Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Non-Traditional Wines: Primitivo

As mentioned in recent posts, the time has finally come for us to introduce our latest series of reviews on non-traditional wines of the northwest. While others seem content reviewing who has the best cab sauv or pinot noir, we're aiming to increase awareness of non-traditional varietals. Look forward to reviews on Malbecs, Barberas, Dolcettos, and others you typically wouldn't expect northwest wineries to produce in large quantities. These wines have been either traditional blending wines or those not done in the region.

To accomplish this task, we have asked wineries all around the northwest to send us samples of their non-traditional wines. The response was overwhelmingly positive and we have since had more than enough bottles sent our way for this experiment. We'd like to take a moment to thank each and every winery who sent us their wine and are excited to share the fruits of their labor with all of you.

Today's wine? Primitivo.

About Primitivo

To be as accurate as possible (and because we're scientists), we have decided to consult the most accurate source of information in the world: Wikipedia.

In short, primitivo is essentially a clone of Zinfandel, which is an Italian varietal that also accounts for approximately 10% of California's yield. This clone theory was verified by DNA fingerprinting in 1993 and since then has created a variety of laws regarding the use of its name. While some countries' labeling laws allow primitivo and zinfandel to be used as synonyms, the US' labeling laws require winemakers to specify which clone their grapes came from.

It is also worth noting that primitivo grapes tend to produce more fruit, can be picked sooner, and have less rot. This is obviously very appealing to winemakers over the zinfandel clone.

The Wine

Choosing the best primitivo of our samples was easy as we only received one; thankfully for our palates it was a delicious selection. We sampled the 2007 Primitivo from Pend d'Orielle Winery in Sandpoint, Idaho. This wine, using grapes sourced 100% from the Coyote Canyon Vineyard in Horse Heaven Hills (Washington), fulfills the winemaker's vision of "exploring flavors and experiences that grapes impart on wines." A new release and first of the vintage for the winery, this is also a first for The Oregon Wine Blog. Until today, we have yet to review a primitivo (or zinfandel for that matter), and wine from the budding industry in the State of Idaho has been grossly lacking.

As we weren't comparing this primitivo to others, we decided to pair it with a meal for full flavor impact. After an initial taste with clean palates, we dug in to our dinner of steak, corn on the cob, baked potato, and rolls....enjoying the wine throughout. Immediately evident was a strong nose that is quintessential of fruit from Eastern Washington. With sharp, fruity notes and an almost sweet port-like essence, the "wrapping" on this gift certainly did it justice. A deep, dark burgundy / purple color complemented the classic Italian taste, with flavors of plum, cranberries, black licorice, and leather. A spicy finish was mellowed by the steak, and this wine easily could have been mistaken as purely Italian had we not known it's origin.

This isn't a wine we would traditionally keep on the rack for day to day drinking, however, after this bottle we may reevaluate the selection. Definitely a food wine, this is a wonderful first introduction into Idaho wine and we're looking forward to the other samples from Pend d'Oreille. At only $28 per bottle and a 122 case production, get your hands on it while you can!

Know of any other northwest primitivos? Please share with us by posting a comment.


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