With fall weather approaching, I’ve been suggesting Zinfandels to customers looking for suggestions. Most of the time the customer says, “No, no, no, I don’t want sweet or a white Zinfandel.” I have to quickly point out I’m talking about a red Zinfandel, which are fruit forward medium bodied delicious red wines.
Zinfandel happens to be California’s oldest grape. Although not originally from California, its roots have been traced to be from Croatia or Italy’s Puglia region depending on whom you ask.
Zinfandel is also the same grape as the Italian red wine called Primitivo. The word Primitivo in Italian means “early one”. The red wine and its grapes are called Primitivo because of its early ripening nature. Classic Primitivos from Italy tend to have a darker color with rich and concentrated black fruit notes, which is different from California Zinfandels that tend to have bright juicy red fruit flavor notes. This difference in style is directly correlated with the difference in climate.
Northern California, like most Zinfandel growing regions, has cooler temperatures, and Puglia (Southern Italy) has much warmer temperatures. Both styles are easy drinking red wines with great fruit that offer an alternative to your everyday Cabernet Sauvignon.
Here are a few of my favorite Zinfandels:
Campus Oaks Old Vine Zinfandel 2008, Lodi California
This Zinfandel is sourced from vines that are over eighty years old, which yields grapes with a more concentrated flavor. Most Old Vine Zinfandels retail well over twenty dollars, but not this great value Zin. For around fifteen dollars you are going to get a very well made wine. With great red fruit, a hint of vanilla, and pepper with medium tannins this wine will pair well with an array of BBQ meats to satisfy the Saturday and Sunday football crowd.
Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel 2010, Healdsburg, California
Easily one of my favorite wines we carry. Originally from Italy, the Seghesio family vineyard has been around for over one hundred years! This Sonoma Zin has the perfect balance of old world techniques from Italy with vines that have the pleasure of being in Sonoma County, California. Wine Enthusiast rated this wine a 93 out of 100 points, which is very rare for a California Zin under thirty dollars. This wine is more full-bodied than your normal Zin and gives off amazing red fruit notes with hint of blueberry towards the finish. Finishes absolutely delicious.
Layer Cake Primitivo 2010, Puglia, Italy
The Layer Cake label is owned and operated by Winemaker Jayson Woodbridge. Jayson is well known for making a high end Cabernet Sauvignon called Hundred Acre that retails for around three hundred dollars. Jayson sought out to make a wine that offers tremendous quality that everyone can enjoy without breaking the bank, and began the label Layer Cake. Layer Cake makes five different wines each from different vineyards around the world. Jayson hit a homerun with his Layer Cake Primitivo. Right in the heart of Southern Italy, these Primitivo grapes come from very ancient vines that produce a tasty rich wine. With tons of dark fruit and jamminess this wine encompasses exactly what an Italian Primitivo should taste like. Even with the soft structure it is powerful enough to go with any array of meats and even spicy foods.
The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BethesdaNow.com.
Community discussion guidelines: Our sponsored columns are written by members of the local business community. While we encourage a robust and open discussion, we ask that all reviews of the businesses — good or bad — be directed to another venue, like Yelp. The comments section is intended for a conversation about the topic of the article.