Irish Monkey Cellars
2007 Primitivo - Lovall Valley - NAPA
$30 / 750 ml.

Zinfandel was for many years a "mystery inside an enigma, in the belly of a conundrum". It is one of California's most widely planted grapes, yet the name is unknown anywhere else in the world. Adding to the mystery, until recently there were no similar grapes being grown anywhere in the Old Country! That changed about 20 years ago with the discovery that the Primitivo di Gioia grape of Puglia in Italy is essentially the same, then a few years ago the 9(!) remaining plants of the near-wild Croatian variety Crljenak Kasteljanski which was determined by UC Davis to be identical.

Yet, like so many things that are "for all purposes genetically identical", there are differences in the clones themselves. In this case the Primitivo is a clone with a great degree of character, unusual among Zinfandels. We are lucky to have access to a tiny vineyard in Napa's Lovall Valley (accessible only through Sonoma!), which produces every year a wealth of tiny berries. The bramble, oak and sharp cherry/plum tones are just amazing.

Because of the extraordinary intensity of Primitivo's fruit, pairing it to food takes a confidence and a complimentary flavor profile. It pairs naturally with savory roasted meat dishes, as well as bold and hearty casseroles. It can showcase a goose or venison, as well as give a plate of Blue cheeses a worthy sparring partner. Think of Primitivo as a finely bred knight: strong yet genteel, glittery yet solid.

Serving
Temperature Cool Room Temp The slightly lowered temperature brings forth the fruit and focusses the palate on tasting the green bell pepper, wild strawberry, yellow mirabelle plum and earthen oak flavors.
Glass Tall, mid bowl The smaller bowl allows the fruit flavors to be concentrated, and keeps the fugitive high notes from fleeing too soon. The tall glass also encourages light swirling, just before each taste, which fills the bowl with fruit aromas and texture.
Transition to

Malbec
Cabernet Sauvignon
Bordeaux
Syrah
Petit Sirah
Port

In transition the follow-on wine should not showcase fruit, as it will just compete instead of compliment. The list to the left achieves this, but only in the 'usual case'. There are very powerfully fruity flavored Cabs and Petit Sirah's, which would be better served on a different sequence.