Saturday, February 7, 2009

ZAP Wine Festival Highlights

Each year the ZAP, Zinfandel Advocates and Producers, have a Zinfandel Festival with a Grand Tasting at Fort Mason in San Francisco and several tasting events throughout the week. This year, we attended the 18th Annual Grand Tasting--thanks again to industry passes from our friend, Jeff. Earlier in the week, Jeff prepared his New Jersey State Championship chili to pair with the Mounts Family Winery at the Good Eats & Zinfandel Pairing Event and he generously shared his passes with us!

Armed with a wristband and an official ZAP wine glass, we headed into the sea of Zinfandel. Over 250 producers were set up alphabetically in the Herbst and Festival Pavilions. Seven hundred wines were being poured, all Zinfandel, with the exception of a few rogue varietals that would occasionally appear from under the tables. Our industry passes let us in early with producers and media. Thousands filled the buildings even before the "regular public" were let in, by the end of the day 10,000 would have been through the Grand Tasting.

The first stop was at one of the many bread stations to grab a baguette to go. When going up against hundreds of wines, you need to keep the "ax sharp". We would share tastes, expectorate (the polite word for spit) as necessary, and consume lots of water, cheese, and bread. Luckily for Justin his past experience tasting with professionals winemakers was exceptional preparation.

During the event we decided to Twitter our tasting impressions. We were happy to find the Wine 2.0 sponsored blogging lounge. We included the #ttl hash tag to stream our comments to other like-minded technophiles following Twitter Taste Live. Some of the wines that struck us were . . .
  • Steele -- Next generation winemaker Quincy Steele put out a solid value effort with the '06 Steele Writersblock at $12.50
  • Rubicon -- Rubicon Estates poured a high end power Zin (Edizione Pennino) at 15.4% alcohol, but it was remarkably finessed. Priced to match at $45.
  • Claudia Springs -- Claudia Springs Ricetti Vineyard and barrel tasting had great jammy red fruit. We've seen this Mendecino vintner distributed back in Minneapolis. In speaking with Claudia herself we learned that their distributor said Minnesota is the "cult of Claudia", who knew?
  • Gamba Vineyards -- Gamba Zin threw in the spice rack with their Russian River AVA wine. Stangers we ran into would say to try the Gamba . . . it was the ZAP sleeper. Yum.
  • Wilson -- When we've been to Wilson Winery off Dry Creek Road, we've usually remembered their Cabs and Merlot. We were astounded at the number of individual Zin offerings being poured, however, Diane's Blend was the winner for us.
  • Turley -- Helen Turley produces stellar, bellwether Zins. The '06 Hayne Vineyard ($75) kept the crowd gathered 4 deep, even before they let the doors open to the public. A very pretty wine, with black cherry and some lingering floral notes. More finesse than blockbuster.
  • Tofanelli -- We first fell in love with Vince's Charbono varietal several years ago. Farmers first (they grow Zin for Turley) the Tofanelli's were able to work their own fermentation magic on the grapes. Nicely balanced with fruit, spice, and some cigar box wood.
Overall, it was a beautiful day to get out into the city and drink some Zinfandel . . . then again, what day isn't?

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