Oso Libre Nativo Primitivo 2010
Paso Robles has made a name for itself as a source of supple, powerful, fruit-driven wines. But with eleven smaller sub-AVAs, there is actually quite a bit of diversity to be found in this inland portion of California’s Central Coast.
Just east over the Santa Lucia Mountains from the chilly Pacific Ocean, lie the coolest in the region: Adelaida, Templeton Gap and (Paso Robles) Willow Creek Districts, as well as York Mountain AVA and Santa Margarita Ranch. These all experience more ocean fog, wind and precipitation compared to the rest of the Paso sub-appellations. The San Miguel, (Paso Robles) Estrella, (Paso Robles) Geneso, (Paso Robles) Highlands, El Pomar and Creston Districts, along with San Juan Creek, are the hotter, more western appellations of the greater Paso Robles AVA.
This is mostly red wine country, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel standing out as the star performers. Other popular varieties include Merlot, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Grenache and Rhône blends, both red and white. There is a fairly uniform tendency here towards wines that are unapologetically bold and opulently fruit-driven, albeit with a surprising amount of acidity thanks to the region’s chilly nighttime temperatures.
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.