It has been said that the Greeks brought wine to Italy, and in turn the Italians gave wine to the world. The old ruins and wine presses of the ancient Roman Empire in Germany and France as well as much of Western Europe are the initial proof of this global manifestation. But it wasn’t until Italians immigrated in-masse to the United States, and more specifically California, that this old saying began to take root (in the form of new vineyards) and to establish a sense of street cred in the wine world.
One indication of that new world wine influence can be found in the bulk plantings of America’s beloved Zinfandel grape. Originally traced back as a virtual clone of the Italian varietal known as Primitivo, the Zinfandel grape is believed to have been brought to the United States sometime in the 19th century.
After surviving both the phylloxera epidemic of the late 1800’s and American prohibition in the 20th century, Zinfandel was replanted extensively and thrived throughout much of California’s wine country. And the families of Italian immigrants like Sonoma County’s Seghesio family carried on that tradition of giving wine to the world.
Seghesio makes over half a dozen Zins including their flagship Sonoma County Zinfandel that comes capped in a bright blue foil. Melodically fluid with loads of red fruit flavors like cherries, strawberries and raspberries, the 2010 Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel is the gateway to Zinfandel heaven. If you’re a huge fan of Zinfandel then be sure to save up for one of their specialty Zins like the Rockpile, Old Vines, Pagani, Home Ranch or Monte Rosso. You won’t be disappointed!
Interestingly enough, the history of the Italian version – the Primitivo clone, led researchers to track both it and the Zinfandel clone even further back. Although most Primitivo can be found grown and vinified on the “heel” of the Italian boot, its indigenous roots (like that of Zinfandels) have been studied and ultimately linked back to plantings of a Croatian clone just across the Adriatic Sea.
In contrast, Italian Primitivo tends to have a noticeably different flavor profile than its American Zinfandel counterpart. Since it is less fruity, with more of a rustic note, Primitivo is very food friendly especially when it comes to traditional Italian recipes. Producers like Monaci, Cantele and Apollonio are affordable and accurate representations of Italian Primitivo. But, of the Primitivos that I’ve sampled, it is the 2010 Layer Cake that seems to have the closet resemblance to California Zinfandel. The proof is in its fruit-forward style and approachable demeanor.
Finally, if you classify yourself as a Zin-fanatic of Zin-head, then it’s a must for you to check out California’s ZAP Festival. ZAP or Zinfandel Advocates & Producers holds an annual festival in San Francisco at the first of every year that is considered to be one of the best wine events in all of California.
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