Is Primitivo Zinfandel?

August 29, 2012 § 3 Comments

It is still a little known fact that Zinfandel was actually found to originally be from Croatia, and is known by the name Crljenak Kaštelanski or Plavac Mali.  This was news to all of us in the wine world, as we all thought that Zinfandel had to be from Italy. Here in Dry Creek Valley, Italian immigrants planted the beloved varietal, which further led most of us to believe that it must be from Italy.  Through DNA research at UC Davis, it was confirmed that Zinfandel is indeed from Croatia, not Italy.  But it has a close cousin that is in fact Italian: Primitivo.

Both Zinfandel and Primitivo grow on the estate here at the winery, and I have made wine from both of them for the last several years. Is there a true difference between the two?  Kelly and I went out to the vineyards this morning to look at the difference in the clusters and the leaves, and most of all, the flavor of the two varietals.  And we noticed overwhelming similarities, but yet distinct differences.

Exhibit A: Zinfandel                             Exhibit B: Primitivo

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As a finished wine, we find Primitivo to have a slightly spicier component than the Zinfandel and a little more tannin structure.  And, from our experiment earlier this morning, Primitivo does in fact have a slightly smaller berry and little looser cluster, which would explain the bigger tannins.  As the TTB law has it – we can label Primitivo as Zinfandel, but we cannot label Zinfandel as Primitivo.  For those of you interested in such things, we decided to use our 2011 Primitivo in our 2011 Dry Creek Zinfandel blend, along with “Zinfandel” from other Dry Creek Valley vineyards.  And we loved its contribution to the final blend!

Exhibit C: Zinfandel leaf (left) vs. Primitivo leaf (right)

Wine Competition

August 13, 2012 § Leave a comment




As a winery owner there is always the dilemma of whether or not to enter wine competitions, and which is more beneficial – ratings or medals?  This past year we have had the good fortune of doing very well in both! Some of the questions that come to mind however are: is there a significant difference between Silver and Gold? And more importantly, is there a difference between Gold/ Double Gold/ Best of Class/ Best of Show? In this year we have received each of the above, and heard the feedback in our tasting room for our accolades. We have also received 90+ point scores from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast that include detailed explanations of the scores.  I continue to debate which one is more valuable to our particular winery – and there is still no clear answer.

Then on the other hand, I have recently had the opportunity to judge two different wine competitions: The West Coast Wine Competition and the INDY Wine Competition. It always amazes me how the dynamic between each of the judges works and how individual each person’s palate can be. One thing I can assure you is that all wines are in fact blindly judged.  Each time I have the opportunity to sit at the judges table it helps me to learn a lot about my own palate and how it compares with other folks. And it certainly builds sensory confidence.

Although I don’t score wines for a magazine, I am often a judge in these sorts of wine competitions. It is something I enjoy doing very much.  I think it would amaze consumers to experience how we go about awarding medals to wines as a group. There is certainly communication amongst the group members as we taste the wines. And there is always the distinct possibility of missing a beautifully balanced and well-made wine.   The challenge in judging at wine competitions is that there is so much wine to taste! You may have a flight of fifteen different Chardonnays, followed by a flight of twelve different Zinfandels, followed by a flight of fourteen merlots.  Palate fatigue is very real!  I think sometimes what can get lost in the bunch at these competitions are lighter style wines that are beautifully balanced with great acidity and pair well with foods.  In conclusion, as a winery owner, I think you need to know which wines are better sent for press, and which wines are better sent for competitions.

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