The predator lurking in my wine rack wasn't something from science fiction. In fact, in the monster food chain, this predator would be at the bottom of the heap.
However, in the world of wine, this predator is a big deal, a relentless killer with a simple name: Ladybug.
The cheery little red bugs are the foundation of vineyard pest control programs around the globe. More than one winemaker has paid homage to the lowly ladybug on labels. Barely larger than a BB, Cocinella septapunctata is a really big deal to viticulturists.
One such label is Predator 2009 Old Vine Zinfandel. This is a label from Rutherford Ranch in Napa, where I visited last summer, but did not sample the Zin. If I had, I might still be living in the tasting room parking lot.
As Zins go, Predator possesses all the characteristics I look for in this varietal. The fruit comes from the nearby Lodi, situated between the Sierra Foothills and the San Francisco Bay Delta.
Marine influences produce cool afternoon and evening breezes, ideal conditions for growing the region's world-renowned Zinfandel. Predator grapes are carried by Zin vines that are 50 years old or more - which insures great maturity and concentration of flavors.
The wine itself is rich and jammy with blackberry fruit and a wood smoke aroma that carries well into the palate. It is extraordinarily well-balanced with silky tannins and a honey smooth mouthfeel. Let it linger in the glass and spice comes calling - in the form of pepper and vanilla. It's about $22.
Anthony Terlato continues the tradition of making Zin brought by his grandfather from Italy around the turn of the 20th Century. The elder, John Giarrusso, was a butcher by trade, but loved to share his homemade Zin with customers.
Terlato isn't a big producer, pulling his Giarrusso 2008 Estate Bottled Zin from a mere 8-acre vineyard block in California's Dry Creek Valley. What he lacks in volume, he makes up for in flavor.
Again, it's jammy - a common descriptor with Zin, and presents a melange of black fruit flavors. Black pepper adds character and work it a while in the glass - discover a hint of lavender on the nose. About $20.
Lower alcohol Zins (14.5 percent or less) can be slightly chilled for a refreshing red wine on a hot afternoon.