Showing posts with label Primitivo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Primitivo. Show all posts

Monday, March 25, 2024

Bargain Primitivo On The Bottom Shelf

The bottom shelf of the wine aisle at your grocer is probably not a good place to find a wine you'll love and want to share with guests. It can, however, be a good place to find an everyday wine, or one with which you can cook.

The bottom shelf is where I found Grifone Primitivo at Trader Joe's. For a store which features so many rock-bottom prices on wine, it is worth noting that they do a fine job of curating those shelves, from top to bottom.

Grifone is made from 100% Primitivo grapes, grown in Puglia, in the heel of Italy's boot. In case you are unfamiliar with the Primitivo grape, it is the same as the Zinfandel grape. It just has an Italian name. Alcohol is reasonably light at 13% abv and the price is only $5 at Trader Joe's

This wine is dark ruby in the glass and offers a beautiful nose that is full of dark fruit aromas and a good bit of oak. Tar also appears, adding a very earthy angle to the bouquet. On the palate, big, jammy blackberry, blueberry and cassis flavors are joined together by oak spice and a healthy dose of tannins. Despite the oak mentions, the wine tastes clean and fresh. The winery recommends pairing it with aged cheeses. I like it with spaghetti and meatballs. I used the wine in my sauce.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Two Special Primitivo Wines From Puglia

Today we go back to Manduria, in Puglia, the heel of Italy's boot.  The Gambero Rosso virtual tasting event has already covered a number of Primitivo di Manduria wines, but these two are special.

Felline Primitivo di Manduria Zinfandel Sinfarosa Terra Nera 2017

Feline's Gregory Perrucci spoke during the online event about how Ridge is one of his favorite California producers of Zinfandel.  He said "now it can be told" that he visited the winery and brought back a cutting from the Geyserville vineyard.  He grafted it to one of his Primitivo di Manduria vines, and so he uses both the Italian and American names for the grape on the Sinfarosa label.

The Felline website refers to this particular grape as "Zinfandel Californiano," but it is properly identified on the label as Primitivo di Manduria.  even the label art recalls a poster from the old American west.  The label also bears the name of the production area, Terra Nera.  The Felline "hybrid" was aged for six months in French and American oak.  It carries a walloping 15% abv in alcohol and sells for less than $20.

This wine is medium-dark in the glass, and full-blown dark on the nose.  Aromas of black fruit leap out first, but the tar notes follow quickly.  It has a peppery smell to it and a healthy amount of chocolate and cigar box.  The palate is full and lush.  Blackberry notes, anise, mocha and bramble all join together with firm tannins and a lengthy finish.  I want a steak with this one, but a sausage and pasta dish would be nice, too.  You can also enjoy it by itself as it is quite sip-worthy.

Coppi Gioia del Colle Primitivo Senatore 2017

The Coppi Winery started in Puglia in 1882 and has passed through several hands over the years.  Antonio Coppi entered the cellar in the late 1960s, producing wines grown in the stony soil of the hills of the "Murgia dei Trulli."  The winery proudly declares that they are "in the cradle of the Primitivo DOC Gioia del Colle."  Coppi would go on to become a senator, with the Senatore wine named in honor of that achievement.  His daughters and son are involved in the business today.

The Coppi family still carries a chip on their shoulder about how Apulian wines have been "mistreated and snubbed" by the mainstream Italian wine industry.  It is the company's aim to restore "dignity and prestige" to the region through their wines.  In addition to Primitivo, the Coppi vineyards also hold grape varieties like Aleatico, Verdeca, Malvasia, Negroamaro, and Falanghina.

The 2017 Senatore was fermented in steel tanks, then aged for a year in Slavonian oak barrels.  Alcohol is restrained at 13.5% abv and the wine typically sells for around $25.

The wine is quite dark in the glass but is also very closed off on the nose.  There is some black plum and some tar, but it is surprisingly faint.  The palate isn't shy about showing its dark fruit with a layer of savory spice and anise over it.  The tannins are not forceful, so pairing with pasta is a cinch, or just sip it.  It is very tasty and smooth, and has a lengthy finish.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Primitivo Di Manduria - Part Five

Manduria is a town in the region of Apulia - Puglia - the heel of Italy's "boot."  The warm climate brings the best out of the Primitivo grape, known in the province of Taranto as Primitivo di Manduria.  In the U.S., particularly California, the grape grows under the name of Zinfandel.  In Manduria, they like to think of the Puglia Primitivos as a pyramid, with the Primitivo di Manduria DOC at the top.

Apollonio Vini Primitivo di Manduria Mani del Sud 2015

The Apollonio winery dates back to 1870 when Noè Apollonio planted grapes and made wine from them.  Wine was in his blood, as his father and grandfather - Tommaso and Giuseppe - had both been wine producers.  The generations rolled on, with Salvatore upgrading the winery in 1975, which his sons inherited.  Marcello and Massimiliano now run the place, with Massimiliano handling the winemaking duties while Marcello heads up marketing and exporting. 

Their estate is in Lecce, the capital of Salento, which is mid-way between the two coasts of the Italian boot heel.  The 2015 Mani del Sud Primitivo di Manduria saw 18 months of aging in all - six in American oak barriques, six in large Slavonian oak barrels and six in the bottle.  Fermentation was in large Slavonian oak vats.  Alcohol is at the standard for the style, 15% abv, and the wine sells for around $20.

This very dark wine has a nose which I would call massive.  Tremendous tar notes blend with the blackest fruit imaginable, pulling along aromas of black olives, leather, forest floor and smoke.  The palate is just as savory, with black plum and berry flavors joined by black pepper, black cherry cola and a hint of cardamom.  The tannins are fairly smooth.  Pair this wine with any kind of meat or game dish.

Cantine Erario Primitivo di Manduria L'Unico Riserva

The Erario family have been growing vines and olive trees since the middle of the 19th century.  Primitivo di Manduria accounts for 65% of the winery's product, with much smaller amounts of Negroamaro, Fiano, Aleatico, Chardonnay and Moscato rounding out their wines.  

The grapes for Erario's 2015 L'Unico Riserva Primitivo di Manduria came from vines that are at least 70 years old.  The wine aged for 12 months in steel tanks, then 12 months in oak barriques and finally six months in the bottle.  In addition pairing with meat and game dishes, the winery says L'Unico Riserva is also a good "meditation wine," which can be fully enjoyed when sipped slowly to appreciate its complexity.  Alcohol is a rich 16% abv and the wine sells on average for around $24.

This medium-dark wine offers a nose of dark fruit and a bit of tar.  There is smoke, a touch of clove and a hint of mint, too.  The palate is drenched in blackberry, cassis and plum, with a noticeable level of tannins.  The finish is long and juicy, with that dark fruit flavor lasting the longest.  Pair with steak or a Bolognese dish. 

Monday, May 31, 2021

Primitivo Di Manduria - Part Four

Manduria is a town in the region of Apulia - Puglia - the heel of Italy's "boot."  The warm climate brings the best out of the Primitivo grape, known in the province of Taranto as Primitivo di Manduria.  In the U.S., particularly California, the grape grows under the name of Zinfandel.  In Manduria, they like to think of the Puglia Primitivos as a pyramid, with the Primitivo di Manduria DOC at the top.

Antica Masseria Jorche Primitivo di Manduria Riserva 2016

The Antica Masseria Jorche - ancient, fortified farm, dating back to the 17th century - came into the hands of Antonio and Mariella Gianfreda in 1990.  They restored - in some places, rebuilt - the abandoned structures and created a winery, restaurant, hotel and apartments.  Emanuela Gianfreda is the winemaker, and she and her sister Dalila spoke during the virtual tasting event staged by international wine guide Gambero Rosso.  They are the fifth generation of the winemaking family.

Jorche's 2016 Riserva Primitivo Di Manduria is made from Salento vines which average about 40 years old.  The aging process took 12 months, in barriques and capasuni - amphoras popular in Puglia.  The wine's alcohol level is a lofty 16% abv and the retail price is around $30.

This dark wine has a fruity nose of blackberry and plum, but there are some more savory notes as well.  Black pepper, cigar box and black olive also come through.  On the palate, licorice and plums are in the forefront of one of the fruitier flavor profiles I have tasted in Apulian Primitivos.  The 16% alcohol is not as overpowering as I imagined it would be.  The tannins are fairly forceful and the acidity is refreshing.  This wine drinks really well and will pair nicely with a marbled rib eye steak.

Cantolio Primitivo di Manduria Tema Riserva

The Cantolio collective was founded in the early 1960s and now includes more than 700 growers.  Company President Francesco Della Grottaglie is quite proud of his corner of Salento, and winemaker Salvatore Dell'Aquila loves the grapes with which he gets to work.

In the coastal area, the vines grow in sand and rock outcroppings, benefiting from their proximity to the Ionian Sea.  Inland, the soil is either red - loaded with potassium and iron - or black with humus and clay.

Tema Riserva is a Primitivo Di Manduria DOP wine which the winery says represents the marriage of the mother land and the father sea.  It was aged in both steel tanks and French oak barrels.  Alcohol is up there at 15% abv, common for the wine's of Manduria.  The retail price is about $30.

This wine has a medium-dark tint and a complex nose.  Earthiness is the overriding feel from the aroma package.  There is plum, blackberry and raspberry in there, all colored by savory minerals, tobacco, tar, leather and sweet oak spice.  The palate shows black cherry, cassis, licorice and a beautiful oak effect.  The tannins are firm without getting in the way, and pairing the wine with a meaty pasta dish springs to mind first.  The finish is of medium length and reminds me of sweet fruit, odd perhaps, for a wine that brought the savory so early.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Primitivo Di Manduria - Part Three

Manduria is a town in the region of Apulia - Puglia - the heel of Italy's "boot."  The warm climate brings the best out of the Primitivo grape, known in the province of Taranto as Primitivo di Manduria.  In the U.S., particularly California, the grape grows under the name of Zinfandel.  In Manduria, they like to think of the Puglia Primitivos as a pyramid, with the Primitivo di Manduria DOC at the top.

Cantine Lizzano Primitivo di Manduria Manonera 2017

The Lizzano winery was formed in 1959, when Luigi Ruggieri brought a group of a hundred or so local winemakers together as a collective.  They are now more than 400 strong.  The winery boasts that their red earth is "kissed by the sun and caressed by winds that taste of the sea."

During a recent virtual tasting event, Luca Circelli spoke for the cooperative.  He pointed out that the wine's name, Manonera - black hand - signifies that the grapes are harvested through manual labor, not machinery.  He says the Primitivo di Manduria DOP wine is a little bit jammy, a little bit spicy.  Aging took place over six months in new French oak barrels and another six in the somewhat larger tonnaux.  Alcohol comes in at 15.5% abv and the wine retails for about $48.  The bottle, by the way, is very heavy.  More on that later.

This wine is medium dark in its ruby color and has a nose featuring black cherry, raspberry, vanilla and some baking spices.  The palate is bursting with fruit flavor - jammy cherry, currant, blackberry - and a hint of anise.  The tannins are firm but not too firm and the wine's acidity offers a refreshing feel in the mouth.  The lengthy finish brings a little savory play into the mix, with a note of coffee and licorice.

Claudio Quarta Vignaiolo Primitivo di Manduria Oro di Eméra

Owner Alessandra Quarta spoke at the recent online tasting session of how her dad, Claudio, left his career in biotech to be a winemaker.  They now work in the vineyards and the cellar as a team at their wineries in Puglia and Campania.  She says the winery is run in as sustainable a manner as possible, less than a mile from the beautiful Ionian Coast.  The land was once covered in water and it now shows the result of that sea influence in the soil.  

She also said that they are not yet distributed in the U.S., and she would appreciate it if customers would ask for her wine where they shop.  The topic of the sometimes extremely heavy bottles from Manduria was broached, but she didn't have a very conclusive answer.

The Primitivo di Manduria Oro di Eméra 2017 comes from the Eméra Estate in the Primitivo lands of Marina di Lizzano, in the province of Taranto.  The name was derived from Hemera, the Greek goddess of the day, because of the way the sun hits the calcium-rich soil.  Other wines come from Moros Winery in the Negroamaro lands of Guagnano and Sanpaolo Winery in the Irpinia del Vino.  The wine was aged at least a year in small oak barrels.  Alcohol is listed as 15% abv and the retail price is around $25.

This wine is dark, and carries a deep purple color in the glass.  The nose has plum and blackberry fruit, but they are hiding behind a more savory curtain of aromas: pepper, violets, leather and a box of cigars. The palate shows youthful black fruit and a double handful of tannins.  Give the wine some time to relax after opening.  

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Monday, May 24, 2021

Primitivo Di Manduria - Part Two

Manduria is a town in the region of Apulia - Puglia - the heel of Italy's "boot."  The warm climate brings the best out of the Primitivo grape, known in the province of Taranto as Primitivo di Manduria.  In the U.S., particularly California, the grape grows under the name of Zinfandel.  In Manduria, they like to think of the Puglia Primitivos as a pyramid, with the Primitivo di Manduria DOC at the top.

PaoloLeo Primitivo di Manduria Passo del Cardinale 2018

Paolo Leo's family is five generations deep into winemaking, with a sixth being groomed to step into their father's shoes.  Young winemaker Nicola Leo believes that he brings out the best of what the vineyards offer each vintage.  His comments are dotted with phrases like, "respect for nature" and "passion for noble work."

Primitivo vines, when properly pruned, will grow a secondary bunch of grapes which are taken in a "second harvest" nearly a month after the first collection.  These grapes from both harvests were fermented in steel tanks, then the wine was aged, three months in oak barriques and six months in steel.   Alcohol sits at 14% abv and the wine usually sells for $20 or less.

It is a medium dark wine with a savory nose, showing violets, licorice, forest floor and a touch of cardamom.  The palate is spicy, with black pepper and herbs joining the black berry profile.  The tannins are quite firm and the acidity is fresh.  It is a youthful wine which will pair nicely with a pork roast.

Agricola Pliniana Primitivo di Manduria Juvenis

Agricola Pliniana is a collective of grape growers, farmers who provide the Primitivo di Manduria grapes that went into Juvenis.  A winery rep said on a recent virtual tasting that it is the oak treatment sets them apart.  The alcohol content is 14% abv and the retail price is around $11, a very nice value.

This wine is medium-dark with a ruby hue.  The nose is subtle, but shows off blackberry and raspberry aromas along with notes of black olive, cigars and spices.  The palate is nice and fruity with a minty essence to go with the oak effect.  Acidity is fresh, even youthful, and the tannins are medium firm.  I liked it with my rib eye steak, but it also sat well with crackers and cheddar/pimento cheese.  

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Primitivo di Manduria - Part One

Manduria is a town in the region of Apulia - or, Puglia - the heel of Italy's "boot."  The warm climate brings the best out of the Primitivo grape, known in the province of Taranto as Primitivo di Manduria.  In the U.S., particularly California, the grape grows under the name of Zinfandel.  In Manduria, they like to think of the Puglia Primitivos as a pyramid, with the Primitivo di Manduria DOC at the top.

Terracalò Primitivo di Manduria 816  2019

The Terracalò 816 wine was made from Primitivo di Manduria grapes which were left drying on the vine for a short time before being harvested.  Once vinified, the wine was aged in a combination of French oak barriques and stainless steel tanks.  The wine then aged further in the bottle for five months.  

Owner Alberto Calò spoke on a recent Zoom visit for wine writers, and he called 816 rustic and powerful.  I doubt that I can improve on that description, but I will try.  I didn't catch any explanation for why the bottle seemed to weigh 816 pounds.  It was still heavy when empty.  Alcohol chimes in at 15.5% abv and it retails for about $30.

This wine is medium-dark in the glass and initially smells like eucalyptus.  There is also some black currant and black pepper in the mix, but the smoky/minty aspect of the nose is inescapable.  The palate is dark and delicious - blackberry and licorice flavors join with elements which are more earthy than spicy.  There is a sweetness that comes through as well - there's a lot going on here.  The tannins are firm enough for a meat sauce dish and the finish is lengthy.  

Masseria Cicella Primitivo di Manduria Pepe Nero

A masseria, on Italy's Apulian peninsula, is a fortified farmhouse.  The style dates back to the 16th century, when there was a need for an estate to have a fortress to protect its inhabitants.  Nowadays, a masseria is more likely to be luxury accommodations… or a winery.

Cicella Owners Michele and Cosimo Schifone are continuing a family tradition in the vineyards.  Michela spoke to the viewers on the virtual tour.  

The 2018 Pepe Nero was named for the "Pepe" district in the area.  The wine sees some stainless steel aging, plus some time in the bottle - no oak aging was reported.  It is classified as a Primitivo di Manduria DOP wine.  Alcohol sits at a lofty 16% abv and it sells in the $20 range.

This is a dark wine, in color, aroma and taste.  The nose is extremely savory, with tar paving the way for anise, blackberry and currant.  The freshness is amazing, with a lively acidity and firm tannins.  Pair it with game if you've got it, Bolognese if you don't.  It's actually so good you may not even think to have food with it. 

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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Mandurian Candidate - Primitivo

Manduria is a town in the region of Apulia, the heel of Italy's "boot." The warm climate brings the best out of the Primitivo grape, known in the province of Taranto as Primitivo di Manduria. In the US, particularly California, the grape grows under the name of Zinfandel. In Manduria, they like to think of the Puglia Primitivos as a pyramid, with the Primitivo di Manduria DOC at the top.

Mottura Vini Primitivo di Manduria Stilio 2019

This wine was made from grapes that were partially dried, reducing the water content by a quarter or so and leaving a much more concentrated flavor. Winemaker Teodosio D'Apolito works the magic with the fruit from the Mottura family vineyards. Aging took place over six months in French oak barrels, with another three months in the bottle. Alcohol hits 14.5% abv

This medium-dark wine has a nose of smoke, earth and pepper, on top of brambly red fruit. The palate is savory and supple, with red currant, coffee notes and a raspberry tartness. There is also a mocha sense which comes through after a bit of time in the glass. The finish is quite lengthy, and quite a joy to savor.  

Tenuta Giustini Primitivo di Manduria Acinorè

The vineyards of 50-year-old bush vines were passed down through generations, and in 2006 the Giustini family started making wine from their grapes.  That's an extremely short duration, especially by European standards, but their decision to make wine has shown to be a good one.  The winemaking is done by Giuseppe and Salvatore Papadopoli.  Aging happened over six months time in small French oak barrels with another couple of months in the bottle.  Alcohol is quite high, normal for the wines of the region, at 15% abv.  

This wine's nose is a perfumed dream, all dark red fruit with a gorgeous layer of spice and herbs. After being open for awhile, smoke really takes over. The palate brings black cherry to the forefront on a wave of sage and a refreshing acidity. Pair it with some meatballs, now.  

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Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Gambero Rosso Italian Wine Masterclass - Part Three

Virtual wine tasting events are no stranger to me, especially in the era of COVID-19.  Get the box, open the box, log on and taste from home.  No social distancing to strain the process, no mask needed.  I was invited to take part in a Zoom gathering recently along with two dozen other wine writers.  The event was called the Tre Bicchieri Web Show, which featured twelve different Italian wines from various producers.  My shipment was delayed several times - it came from Italy, after all - so I didn't get to take part, but the box finally arrived and I was able to taste the wines inside.

The Tre Bicchieri Web Show was presented by Gambero Rosso, a Rome-based Italian wine and food magazine that was founded in 1986.  It was their first-ever Master Class, which indicates that there are more planned.

The interactive event was hosted by Lorenzo Ruggeri, the wine guide's international editor, with comments along the two-hour journey from each winery's representative.  This is the final of three articles on Now And Zin Wine which feature the wines that were tasted.  

Tenuta Monteti Caburnio 2015 

The Baratta family owns Tuscany's Tenuta Monteti in Capalbio, in the southern part of Maremma, very close to the sea.  The winery was founded in 1998 and it deals exclusively with international varieties like Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Alicante-Bouschet.  All the Monteti wines are aged in small wood barrels. 

The 2015 Caburnio was made from 50% estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 25% Alicante Bouschet.  The individual grapes were vinified and aged separately, then blended, then aged a year in the bottle.

Ruggeri says the area is in the wildest part of Tuscany, where the forests are populated mostly by wild animals.  The region, he says, is too warm for Sangiovese or white wine grapes, but great for the Bordeaux varieties.  Caburnio has alcohol at 14% abv and a retail price of $21.

This wine is dark enough, that's for sure.  It is a blend of Cab, Merlot and Alicante Bouschet.  No light gets through it when I hold it to the light.  It smells dark, too.  Cassis and tar fight for first place, while blackberry and oak spice aromas jostle from behind.  The palate is stately, with a muscular elegance structured by firm tannins, flinty minerals and a lively acidity.  Bring on the steaks, as big as you like.

Coppi Gioia del Colle Primitivo Senatore 2015

Now we come to Puglia - the heel of the boot, the land of Primitivo.  The winery which is now Cantine Coppi was founded in 1882 and taken over by the Coppi family in 1976.  It sits between Turi and Gioia del Colle, where the vineyards feature. traditional varieties like Primitivo, Aleatico, Negroamaro, Malvasia Nera, Malvasia Bianca, Falanghina and Verdeca.  On the label, you'll see an artistic representation of an elevation map of the property.

The 2015 Coppi Senatore was named after Senator Antonio Michele Coppi, who founded the company and makes the wine.  It was made completely from Primitivo grapes which were grown on their chalky, clay hillsides.  The de-stemmed fruit was crushed and put into fermenters before being transferred to steel tanks after separating the juice from the skins.  Aging took place in barrels of Slavonian oak for about a year.  Alcohol hits only 13.5% abv and the price is $30.

This Primitivo shows a medium-dark tint in the glass and a nose that is all fruit, all the time.  Cherry aromas are joined by notes of plum and cassis, with just a hint of oak.  After it sits for a bit, a whiff of smoke gathers at the top of the glass.  The palate shows a lot of earthiness and a chalky quality, which we can chalk up to minerality.  There is a lengthy finish that turns slightly tart on the fade.  I would love to have this wine with some nice Italian sausages and pasta, or a meatball sub. 

Còlpetrone Montefalco Sagrantino 2012 

Còlpetrone is in Montefalco, right in the middle of Umbria, which is right in the middle of Italy.  Under the umbrella of Tenute del Cerro, they are known for producing wines of note from the ancient Sagrantino grape and the white Grechetto.  The winery was founded in 1995 in the hilly region of clay loam soil.  

The 2012 Còlpetrone Montefalco Sagrantino is a full varietal wine, 100% Sagrantino, which was racked into French oak barrels after fermentation for a full malolactic fermentation.  It was aged in the wood for a year and another six months in the bottle.  The winery rep noted the big spiciness in the wine, adding that it is unusual to think of Sagrantino as elegant, but that this one earns the description.  Ruggeri said, it is "not showing off, the wine speaks in a low voice."  One of the participants commented that it is like meat in a glass.  Alcohol sits at 14% abv and the list price is $30.

This 2012 wine is extremely dark in the glass - inky - and bears a nose of beautiful blackberry and black plum.  There is a savory ride-along for good measure.  The sip reveals a wine with a tingling acidity and very firm tannins - eight years old and it still has plenty of fight left in it.  Bring on the rib eye, bring on the porterhouse… this wine will tame all of them.

Tenuta Sant'Antonio Amarone della Valpolicella Campo dei Gigli 2015 

The Castagnedi brothers' estate extends along a ridge in Veneto that separates the Mezzane and Marcellise valleys.  They also have vineyards to the east, towards the Illasi valley.  Tenuta Sant’Antonio was represented on the virtual event by Armando Castagnedi, who said the property's marly limestone soil is so deprived of nutrients that it is white.  Accordingly, the vines have to work to stretch their roots deep to find the richer dirt.  

The 2015 Amarone della Valpolicella was made from a mix of Italian grape varieties: 70% Corvina and Corvinone, 20% Rondinella, 5% Croatina and 5% Oseleta.  The grapes were dried for three months for raisining before being pressed late in the year.  The wine was vinified in new 500-litre French oak casks.  Afterward, the aging process took place in new casks for three years.  Tasters mentioned barbecue notes, cinnamon and fruits.  The alcohol content is 16% abv and the retail price is $73.

This wine speaks loudly through its minerals, but does not need to shout.  The dark liquid gives off aromas of meat, fine cigars, dried fruit and a slight raisiny note.  It is a complete joy to smell, let alone to drink.  The palate is silky smooth, with tannins on the back end.  Dark fruit dominates the flavor profile, but there is a hefty chunk of savory minerality that elbows through - ever so elegantly.  Pair it with pasta, marinara, Bolognese, or just sip it and make dinner wait.

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Monday, July 20, 2020

Zinfandel, From Lodi

Whenever I get to take a trip - virtually - to Lodi, I jump at the chance.  John Fogerty may have been "stuck in Lodi," but he should have visited a winery or two.  That would have brightened his view of the locale.

Oak Farm Vineyards is my stop on this virtual vacation.  I took part in a July conversation with Oak Farm's co-owner and Director of Winemaking, Dan Panella.  The get-together was held on Zoom, where everything else also seems to be held in these pandemic times.

Panella talked about his family's three-generation farming claim at Oak Farm, which in Lodi is practically newcomer status.  He spoke of his fondness for the Italian and Spanish grape varieties found on his estate and reminisced about his younger days driving a tractor through the cherry and walnut orchards.  He turned the business into the wine arena in 2004.

Oak Farm itself was founded in 1860, with the Panella coming along in the 1930s.  Today, Panella and head winemaker Sierra Zieter manage a diverse portfolio of wines.

Oak Farm Vineyards Tievoli Red Blend 2018

The Oak Farms Red Blend called Tievoli (I Love It spelled backwards) is made from two-thirds Zinfandel grapes, 8% Primitivo, 18% Barbera and 8% Petite Sirah - all grown in Lodi.  The old vine Zin was grown in the Hohenrieder vineyard, while the rest came from Oak Farm's estate vineyards. 

Panella says, "Zinfandel is the backbone of this blend.  It brings the fruitiness to this wine, while the Primitivo adds earthiness, bringing the spices and earth floor notes.  The Barbera adds the acidity backbone and helps brighten the wine and smooth it out.  Petite Sirah strengthens the color and helps with the structure."

The wine was aged eight months in French and American oak before being bottled.  Alcohol strikes 14.5% and the retail sticker is only $22.

This red blend shows a ripe cherry nose abetted by black pepper and a touch of leather.  The palate has an earthy quality, almost savory, but the Zinfandel fruit stands firm.  So do the tannins, and the wine's acidity is bright and fresh.

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Paso Robles Wine: AronHill Vineyards

A quick stop at AronHill Vineyards, along 46 West outside Paso Robles, produced these fast tasting notes. All the non-estate grapes used come from Paso's westside as well.

2015 Estate Primrose - A new release, Primitivo rosé. The nose is floral and cherry-laced, with nice acid, good tartness and red fruit on the palate.  $28

2010 Estate Primitivo - From the AronHill library collection. There’s pepper and raspberry on the nose, with great acidity, tannins and flavors of smoky dried plums and boysenberry.  $40

2012 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon - Cherry vanilla aromas, earthy cherry flavors with a minty note $40

Berrichon - BDX blend. 40% Estate Cabernet with 30% Merlot, 20% Malbec, 10% Petite Verdot.  It smells and tastes of bright, earthy cherry and has a eucalyptus note.  $48

Kickass Britchen Red - Estate Primitivo, Zinfandel and Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose has a light cherry-and-orange zest angle, while the palate is a zippy cherry-raspberry experience with an herbal note.  $32

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sculpterra Primitivo Dessert Wine Paso Robles

A little squat bottle of Paso Robles Primitivo dessert wine was hauled out of the Now And Zin wine rack recently where it had lain patiently for a couple of years.  I had bought the wine on a visit to the winery in the summer of 2011.  It appears to be non-vintage, port-style wine from Sculpterra Winery.

Sculpterra is the culmination of a dream that possessed Dr. Warren Frankel to take down his shingle and plant some grapes.  The Sculpterra Visitor Center is marked by a beautiful sculpture garden containing some genuinely striking large format artwork.  Their website urges, "Get the art out. That is, bring it outside."  In this garden you will see some astounding bronze and stone sculpture by John Jagger.The Frankel Family Estate vineyard contains not only about 117 acres of many different grape varieties, but an additional 30 acres of pistachios.  I know - they're nuts.

The Primitivo grapes come from a section of the vineyard known as the Eight Acre Ridgeline block.  Winemaker Paul Frankel makes a Primitivo varietal wine as well as this dessert wine.  The sweetie retails for $32.

As a doctor, the elder Frankel made sure he didn't leave his original calling behind.  Their website explains, "A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Sculpterra wines are donated to His Healing Hands, a non-profit medical missionary organization that sends temporary medical teams into communities around the world that need urgent healthcare and respond to natural disasters."

The dark wine has a strong alcoholic nose - not a surprise with a fortified wine.  Underlying the heat are savory aromas of figs and salted caramel.  On the palate, every bit of the 18.5% alcohol content is present, with some lovely dark fruit fighting through.  Raisiny tones shape the finish and the mouthfeel is very lively apart from the alcohol.  Sugar stands at 12.65 gm/100ml, so it's a dessert on its own - although it paired nicely with a dark chocolate pistachio toffee treat.

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Cantele Primitivo

At the Las Vegas Brio Tuscan Grille, I felt like a Zinfandel, but wanted to drink Italian.  That’s an easy situation to deal with when there is a Primitivo on the list.

Primitivo and Zinfandel were thought to be the same grape with different names, until DNA analysis showed that, while very similar, they are different grapes.

The Cantele Primitivo is a 100% varietal wine, I.G.T. Salento, which is in Puglia, the heel of the Italian “boot.”  It costs $7.95 by the glass at the restaurant.

Cantele Primitivo is colored quite darkly, and has an intense nose of blackberry and spice.  An earthy aroma has a little spearmint mixed in.  On the palate, flavors of blackberry dominate, and the tannins are very gentle.  Sipping it alone was a joy, and it paired with my Bolognese sauce perfectly.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer Wine: Uvaggio Lodi Rosato 2010

This wine was one of those “Oh, look what I forgot I had” moments.  This has been sitting in the rack - er - cellar, for over a year.  It’s about time I break it open before summer slips away.  After all, it’s a rosé.

It’s actually a rosato - Uvaggio calls it that in keeping with the Italian grapes used in it.  It’s a blend of 81% Primitivo, 15% Barbera and 4% Vermentino, which are all grown in Lodi, California.

Uvaggio posts on their website that they make “interesting wines from very interesting Italian grape varieties.”  This pink wine is made in the saignée method, by bleeding juice from red wine production.  This one hits below the dozen marker in alcohol - 11.4% abv. The wine is barrel fermented, but malolactic fermentation is blocked.

Earthiness abounds in this wine.  It’s all over the nose and all over the palate, too.  Sniff past the funk and you are rewarded with a healthy strawberry aroma, with herbal notes.  Flavors almost too rich for rosé come forward as red berries and bright cherries.  The acidity comes sailing in on the finish, and the wine is very pretty - a deep magenta.

Interesting?  It sure is.  Good?  Yep.  Keep this stuff coming and I won’t mind summer hanging around awhile.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Feudi di San Gregorio Primitivo

Judging by the many simply wonderful wines I encounter at Los Angeles Italian restaurants, I would be tempted to guess that's it's really easy to find simply wonderful Italian wines.  Those who procure those wines for restaurants would argue that point, I'm sure.  I will let it stand as a testimony to the skill and knowledge of the various wine directors that I rarely encounter an Italian wine in an Italian restaurant with which I find fault.

I had the Feudi di San Gregorio Primitivo recently at Il Fornaio in Beverly Hills.

Feudi di San Gregorio is an old and wealthy winery in Italy's Campania region.  This 2008 wine is classified as Primitivo di Manduria DOC.  The grapes come from seaside vineyards in Manduria, in the province of Taranto in the Puglia region.  It is fermented in stainless steel, which allows the beautiful fruit to shine in its unadulterated state.  The vino ages 12 months in the tanks and another six in bottles.

The wine is a beautiful dark purple in the glass, and shows dark fruit on the nose.  A spearmint note mingles with black cherry aromas, while flavors of cherry and blackberry dominate the palate.  Gentle tannins make for a luxuriously smooth drink, while the finish is refreshingly dry.

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Monday, August 9, 2010


Matane at Pane E Vino

A night out with a couple of friends can hardly go wrong, but the right place for the meeting can boost an already enjoyable event to a higher plane.  Jones and Maggie met Denise and me for dinner at Pane E Vino, on Beverly in Los Angeles.  We've known Jones forever, but Maggie is a recent addition to our list of friends - and a welcome one.

We recently rediscovered Pane E Vino and it has quickly become one of our "go-to" Italian eateries.  Great food and service are abetted by a wine list that has yet to let me down.
Jones is always quick to defer to my judgment on wine selection.  It's one of the reasons I like him so much.  Should I tell him that when he follows my lead, it's usually for a wine I've never tried before?  He liked this Primitivo just fine, so I think we'll wait on that revelation a while longer.  By the way, in the photo that is his fish being fileted in the background.
The Matané Primitivo is grown and produced in Puglia, the "heel of the boot" on Italy's map. It's an IGT wine, and consists of 100% Primitivo grapes.  A collaborative effort from the Empson family and winemaker Filippo Baccalaro,  this Italian red was a nice find and paired very well with a simple rigatoni and light tomato sauce dish.
The Matané shows a medium-tinted red with some purple tones in the mix.  The only disappointment is a somewhat faint nose.  What is there, is laden with cherry and smells very fresh, though.  On the palate, there are lots of spices clamoring for attention among full and fruity cherry and raspberry notes.  A good bit of earthiness is also present.  A slightly smoky finish tops off the fruit very nicely.  The wine feels about medium-full in the mouth, has very nice tannins and is quite smooth. 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Zinology At Pourtal

Zinology at PourtalFans of Zinfandel - and similar grapes Primitivo and Plavac Mali - will want to get to Pourtal in Santa Monica for their Tasting Tour of some favorites from California, Italy and Croatia.  Eight of the taps in Pourtal's Enomatic system have been converted over to these big, flavorful wines and will be ready for tasting through the middle of February.  You can swing by anytime it's convenient for you.  Pourtal has the Tasting Tour itinerary in PDF form.

Pourtal's Sommelier Rachel Bryan put together an interesting mix.  It's heavy on the Zinfandel with five California Zins included.  Dashe, Ridge, Quivira, Four Vines and Turley are the representatives from the Golden State.  Two Italian Primitivos - from Guttarolo and Vigneti Reale - and a Croation Plavac Mali from Dingac Peljesac round out the world tour.  Bryan explains why Zin's roots are mysterious: "Some say California Zinfandel came from the Croatian grape, Plavac Mali, stopping by Italy, where they call it Primitivo. All wine grapes have roots from Western Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, however their exact origins are sometimes unknown, disputed, or have been genetically proven. Zinfandel's origins have been the subject of dispute since the 1800’s."

All three grapes in this Tasting Tour are said to be related.  Whether or not they are, the similarities are undeniable and worth experiencing.

Pourtal Wine Tasting Bar
104 Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Monday, December 28, 2009

Doppio Passo Primitivo Salento 2007

All too often, I think of Italian red wines as lightweight party favors.  Tasty, maybe even interesting, but ultimately with not enough guts to handle anything tougher than a slice of lasagna.  I know, I know, that's a completely unjustified attitude.  But it's just a knee-jerk reaction.  I regularly buy Italian reds because I know how delicious they can be.  And I know that some of them have the stuff to fit in even on tables that aren't covered by red and white checkered cloths.

Doppio Passo Primitivo is such a wine.  This Primitivo is very dark – one can barely see through it when it's held up to the light.  The nose of black cherry or cherry cola also shows a lot of the earth.  The mouthfeel is medium-full and the palate is alive with a very rich and earthy taste – currants and cherries mostly.  It strikes me as the dark side of Zinfandel.  Not too surprising since Zinfandel and Primitivo grapes are international cousins of a sort.  The best part is there's no need for decanting.  This wine is as smooth as silk right out of the bottle!

Doppio Passo Primitivo Salento 2007 

Varietal:  100% Primitivo
Appelation:  Italy > Puglia > Salento

Vintage:  2007 
Alcohol Level:  13.5%
Price:  $18
Acquisition disclaimer:  I bought this wine.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Tasting Event: Stars of Cabernet

Here are my tasting notes from the Stars of Cabernet event held on November 5, 2009.

This tasting event was almost NBC - Nothin' But Cab. I did see a stray bottle of Chardonnay, but I'm not telling who brought that interloper into the house. This was a showing of big, bad, brawny red wines which wear their tannins on their sleeves, and wear them quite well, too.

There were 39 tables in the Peninsula Hotel's Verandah Room in Beverly Hills, each one sporting from one to four different wines the representatives were pouring. I did not have the time to visit with each winery, as I would have liked, but I was quite happy to talk with the representatives of the ones with which I could get some face time. Here are the wines I was able to sample, and my thoughts on each:

Fisher Vineyards - Great-grandpa Fisher was the guy who started the company which made GM's car bodies for generations. "Body by Fisher" was him. The carriage body business is remembered in the "Coach Insignia" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa 2005. Blended with Cabernet Franc and Merlot, the wine is rich in nose and palate. It's a complex taste that embodies dark berries, chocolate and a spiciness underlying. Great finish. Fisher's Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma, Mountain Vineyard 2005 is much fruitier, with a fresh berry taste. As the name implies, the vineyard is on a steep hillside. The grapes seem to love the fact that it faces west and gets a lot of sun. The Wedding Vineyard 2005 is all Cab. This vineyard features four different soil types. The wine features Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc as a blend. Flavor is abundant in this one, from olives to graphite to a sweet element that tries to hide but can't.

Santa Barbara County's Longoria was pouring only one, "Evidence," their Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec. A medium mouthfeel is joined by a brilliant flavor package of fresh, spicy berries. It didn't hit me like a full-blown Cab because the Cab Franc is an equal player in the mix while the Merlot comes in not far behind. The Malbec is a 4% partner. The lighter touch gives it a lot of versatility with pairing. The finish is fantastic. I had to stop myself from continuing to the next table while it subsided.

Miner Family Vineyards were represented well enough by their great "The Oracle." The 2005 vintage is branded "Napa Valley Red" due to the blend consisting of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cab Franc, 14% Merlot, 7% Malbec and 6% Petit Verdot. Blackberries are up front, but there's a host of other flavors - coffee, spices, some black cherry and a cedar quality that is irresistable.

Peju brought only one wine, and it was a brand new one - I'm sure that Lisa Peju told me it hasn't been released yet. A blend with Merlot and Petit Verdot, the wine is quite smooth and really shows its 18 months in French and American oak. Spices come through on the nose and palate and the taste is plummy with a hint of hot chocolate.

Pine Ridge Vineyards was pouring three Cabs. Their Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 blends Petit Verdot and Merlot. The nose is full of cherry, smoke and chocolate while the palate shows an almost spicy cassis side. It's a very distinctive and seductive wine. I'd like to have some for the holidays.

The guys from Poem Cellars were eager to show off their two Cabs, "Marriage" from 2006 and "Tastevin" from 2005. Both seemed influenced by their 22 months in French oak more than most wines on display here. Not that it's a bad thing, mind you. They both displayed a dark earthiness I found very appealing. "Tastevin" had a particularly expressive nose.

Silverado Vineyards brought a trio with them. The Napa 2005 Cab is 87% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. It had a dark side - black cherries, blackberries, earth - that hit me in the right spot. The "SOLO" Stags Leap District 2005 is all Cabernet Sauvignon and very dark itself, with a layer of anise to go with the cassis and chocolate. Their Limited Reserve 2005 brought out the big tannins. Grab a steak and have at it. The Cabernet Sauvignon is joined by equal small parts Merlot, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot.

Star Lane Vineyard is in that little place in Happy Canyon where a hot-weather grape like Cabernet Sauvignon can thrive while it's all Chardonnay and Pinot Noir around it. The 2005 "Astral" has a dark and earthy smell to it, and the taste follows that lead, with a flavor I can only think of as tobacco leaf that really jumps out at me. It's a creamy wine that's silky smooth on the toungue.

Trefethen Family Vineyards' Estate Cab 2005 smells of cherry cola and tastes of a chocolatey jam. What really knocked my socks off was their HaLo 2004. With bay leaf on the nose and clove and nutmeg in the flavor profile, this wine had me thinking of Christmas even though I knew it was about 80 degrees right outside the door. Well, in Beverly Hills it probably will be 80 degrees on Christmas Day, but you know what I mean. This is a great choice for Christmas dinner - I think it would pair fabulously with turkey - but at $175 a bottle, this may be better as one of the gifts under the tree.

T-Vine Cellars showed one that I just had to taste before leaving. Their Napa Red "T" Blend 2006 is 85% Cab, 15% Primitivo. I'm a sucker for anything utilizing an Italian-style varietal. This one is rich with the flavor of Italian wine and could be a new favorite of mine.

This event was put on by, who sponsor a series of luxury tastings of this nature. In fact, you may want to know about their next one, the 7th annual Stars of Santa Barbara on January 27th, 2010 at the Peninsula Beverly Hills.

Disclaimer: I was admitted to the tasting at no charge as a member of the media.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Chateau Montelena Zinfandel 2006

(Disclaimer: The wine reviewed here was bought at full price by the author during a visit to the winery.)

The Bottle: The front label features a drawing of the castle facade of the storied Chateau Montelena, the winery made famous in the 1976 Judgment of Paris. It was made even more famous in the movie about that event, Bottle Shock. While it was their Chardonnay that galled the Gauls in America's bicentennial year, I am writing today of their Zinfandel 2006. I also purchased a bottle of their Chardonnay during my visit to the Calistoga winery. I will cover that wine at a later date. This Zinfandel is 14.4% abv and cost $30 at the winery. It's an estate wine, grown, produced and bottled on the beautiful grounds of the winery. I was told in the tasting room that it's a 50/50 blend of Zinfandel and Primitivo, Zin's Italian relative.

The Nose: This is an extremely fragrant wine. Ruby red in color and not fully opaque, there are smells of currants and blackberries on the prominent nose along with an earthiness and a slight floral note.

The Taste:
It tastes full and rich. Cherry is the highlight, but there is a darkness to it. It's a beautiful and menacing taste at once. The tannins are almost silky in this well-balanced wine. Finish is lengthy and just as delicious as the drink itself.