Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Washington Zinfandel v. Puglia

The Giro d'Italia got underway in Sicily winding its way South and then East toward Puglia and the heel of the boot.  The first week of racing saw the race favorites attacking and battling much more than is usual for the first week of a Grand Tour.

At the first rest day Vincenzo Nibali is wearing the leader's jersey, also known as the Maglia Rosa.

The racers didn't spend much time in Puglia, but the route did pass through this South Eastern Italian wine region.  This week's match up features a Washington Zinfandel taking on a Primitivo from Puglia.  These grapes are considered to be the same, but with different names.

2009 II Vintners Zinfandel v. 2010 Feudi Di San Marzano Primitivo Puglia

Tale of the Tape

2009 II Vintners Zinfandel

75% Zinfandel, 18% Primitivo, and 7% Petite Sirah from Stonetree Vineyard in the Wahluke Slope AVA

Purchased for $22.99 at Wine World & Spirits

2010 Feudi Di San Marzano Primitivo Puglia

100% Primitivo from Puglia

Aged for 5 to 6 months in French Oak Barrels

Purchased for $14.99 at Wine World & Spirits

Round 1.  First Opening

The Puglia Primitivo Pugilist strolls into the ring looking like a smooth operator.  The nose features dusty raspberry, candle wax and faint anise spice.  The palate is lush with notes of raspberry, tart cranberry, cedar and white pepper that wraps up with a finish that is slightly tart and plush like a velour pillow.

The II Vintners Zinfandel is bringing the funk with a nose that gives off a wicked scent of wet dog, seaweed, smoke and sandalwood.  The palate delivers the goods with dark red berry and clove spices that lead to a  tart cracked pepper finish.

The nose on the II Vintners lead me to doubt this Luchador's pedigree.  The palate and finish followed through with a solid performance, but it was not enough to overtake the Primitivo from Puglia.  Round 1 goes to the Italian Luchador.

Round 2.  One hour after opening

The Primitivo from Puglia is beefing up and working to batter the II Vintners.  The nose is showing darker fruit, savory soy, umami, smoke and cracked pepper.  The palate is featuring dark tart berries, clove, white peppercorn and hints of licorice vines all finishing off tart and spicy.

The II Vintners has settled down and swings into action with a wicked clothes line to the Italian's throat.  The nose is rich and full of dark fruit, savory soy and light pepper.  The palate is showing dark fruit, roasted coffee and tart cocoa powder leading to a finish that is dark with coffee bean and  light menthol spices.

The II Vintners responded to the first round wakeup call and took round 2 by the slightest of margins.

Round 3.  One day after opening

The Puglia is getting spicy and sassy for the final round throwing nasty looks at the judges and taunting the crowd.  The nose has evolved to show dusty dark cherry, soy and menthol.  The palate is driving home the elements of a diverse attack with dark cherry, clove, cinnamon and cracked pepper with a tart eucalyptus finish.

The II Vintners Zinfandel is fighting back with a nose that is showing off dark black fruit, light white pepper and savory soy notes.  The palate is dark with rich berry, cola, smokey coffee bean, cloves and tart cocoa with an Asian spice finish.

This final round is hard to call and the winner will take the overall match.  After huddling the judges have awarded the round and the match to the Feudi di San Marzano Primitivo.  The crowd is going nuts and so is the II Vintners Zinfandel.  It looks like the Puglia Primitivo is going to need a police escort to exit the building!

Wrap up and overall observations

The Primitivo from Puglia was surprising.  I have not tasted many Italian Primitivos and the few that I have tasted have not impressed.  At $14.99 the Feudi di San Marzano delivers the goods and then some.  I would definitely recommend searching out this Southern Italian Luchador if you enjoy a rich spicy red wine.

The II Vintners stalled out of the gate and then built some serious momentum and strength as the match went on.  This Washington state Zinfandel brings the power that you would expect from a Zin.  It is rich, spicy and hearty.  I would open this one and give it an hour or so to relax and breath before pouring and enjoying.  Another winner from II Vintners, but sadly, not a winner in this Italian inspired matchup. 

The Italians have a passion for bicycle racing that is matched by relatively few nations.  The Giro d' Italia is considered the championship of Italy and the Tifosi (Italian cycling fans) live and die with their favorite Italian racers.  There are many (non-Italians) that believe the race promoters design each year's course to suit the strengths of the top Italian racers.  You don't believe me?  Check out this quote from Vincenzo Nibali about the first Time Trial course "It was like the first half of the course was made for me."  Conspiracy theory?  Perhaps.  Either way, it makes for exciting racing.  If you haven't already, check out the Giro before it is over.  Three weeks can go by in an awful hurry!

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