Zinfandel, you say; how about Tribidrag? Primitivo?

All three of these wines are essentially the same. Tribidrag is becoming accepted as the parent of Zinfandel. Lagier Meredith Vineyards, on Mount Veeder in Napa County, makes a Zinfandel which they grow and market with the original Croatian name. I have never tasted it, but I wanted to start a brief tour of the Zinfandel family by paying respect to Carole Meredith who is credited with tracing Zinfandel to its Croatia birthplace. I’ll try it sometime. I’m gonna guess that when I do, i won’t be able to tell it isn’t a Mount Veeder Zinfandel–which means it will be good!

Now that I’ve got myself feeling really exotic, let me tell you a bit about Dopio Passo 2011 Primitivo, from Salento, Puglia, in Italy. It’s very rich–sweet plum (not prune, which I detest in Zins from areas where the weather is too hot) and berry aromas and flavors and even a hint of chocolate. Sorry I can’t find a note on the dinner where we drank it. But the Food and Wine magazine wine club suggests pairing it with pates, hearty chicken, steak, sausage and ribs. It’s certainly very versatile and certainly Zinfandel.

Did I write earlier about Mutt Lynch Cellars’ 2009 Knights Valley, California Sonoma County Primitivo? We had it with flank steak, and it stimulated some serious superlatives as I made notes. Deep, dark cherry appearance; dark berries and cherries in its forward aroma, along with Zinfandel trait I call brambly. Mild mocha in the background, but none of the anise that Russian River Zinfandels often have, as vineyards here are home also to wild fennel.

In the mouth, wow! That mocha aroma tastes like a Starbucks chocolate frappe with no sugar–that’s still in the background. Up front, fruit compote! Yes. And with ample acids and smooth texture, there’s a sense of one of those red licorice chewy string having found its way into the product. That element shows up in a long aftertaste, so it turns out that Knights Valley has some fennel, too. Boy, is this wine a treat.

Moving to Zinfandel labels, a Contra Costa County, California 2011 bottling from Three Wine Company, produced by Matt Cline of one of Zinfandel’s premier families, boasts rich, full color, vibrant aromas of spice, berries, and sweet plums. Red and black berries emerge after a couple of tastes. The wine comes from very old vineyards, we’re told, so it’s naturally very intense. We hadd it with mango chicken with cashews over a rice pilaf with a tomato and mixed vegetable salad–but it is the kind of wine that is a meal in itself if you want a rich aperitif.

I should report that another Puglic, Italy Primitivo is marketed in the United States under the Layer Cake label. I find it very pleasant, well worth its model grocery-store price, but it’s not a wine that I made notes about. Neither was the 2011 Sutter HomeĀ Zinfandel that we acquired from someone; I think it’s produced in some of those too-warm, pruney areas of California that I generally avoid.

You already thought Zinfandel is confusing, I bet. Yes, it has been; now it’s even more so! But the varietal sure merits respect. Bob Cramer, The Fearless Taster.

A “makeover” tamale pie casserole from repurposed county fair leftovers

“Leftovers? Ugh!”

Not in my house. I serve only fresh-made entrees and side dishes. I, too, say “ugh” to typical leftovers. Nuked, saved from the trash, most leftovers can have seasonings and sauces refreshed, but . . . they’re still leftovers.

When I look in my overstuffed fridge I see raw materials for whole new creations. So my lunch offering to niece Sherry, tomorrow, is new. I like it, and think she will.

So there’s repurposing of readily available ingredients. Judy works for food vendors at the Sonoma County Fair for a couple of weeks most summers. They have to toss out leftover food each day. She rescues some of it, explaining the boxes of corn dogs in our fridge..

Okay, what’re they good for, maybe?

I love cornbread. Rip off the already-fried batter, chop it up, mix in small cubes of pepper jack cheese and some Cholula hot sauce, and there’s the topping for a mix of finely-diced hot dogs, canned yellow whole-kernel corn, tomato paste, generous taco seasonings, sauteed onions, and enough ale or leftover coffee to moisten it all.

This kind of mixture can be very tasty when express-zapped in the microwave and immediately treated to a light layer of shredded pepper jack cheese.

Most folks would celebrate this creation with beer, but I’m a wino and I find the spirit of this whole endeavor calling for a bracing kick of Charles Shaw Shiraz. Yummy! –Bob Cramer, The Fearless Taster.