Layer Cake Primitivo aka Zinfandel 2014
By far the most versatile wine in the Layer Cake lineup; the big power makes it work with all kinds of meats and roasts, the soft textures and sweet, ripe fruit make it one of the few red wines that works amazingly well with spicy foods.
At Layer Cake, we work directly with the farmers to grow the fruit we work with. Our grapes are grown to exacting standards in some of the most diversely-layered vineyards around the world. They are handpicked, separated and fermented with care, then aged in French Oak. The character of each Layer Cake wine is influenced by the vineyard soil, which is layered like a cake…every layer tells a story.
It all started in South Australia, when we met a few growers in a pub. We swapped stories over a few pints, then went to walk around some vineyards. We knew we could make great wine from these vineyards, and with diligence, sell the wines at a price that would over-deliver compared to the offerings on the retail shelves, so we were off to the races.
During a visit to Puglia to investigate the flavors behind Carole Meredith’s recent studies showing that Primitivo is indeed identical to Zinfandel, we discovered the largest cache of old-vine Zinfandel grapes in the world. We knew Layer Cake Primitivo was meant to be.
Argentina is now known as the best place on the planet to grow Malbec, hands down. We met some fantastic family growers to work with, the Layer Cake Malbec was born, and we just can’t make enough to satisfy the ravenous appetite you all have for it.
We came back to our homeland, Napa, next and decided it was time to seek out some special vineyards here as well. Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay were naturals to make here, as we have many friends with excellent vineyards to nurture and turn into Layer Cake Wines.
The bottom line is, we look not only at places where you could make wine, but places where we want to make wine: steeped in history, diverse foods, sweeping landscapes and interesting people. We seek out the best varieties a region has and then find a way to make a great wine for you at a price that makes you able to buy more.
Well-suited to the production of concentrated, fruity and spicy red varieties, Puglia is one of Italy’s warmest, most southerly regions. Its entire eastern side is one long coastline bordering the Adriatic Sea. About half way down, the region becomes the Salento Peninsula. This peninsula, bordered by water on three sides, receives moist, nighttime, sea breezes that bring a welcome cooling effect to the region, where little rain creates a challenging environment for its vines. In fact, the region is named for the Italian expression, “a pluvia,” meaning “lack of rain.”
Puglia’s Mediterranean climate and iron-rich, calcareous soils support the indigenous Primitivo, Negroamaro and Nero di Troia. Primitivo produces an inky, spicy, brambly and ripe red wine whose best expression comes from Manduria. Nero di Troia produces tannic, rustic reds from Castel del Monte DOC while Negroamaro, typically blended with Malvasia nera, plays a large part in may blends made throughout the peninsula.
Puglia produces a small amount of white wines as well, predominantly made of the fruity, Trebbiano Toscano, or light, Bombino bianco grapes.
Responsible for inky, brambly, and ripe fruit driven wines, Primitivo bears more than a passing resemblance to Zinfandel—and there’s a very good reason for this. The two varieties are actually one and the same and have a Croatian origin. Primitivo was brought to Italy from Croatia in the late 1800s and became an important variety in the hot, dry, southern region of Puglia. Here it was named from the Latin word, primativus, meaning "first to ripen."
In the Glass
The flavors of Primitivo are, naturally, very similar to those of Zinfandel, but often it is somewhat leaner, and more structured and earthy. Typical characteristics include ripe berry fruit, plum, black pepper, fresh earth and sweet baking spice.
Primitivo pairs best with full-flavored, hearty meat dishes like roasted lamb, beef brisket, hamburgers, meatballs with Moroccan seasonings, beef fajitas or anything barbecued.
The link between Primitivo and Zinfandel is quite a recent discovery. While there was some speculation that they were related, it wasn't until 1994 when grape geneticists at UC Davis identified them as identical. The grape goes by the name of Tribidrag in Croatia and is a parent of the modern Croatian variety, Plavac Mali.