Tricks for Treats

We are having a Halloween party this year and thought it would be fun to have a wine and candy pairing. Any suggestions? Sincerely, Sarah (McMinnville)

First, I must say, I like your style, and I’ll be expecting my party invite posthaste. To answer your question, I’ve enlisted the help of unofficial candy historian Stephen Gazda, pastry chef at Pauleé Restaurant in Dundee and owner of Portland candy shop Northwest Sweets. Together, we dissected your tongue-tingling quandary. 

It is generally recommended that when pairing wine with sweet bites, you find a wine that is sweeter than the food. In the case of candy, the wine should be extra sweet. 

Since Halloween often conjures up fond memories of days gone by, we have chosen a selection of vintage candy, starting with a time-honored treat, candy corn.

Candy corn, a benchmark of Halloween and autumn in general, has been around since the 1880s. With its flavors of vanilla and honey, I would suggest late harvest Rieslings for a successful pairing. Trisaetum, Soléna Estate, King Estate and Argyle all make great ones.

Caramels, such as Werther’s Original (first made in 1903 in the town of Werther, Germany), are classic confections. As a kid, I remember being given a ton of these golden-wrapped goodies in my trick-or-treat bag. To accentuate their creamy texture, these candies should be paired with wine that has soft, caramel characteristics itself. Anne Amie’s late harvest Muller-Thurgau, Vin Doux Naturel, hits the spot with caramel notes all its own, and hints of candied orange and lemon. 

Smarties have been making kids “smarter” — okay, maybe just more hyper and happier — since 1949. The name has nothing to with brains but instead tasters’ reactions to the tangy tablets — the verb “to smart” means to have one’s face involuntarily pucker. Smarties’ sweet bite screams for semi-sweet bubbles. Not only will a wine like REX HILL’s semi-sparkling Muscat make a smart pairing, but it is also a fun wine to put a Smartie into for a fizzy, sweet and colorful beverage. 

Tootsie Rolls, America’s favorite chewy, chocolatey oblong candies, have been around since 1896 — and if you don’t eat them soon enough, they can taste like it, too. These iconic sweets call for a sweet red wine, such as Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Port. Made from Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay-based brandy, the fortified wine is lighter than a traditional Port, with a delicate red color, fruit-forward notes and a subtle viscosity that makes a perfect way to wash down the chewy chocolate. 

 Not as chewy, but memorable just the same, are peanut clusters Old Faithful, dating back to 1925 in Idaho, and Nut Goodie, a similar treat originating in 1912 in St. Paul, Minn. Both are reminiscent of a Snickers bar (milk chocolate, peanuts and a chewy center), and both pair nicely with Tawny-style Ports like David Hill Pinot Noir Port, aged six years in barrels. Other options include spicier delights such as Anam Cara Cellar’s late harvest Gewürztraminer and Seven of Hearts dessert Viognier. 

Since Halloween is not a humble holiday, close out your wine and candy pairing with a bang … a big bang — or should I say a “big Bing?” — when you serve Christopher’s Big Cherry. Inside its nostalgic pink package, you’ll find a mound of chocolate mixed with crushed peanuts enrobing a sweet, creamy pink center that contains a whole cherry. Now, that’s a Halloween winner! In regard to wine, go “big” and serve Van Duzer “Windfall” Pinot Noir Port, a full-bodied, ruby-style Port with notes of cherry, baking spices and cocoa. Or take it down a notch with a little lighter and a touch spicier option like Troon’s Holiday Cheers dessert wine from Applegate Valley — yes, I realize this is a Christmas beverage, but that really doesn’t matter when it is so delicious. My final suggestion is Cana’s Feast Chinato, a dryer style, after-dinner drink made from wine. Its blood red color and more-savory-than-sweet, herbal and spicy flavors create an amazing synergy with this and other cherry-based candies. 

In the end, as always, it’s a little about listening to advice and a lot about experimentation; and this is the best kind of experimentation: candy and wine. I’ll start working on my costume, and see you in a few weeks, dessert wine in hand and trick-or-treat bag ready to be filled — insert maniacal cackle here.

Cheers, Jennifer Cossey 

I look forward to receiving more of your questions. E-mail me at to submit your questions, and I’ll see you next month! 

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