Those who panicked when the rains came earlier this month and picked, perhaps a wee bit prematurely, are certainly ruing that decision now, as the unseasonably mild, and unusually long Indian Summer weather has come to roost like a late bunch of Canadian Geese. What's good for the goose may well be even better for the gander, as those who gandered on an improvement in conditions are sitting pretty right now. Livermore Valley overall is in pretty good shape, compared to other areas where shatter in the spring led to poor fruit set and cool weather caused many vineyard owners to drop fruit to the point of no return on investment. The big downside is lower crop yields on the grapes everyone wants most: the benefit is that those in oversupply are now naturally mitigated. It is ever thus in the continuing circle of life. I've heard from folks in the Monterey AVA that several wineries have so many ducks in the freezer, they're not going hunting this year, leaving their grapes to others to bag. Smaller, newer labels looking for cheap fruit might get their wish. Many vineyards have already declared their crops a loss to their insurance companies. Luckily, that's not the case in Livermore.

Here in the Livermore Valley, Steven Kent reports that they are still patiently waiting for their reds to come in. Their whites are all put to bed, but the red Bordeaux varietals still linger on the vine. Warm weather and the prodigious wind over the last several days have helped to dry out the vineyards and moderately move sugar levels higher. It is anticipated that warm temperatures will continue for the next 7 to 10 days, which means Cabernet from the Home Ranch should come in over Halloween weekend. Things will be a bit later at the Ghielmetti Estate Vineyard, given its deeper soils and higher elevation. Steven and company are still expecting the majority of the Bordeaux varieties to be ready there in the first two weeks of November. At this point, there is no rain in the forecast for the early part of November, which is certainly good news.

Just in time for Halloween, there are some very nice treats available for filling up those empty slots in your wine cellar.

With the current wine release, Rodrigue Molyneaux (RM) has introduced a rasher of fresh and beautiful wine labels. Now it's time to move out the old and bring in the new. While supplies last, visit RM for the next few weekends, beginning October 29 (or until it is gone), and receive 15% off a case of wine made up of "retired" labels.  At these prices, they'll fly out the door like candy on Halloween, so get them while you can.

For example, there are only two and a half cases left of 2008 Primitivo, a wine very similar to Zinfandel, but with a much spicier finish. Aged in American oak, the coconut flavors really add some nice complexity to this wine, which already has a great nose and lots of dark berry undertones. This wine pairs nicely with BBQ pork or beef ribs, as well as spicy pasta Bolognese. And get this, only 15 cases remain of 2008 Cabiovese, a really delicious blend of estate grown 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 75% Sangiovese: definitely a crowd-pleaser. The Cabernet gives it backbone and structure, while the Sangiovese adds zippy excitement. It is a great food wine and fun to drink.

Then there's the RM 2008 Barbera Late Harvest (LH), which was picked a little late and when it begin to ferment, the yeast didn't quite gobble up all the sugar, leaving behind a sweet little residual sugar treat. This Barbera has a nose of red ripe cherries, but in every sip, there's a lovely soft, sweet feel in the mouth.  There's plenty of acidity to keep it lively: perfect for sipping as a before dinner aperitif, or after dinner by the fire.

The 2008 Nebbiolo from Santa Barbara County comes from a vineyard fairly near the ocean. Perhaps Italy's most noble grape, it is grown only in Piemonte and Lombardy, and is revered in bottlings from the villages of Barolo and Barbaresco. This is a classic food wine, one built for aging, and it is quite common in Italy for Nebbiolos to be cellared for decades before they are ready to enjoy. This Nebbiolo has an earthy, almost Pinot Noir like nose, with smoky, leathery flavors, and is packed with plentiful acidity and tannins. Pair with a big slice of sourdough bread, olive oil, heirloom tomatoes, a slab of fresh mozzarella cheese, and salami. Or, a pizza! Mangia!

RM also still has both the award winning 2008 Sangiovese and 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon that is only being served to wine club members, but schmooze the staff, and they might give you a swig.  Both these wines are big, yummy, and complex. To top off the flight, RM still has some 2006 Rubino dessert wine: the bottle age has really done it proud. Made with 100%

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, it has a nose of honey and almonds, and delivers lush caramel mingled with ripe fruit on the palate. The ample acidity and tannins bolster it, keeping it a serious contender. Taste it on special weekends up until November 12th, for the "End of Harvest" celebration, when it will become part of the flight until it is gone, which might be quite soon, since there are only 6 cases remaining.

Ladies Lipstick Wine Tour, November 5: Girl's Day Out in Wine Country Ladies, grab your girlfriends and a designated driver and come enjoy a fun day of wine tasting in Livermore Wine Country. Be pampered at every stop with girlie treats, like chocolate, cake, spa treatments, hair styling, jewelry, fashion accessories, makeup and lots more, including special wine discounts.

Participating Artisan Wineries are Les Chenes, McGrail Vineyards, Nottingham Cellars, Occasio Winery, Retzlaff and Rodrigue Molyneaux.

Visit at least four out of six wineries and be eligible to win an enormous special "Just for Girls" gift basket created by "Uptown Girls," stuffed with amazing girly bling and delicious consumables, worth nearly $400. What's not to love?

The first 75 ladies to visit Rodrigue Molyneaux receive roses from Fantasia Blooms and chocolate covered strawberries from Chef Tracy Flores at Castlewood, to go with a special flight of sweet wines. Relax with a by-the-minute foot, back or neck massage by Cheri, just $1/minute! Les Chenes has sassy edible works of art to taste and purchase- how about a cake purse - from Sugar Mama Bakery, plus hair styling tips from a high end San Francisco salon. McGrail will feature Holiday Smoky Eye demos by makeup professional Sheri Balken, plus scarves and purses by CC Kelly. Nottingham Cellars offers delicious confections from Danville Chocolates and Stella and Dot Jewelry. Occasio Winery will be serving mini cupcakes from Dolce bakery, and featuring one-of-a-kind handcrafted jewelry by Holly Ellsworth Rose.

Don't miss the "Kissing Booth" at Retzlaff, where you can have your official "Wine Babes" lipstick kiss tattoo tastefully applied by a handsome hunk! Learn how to shape brows with Nadine of La Di Da Beauty Lounge. Browse creative designs from Lynda Yonemoto of Silpada Jewelry. Indulge in Chocolate Mousse and fresh berries with Port.

Each winery will charge a $5 tasting fee. See mcgrailvineyards.com for a map and details.