however was a different story, it loved the earthiness of the roasted beets, the roasted butternut squash again fantastic with the salad.  It does however love the sausage in the stuffed portobello mushrooms, as well as the squash and the pecans, The crunchy nutty top of the stuffed mushroom dish was so fantastic with the wine. Loves the roasted flavors of the rice and the pecans

2018 Flora Springs “Ghost Winery Malbec” Napa Valley
ABV 14.2%; SRP $60
only 400 cases 

As described above, Flora Springs is one of these ghost wineries that also happens to be the home of John Komes and his wife Carrie. Built in 1885, the Charles Brockhoff Winery made wine there until Prohibition. A small amount of Malbec grows from the vines in front of John’s home, the old Brockhoff winery, which goes into this wine. They suggest pairing it with pulled pork sandwiches, pesto-laced pasta, smoky barbecued lamb or a nice charcuterie plate. I’d definitely like to try it with pulled pork or lamb!

Big hefty bottle is heavy to lift…

Color: Ruby, medium plus density. dusty rose rim

Nose: Blue fruit and cocoa, mocha, not a complex nose, but nor is it off putting, putty, clay, iris, violet, ginger, turmeric, roots, very earthen.

Palate: Blueberry, blueberry pie, blueberry cheesecake, ripe baked blueberries, this is the smoothest Malbec you will ever find. It is lacking the grippy tannins of more traditional Malbec. This is a very easy drinking Malbec. Smooth blueberry pie, rich roasted blueberries. You would never mistake this wine for one from France!

Pairing: I went straight to our pumpkin empanada first and found that it is not bad, but not what I wanted. I am not a vegetarian, and I wanted some meat, a bit of sausage, to balance the wine and the sweetness of the empanada. Loved our gorgonzola cheese, which was surprising because we don’t usually pair the two together. The salad had a freshness and purity that went so well with the wine. So many layers of yum when paired with our stuffed portobellos. The crunch, the nut, the earth and the fruit all brought together with the wine. End of the night perfect bite: a little salad mixed with the stuffed portobello on my plate. A little bit of this, and a little bit of that.

All of these wines we liked on their own, but we absolutely loved each and every one of them with our meal tonight. We seem to write about Flora Springs and their Holiday wines every year and are never disappointed.

Sue’s Squash Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms
with wild rice, Italian chicken fennel sausage, mushrooms, pecans
4 to 6 stuffed mushrooms depending on the size of the mushrooms

  • Cook 1 cup wild rice medley according to package directions
  • Roast 1 small butternut squash in 350 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes then peel and cube.
  • While squash and rice cook, remove and chop portabella stems.
  • Saute until browned 2 Italian sausage links with casings removed with chopped stems from 4 portobello mushrooms
  • Add cooked rice and cubed squash to Italian sausage mixture.
  • Add 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • Add 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Take 1 cup of rice mixture and pack tightly on top of a portobello mushroom
  • Top with 1 T crumbled feta
  • Cook on grill for 15 minutes or in 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes




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