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Some wines evoke images in the mind when imbibed.  For others, it is the label on the shelf that evokes ideas.  And for still other vintages, the name of the wine itself can provide curious images to the consumer. The 2016 Darwin’s Dilemma from Oddity Wine Collective is one of those. For me, that mental image is of Victorian-era scholars standing dumbfounded over an Archaeopteryx skeleton emerging from a limestone slab–or of me spending late nights hunched over a computer in the dark, playing games based on Jurassic Park, and frustratingly clicking a mouse frantically trying to get the game to operate. Luckily, this wine is far more enjoyable and less frustrating than those game nights back in high school! Anyway, onto the wine.

Darwin's Dilemma

The 2016 Darwin’s Dilemma from Oddity Wine Collective among rocks from the Supai Group overlooking the Verde Valley.

The Wine: The 2016 Darwin’s Dilemma is made from 50% Counoise and 50% Mourvèdre, sourced from Deep Sky Vineyard. These grapes were destemmed together, and then cofermented. The wine spent 9 days on the skins during fermentation. This wine was then aged in 100% neutral American oak. The wine was made at the Four-Eight wineworks facility in Camp Verde by Aaron Weiss. These two varietals are, as it happens, among the last grapes to be typically harvested in Arizona, so this was the plan for this vintage all along. The name, Darwin’s Dilemma, is a holdover from when Bree and Aaron wanted to create a label called Vinosaur Cellars. That name was already taken, as it turned out, but the team at oDDity liked Darwin’s Dilemma and decided to carry it over into a new era. The color of this wine is a bright ruby-red, with some translucent character–indicative of a medium-bodied red wine. The pH of this wine is 3.95, making for a food-friendly blend.

The Nose: The nose of the Darwin’s Dilemma launches with explosive juicy fruit notes that reminded me of a forest berry pie, straight out of the oven: raspberry, cherry, boysenberry, and elderberry, and, oddly for a red, apple, intermingling with vanilla, petrichor, sandalwood, sage, and earth. As the wine opens up, additional notes of nutmeg, purple flowers, allspice, and anise emerge.

The Palate: The 2016 Darwin’s Dilemma opens with notes of cherry, apricot (again, odd for a red), plum, white pepper, boysenberry, and sandalwood. The fruit notes are bright, and almost refreshing in character. This wine has high acidity and slight, velvety tannins. The finish of this wine lasts for 28 seconds, with notes of anise, dust, flint, white pepper, and cigar tobacco emerging during this time.

Impressions: oDDity likes to do fun, interesting wines that generate a lot of contemplative thoughts. While it may seem odd to release a red blend this early, the 2016 Darwin’s Dilemma strikes me as a great young red blend that is near its prime. Cellaring this wine for longer than another two years strikes me as unnecessary when this wine is tasting so great right now.  You could, mind you…and it will still be good, but why? This wine is a fun, hip, easy-going exploration into two late-ripening varietals that do fun things in Arizona’s unique terroir.

The Pairing: While light enough to potentially work with smoked or deep-fried turkey, I feel as if the Darwin’s Dilemma will shine with a cheeseburger or ribs; it strikes me as a good wine for a cookout. If you want to be fancy, Rhône-style cuisine like a nice coq-au-vin, or a vegan ratatouille will work nicely.

This wine makes me think of a sassy, smart research associate specializing in Molecular biology and DNA hybridization, seeking to make sense of the complicated order of life found on our planet. You have no idea how she makes Cladistics fun, but she does after a few shots. She has also found a unique way to explain how CRISPR works using the bowl of stale Chex mix at the bar.