Godfather III: Turley Zin vs Barricone Primitivo #ItalianFWT

Turley Zin and Barricone Primitivo

Having started out in wine working the tasting room at Ridge Vineyards (which at that time was outside on a picnic table under a deck!), I’ve long been a fan of Zinfandel. My writing partner, Sue Hill, grew up in an Italian family making ravioli by hand and drinking Pesenti Zinfandel from Paso Robles.

Knowing there’s a relationship between Primitivo and Zinfandel, we proposed to the Italian Food Wine Travel group to take a look at Italy’s Primitivo and ask “Is Primitivo The Godfather of Zinfandel”?

Our mission was to find out how similar or different Primitivo and Zinfandel are to each other because they have always been touted as being from the same family, some say with Primitivo being “The Godfather of Zin.”

However, it’s not that one is The Godfather to the other; rather they are more like siblings, fraternal twins even as they are clones of each other, and clones not even from Italy as many might think but from Croatia!

You might even say Primitivo and Zinfandel are twins separated at birth!

You might also think of Primitivo and Zinfandel as being like different Pinot Noir clones– they are both pinot noir, but very different.

Primitivo/Zinfandel grapes ripen unevenly, making it challenging to work with. In order to get ripeness, some of the grapes can look more like raisins. Read more about my experience picking zinfandel this harvest here.

According to Wikipedia,  “Croatia once had several indigenous varieties related to Zinfandel…This diversity suggests that the grapes have been grown in Croatia longer than anywhere else. These varieties were almost entirely wiped out, however, by the phylloxera epidemic of the late 19th century, eventually reducing Zinfandel to just nine vines of locally-known “Crljenak Kaštelanski” discovered in 2001.”

In Italy, the government began calling the grape Primitivo in the 1870s, and the name refers to its tendency to ripen first, or earlier than others (primativus or primaticcio).


Puglia, also known as Apulia, is the heel of the boot of Italy, seen here in red. First colonized by Mycenaean Greeks, Puglia is one of the richest archaeological regions in Italy.


In Italy, Primitivo is the twelfth most planted grape, found mostly in the “heel” of the boot in Puglia with three  main DOC areas: Primitivo di Manduria, Gioia del Colle Primitivo (Riserva), and Falerno del Massico Primitivo (Riserva o Vecchio). While in the past Primitivo was shipped north from Puglia to be blended in to add body, richness, and fruit, today it’s found its own voice as a rustic, high alcohol red wine sometimes aged in new American oak like its Zinfandel twin. 


It’s been really fun comparing and contrasting Primitivo and Zinfandel this past month, with a deep dive into examples from El Dorado County, first Di Arie for Godfather I: the Invite Post and then Miraflores for Godfather II: The Preview. (and yes I included trailers for each of the movies in the posts!)We even have one more zinfandel centric post planned for Zinfandel Day in mid-November! Years ago I contrasted two from Amador’s Sobon in this post.

What we found out is that each had their unique characteristics, but each have commonalities. All were fantastic with the evening meal. Or as John put it: “This food is really, really good.”

In this post we are comparing an Italian Primitivo to a California Zinfandel:

  • 2017 Turley Zinfandel, Pesenti Vineyard Paso Robles, CA
  • 2017 Barricone Primitivo, Puglia, Italy

Both wines were so fantastic, there was such a familiar quality between the two, making us wonder about similarities in terroir. These two were the closest of the various wines we tasted that night (see here and upcoming Zinfandel Day post) while being the most diverse… if that makes any sense.

There are also differences in the way both of the wines reacted to the meal tonight, textural differences, and flavor differences. However both wines were a perfect fit for our homestyle Italian meal tonight inspired by recipes and foods from The Godfather Movies.


Cheese Board
Caprese Salad
Vegan Sausage with homegrown roasted tomato sauce with vegetarian raviolis
Organic green beans
Cannoli stuffed with ricotta and chocolate chips


2017 Turley Zinfandel, Pesenti Vineyard Paso Robles, CA
ABV 15.8%; SRP $60
Sue purchased this wine with her wine club discount.

This winery is very near and dear to Sue’s heart because the Pesenti family was one of the four families that immigrated to the US from Italy with Sue’s family. Mr. Pesenti was Sue’s family’s “Godfather.” He was the person that Sue’s grandparents went to when they needed the money to buy their family home, and the one her uncle went to in High School to buy his first car.

Color: Deep dark dense, ruby, garnet rim

Nose: Carnation, rose petals, herbs, sage, wet sea, minerals, mint, cinnamon, not either but cool.

Palate: Sue, “This is such a wonderful wine” I loved the rich royal texture.  Over the top pleasurable. Hedonistic. Bright tart fruit, cherry, raspberry, menthol and sage, minerals and acidity. Clean and lovely.  Such a pleasurable sipping wine. This wine did not last long in Sue’s glass. I found that the Turley was a bit raisin  forward with the meal. I did not find it to be so fruity until we paired it with the food. It really came out with the roasted tomatoes. The rich roasted flavors of the tomatoes match so well. Both are such a rich roasted flavor.

Pairing: Our Turley was fantastic with every part of our cheese plate. Loved the LaTur, great with all of the strong salty Italian cheeses. Ideal with the meal.

Barricone Primitivo

2017 Barricone Primitivo, Puglia, Italy
ABV 13.5%; SRP ?
Sue purchased this at Grocery Outlet for under $10.

Color: So dark, so dense, almost ink, plum with a garnet rim

Nose: Sandalwood, musk, cedar, very woody, sage,

Palate: John felt this tasted like it smelled, musky, sandalwood, such clean acidity, Super dry, nice bright minerals, nice mouthfeel, mouthwatering.

Pairing: OMG with the LaTur it was over the top. LaTur has earth and acidity. Italian wines are full of earth and acidity. They work together in tandem with earthy foods. I love the Primitivo with the meal. So bright tart and mouthwatering.

We really needed a dessert zin or primitivo, but I didn’t bring one and turned out Sue didn’t have one sp as Zin weren’t cutting it for our cannoli tonight so Sue pulled out an Italian dessert wine which we’ve written about in depth here.

2011 Anselmi  I Capitelli Veneto Passito Bianco
ABV 14.5% 

Color: Golden amber, apricot

Nose: Apricot nectar, honeysuckle, nectar, flowers and fruit.

Palate: On the palate there is apricot nectar, but bright acidic flavors.

Pairing: This wine was so fabulous with the food tonight. What a perfect match.

As I said in the preview post, sometimes there are nights where the wine and the food is so fabulous together that you enjoy both so much together that you forget what you needed to focus on in the beginning. Wine flows and the menu is so fantastic together that stories are evoked, and told. People begin talking about experiences and the meal, not even realizing how well the wine and the food are playing together to enhance the experience.

Here’s who is writing about what and where which we will be publishing by 8am Pacific on Saturday Nov.7, just in time for our twitter chat:

Join our twitter chat on the topic on Saturday Nov. 7 at 8am Pacific by following the hashtag #ItalianFWT.

8/11:00 am

Q1. Welcome to the Italian Food Wine & Travel group chat! Today we’re discussing Primitivo wines from Italy. Introduce yourself, and tell us where you are from. Share a link to your blog, too. #ItalianFWT

8/11:05 am

Q2. Today we ask “Is Primitivo the Godfather of Zinfandel?” Primitivo is grown in several wine regions in Italy as well as in other parts of the world, as is Zinfandel. How familiar were you with Primitivo before this? How about Zin? #ItalianFWT

8/11:10 am

Q3. So is Primitivo the Godfather of Zin? Or vice versa? Genetically Primitivo and Zinfandel are so similar it took DNA fingerprinting to find they are both clones of a Croatian grape called Crljenak. Was this new info to you? Observations? #ItalianFWT

8/11:15 am

Q4.  So knowing that Primitivo and Zinfandel are so similar it took DNA fingerprinting to find they are both clones of a Croatian grape, do you find them similar in character? Observations? #ItalianFWT

8/11:20 am

Q5. Zinfandel and Primitivo can be enjoyed dry, sweet, or as rose. Tell us about the style of wine(s) you chose. Is there anything unique about the producer that you chose or the process in which they produce their Primitivo or Zinfandel?  #ItalianFWT

8/11:25 am

Q6. Tell us more about the wine(s) you chose.  Where does this Primitivo come from and why did you choose it?  Share a link to your blog post please! #ItalianFWT

8/11:30 am

Q7. What about the region? Are you familiar with its winemaking traditions, producers, styles of wine, or cultural highlights and places to visit? What did you learn? #ItalianFWT

8/11:35 am

Q8. Did you pair your Primitivo with food?  Did you go traditional Italian or something else? Please share pictures and tell us all about it.  #ItalianFWT

8/11:40 am

Q9. In the Godfather, Clemenza says: ”Leave the gun – take the cannoli.” Food is an important aspect of Italian culture. What is the local cuisine like where your wine hails from? How might it pair with Primitivo? #ItalianFWT

8/11:45 am

Q10. How would you best describe the differences between Zinfandel and Primitivo to people who are not familiar with them? #ItalianFWT

8/11:50 am

Q11. While Zinfandel is well known, especially in California, Primitivo is less known. Have you tried a Primitivo from the US? Have you compared with one from Italy? Observations?#ItalianFWT

8/11:55 am

Q12. In the Godfather films, family is paramount. With Thanksgiving coming up, would you pair Primitivo or Zinfandel with your family feast? Why or why not? #ItalianFWT

8/12:00 pm

Thanks so much for joining the #ItalianFWT chat on Primitivo today. Join us in December as we discuss Italian Sparkling wines. https://culinary-adventures-with-cam.blogspot.com/2020/11/youre-invited-exploration-of-italian.html Until then, stay safe and healthy!


Finally, in my count down to 1000, this is post #996!

Tomorrow is Merlot Day, and I have a vertical of Duckhorn to tell you about; that will be 997. I have a few different drafts to consider for 998 and 999, but what should be the content of the magic 1000 post? More bubbles perhaps? Possibly Champagne? We shall see!


10 thoughts on “Godfather III: Turley Zin vs Barricone Primitivo #ItalianFWT

  1. You hit on two things that stand out for me- the commonalities of these grapes (there are many) and how some evenings it just all works and transports you to a place where you forget about the initial purpose. Thanks for hosting Gwendolyn!

    Liked by 1 person

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