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In that brief Indian Summer between the end of Monsoon and the coming of the first chilly nights, the desert is full of Tarantula Hawks, a fascinating giant wasp that has adapted and evolved to hunt tarantulas as nurseries for their young. It is also, in my opinion, pretty much the only wasp that isn’t an asshole–they keep to themselves instead of attacking people. This jaw-dropping insect is the namesake for the Zinfandel produced by Cellar Dwellers. It just so happens that I had a bottle of one of the earliest vintages of this wine in my stash. Knowing that Zin doesn’t have the longevity of other reds, I decided I should crack open my bottle of the 2009 Tarantula Hawk.

2009 tarantula hawk

The 2009 Tarantula Hawk Zinfandel is a blast from the past.

The Wine:  The 2009 Tarantula Hawk is made from 100% Zinfandel, sourced from Golden Rule Vineyards near Dragoon, Arizona. This wine was made by John Scarbrough at Page Springs Cellars.  I am guessing, based on the palate, that this vintage was aged at least partially in American oak–as is the tradition for Zinfandel.  The wine is beginning to show its age: the rich vibrant color of Zin is starting to fade on the edge to burnt orange and maroon.

The Nose: The nose of this wine is still surprisingly vibrant, with notes of spiced plum, nutmeg, cherry, and mulberry. Additional notes of anise, black pepper and myrrh round out the bouquet of the 2009 Tarantula Hawk.

The Palate: This is a full-bodied Zinfandel, beginning to show its age.  There are next to no tannins left in the 2009 Tarantula Hawk; the few that are left are soft and velvety, providing a full-bodied, soft mouthfeel, with medium acidity. This wine opens with notes of spiced plum, nutmeg, vanilla, mulberry, and cassis.  As the wine opens, anise and earthy black pepper emerge. The finish lasts 38 seconds, with earthy notes, black pepper, and brambly jam.

Pairing: I would pair this wine with the food you would associate with the last cookout of summer: pulled pork, ribs, and that ilk. Roasted veggies would make for a great vegan or vegetarian pairing for this vintage.

Impressions: Long-time readers, or those who know me personally, know that I am decidedly not fond of Zinfandel in most cases.  Even some of the best, world-class Zinfandels coming from old vines in California or Primitivo really don’t float my boat.  It’s just my palate.  That proviso being said, the fact that this particular Zin has aged 8 years and aged well says a great deal about the skill of the winemaker and the quality of the vintage.  It is starting to show its age, yes, but it is still a quality vintage–to the point where I actually kind of liked it for a Zinfandel!

That being said, if you still happen to have a bottle of the 2009 Tarantula Hawk in your stash, drink this wine now, as it is at the edge of its peak. Past this year, it will begin its slow descent, and won’t be enjoyable.

Personified, this wine is an older Entymology professor, tweed on his coat, teaching classes on bug identification, a year from retirement.