Bernardo Winery, San Diego’s oldest operating winery, anchors a charming village of shops, cafes, and galleries. But their 2009 Primativo wins the charm competition.
DNA tests have shown that the primativo grape, which is grown abundantly in the Puglia region of Italy, is identical to zinfandel, although there is some debate about clonal variation. More restrained than the high alcohol fruit bombs sold as California zinfandel, Italian versions of Primativo tend be fruity and rustic when allowed to ripen properly in their sun-drenched vineyards. The Bernardo Winery’s version manages to leave the impression of rusticity while producing a more elegant, spice-driven wine that borrows from both the old and new world.
Bay leaves are prominent on the nose providing counterpoint to a background of raisin, cedar, and loam. The herbal theme continues on the palate pleasantly oscillating with soft cherry notes until giving way to a surprisingly satiny finish highlighting fine-grained tannins. Firm acidity holds it all together. At 14.5% alcohol, there is no hint of bitterness. This wine is not for everyone. Some will find the mouthfeel to be thin and the nose odd due to lack of concentrated fruit, but that restraint allows other virtues to shine.
Good: A long, interesting mid-palette with satin-like mouthfeel.
Bad: May lack sufficient concentration for some palates.
Distinctive: Spice-driven nose.
$32 at the winery. This is a very small production wine—80 cases. Grab it if you see it