The debate rages on as to whether Primitivo is the same thing as Zinfandel. Adding to the debate, the OSO LIBRE Nativo, made of 100% Paso Robles, California, estate-grown Primitivo, is unlike most California Zinfandels. There is none of that heavy, full-throttle ripeness and boldness here. This 2012 bottling, in fact, is more reminiscent of a young Italian Nebbiolo. And, indeed, Primitivo is an Italian grape—originally brought to Italy from a clone of a Croatian grape varietal. Got it? A California version of an Italian wine that was originally Croatian that may or may not be Zinfandel.
Anyhoo . . . the Nativo is a lovely, easily enjoyable red wine. Do let it decant for at least 30 minutes—initially tightly wound, it eventually loosens up to reveal a wine generous in spiced tea, ripe strawberry, redcurrant and clove flavors, with notes of woodsy cedar and shrubs on the impressive finish. The complex fruit comes from sustainably farmed vineyards, and the wine is of unmistakably handcrafted quality. It’s a robust and approachable wine, tantalizing on the palate with an air of the exotic and unfamiliar. That’s what you come to expect these days from the best wines of Paso Robles: the unexpected. Call it “Cal-Italian”—fans of California Zinfandel looking to expand the palate will find plenty that’s pleasing and surprising here, as will fans of Italian wines. –J.M.