If you want to explore the allure and potential of Zinfandel the ZAP festival is the place to do it. The Zinfandel Advocates & Producers 2012 gathering excelled in many ways. This festival held at The Concourse Center in San Francisco spanned three days in January. Epicuria on January 26 featured 50 top Zinfandel wines paired with creations from noteworthy chefs. Flights on January 27 poured several flights of Zinfandel wines in a seminar style tasting accompanied by commentary from Zinfandel experts. The Winemakers Dinner also on January 27 consisted of a reception followed by dinner along with silent and live auctions all accompanied by private selections poured by winemaker hosts.
I focused on the Grand Tasting January 28. The sheer multitude of wines offered exceeded the imagination. The Grand Tasting took place in a new venue, The Concourse in the South Market area in San Francisco. The building was a massive long hall where wine tasting booths stretched literally out of sight. Booth arrangement was down the middle with booths also on the sides. Many were on two levels although not two stories. As the day progressed the multitudes came and filled the immense hall – novices, tasters, and Zinophiles.
I had anticipated this day was going to be a Zincredible journey, and I was not disappointed. To a certain extent this is a tale of two Zins. The first, an errant image of the underdog grape producing simple monochromatic wines. The second image is quite a bit more Zinteresting. Those who stereotype wine from the Zinfandel grape as monochromatic should start thinking kaleidoscope instead. Producers, vineyards, appellations, styles, so many wines. Big wines, old vines, lite and elegant styles, great variety was presented in a true Zinphony of flavors and formats, all quite Zintriguing. The variety proved the winemakers were quite Zinventive. These wines from the Zinderella Grape did not disappoint. For my taste they fabulously exceeded!
A happening of this sort and massive scale is truly a Mission Zinpossible. The organizers of this extravaganza obviously used great Zintelligence as they pulled off a top flight event with Zintillating precision. It seemed everything had been considered. Public relations emails gave advance notice of event offerings and how to get around. Alpha layout of the producers expedited locating wineries of personal interest. Volunteers were plentiful to address questions to.
Offerings included all the wines to taste, a generous supply of handouts of various wine journals including back issues, bread, cheese, fruit, even bottles of drinking water. Not to be missed was a booth from the Historic Society, the well supplied media area, and relevant wares for purchase. This Grand Tasting even had a international aspect. An Italian producer complete with Italian accent was present and pouring, you guessed it, Italian Zinfandel! Hats off to the organizers!
The wise took bread and water frequently because palate burn out can be an issue with this fruit forward wine and a near infinity of bottlings to select from, some with generous alcohol levels in the interest of achieving maximum physiological grape maturity. Spitting all wines tasted is definitely the way to go as in all wine tastings.
Come to the ZAP and the evangelists there will turn you into a convert! Of one thing I am certain. Anyone attending the ZAP will scoff at the words “Go and Zin no more.”
My tasting notes, all Zinfandel of course
89, XYZin 50, 2009, Russian River Valley. Aromas of vine bark and forest floor with full flavors of dark fruit in this tasty wine from 50 year old vines.
91, T-Vine, 2008, Napa Valley. A big, very tasty wine with sweet fruit and good balance. Well extracted and a fresh quality from acid levels sufficient to make this a good food matching candidate. Exhibits mineral and cuisine-like character. Plenty friendly, but time will be required to tame the tannins. Not the first excellent wine I have tasted from this producer over the years.
90, Tin Barn Vineyards, 2009, Gilsson Vineyard, Windsor, Russian River Valley. A familiar producer of good wines. Sweet dark fruit with a sugary character yet maintains good focus. Sufficient acid to go well with food.
92, Turley, Hayne Vineyard, 2010, Napa Valley, barrel sample. Brooding black-purple in color tasting of sweet black fruit. A big wine yet still exhibiting the balance of a tightrope walker. Highly extracted but user friendly. Another fine Turley.
90, Seghesio Family Vineyards, 2009, San Lorenzo. A big wine with the fruit and viscosity taking the edge off the high extract. Exhibits excellence, but will require time to soften the tannins.
89, Beekeeper, 2009, Madrone Springs Vineyard, Rockpile, Dry Creek Valley. A blockbuster already showing complex character with mineral notes and sweet fruit. Aging is required to soften the tannins and remove the slight bitter nuances.
90, Gamba, 2009, Old Vine, Gamba Estate Vineyard, Russian River Valley. Lovely black-purple in color with a nice tar character and slight astringency. Watch this one age.
88, Gnarley Head 2009 Old Vine, Lodi. Intense sweet fruit and with a nice viney and grapy character.
91, Optiminio 2009, Russian Rivar Valley. This dry farmed effort of 390 cases already exhibits good harmony and complexity. A well made wine showing spice and fruit on the nose with good balance.
91, Mounts 2009 Old Vine, Dry Creek. A juicy but focused example of another one of the fine wines this producer makes.
91, Bedrock, 2010 Heirloom. Quite delineated, viney, and well connected.
88, Carlisle, 2010, Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley. Full of sweet red-black fruit.
88, Hartford 2010 RRV. Full of sweet red and black fruit.
88, J. Rickards 2008 Alexander Valley Old Vine, Brignli. A focused wine with a spicy aroma, slightly coating, with an uncommon character.
91, Rancho Zabaco 2008 Toreador, Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley. Spice and herbs permeate this well made wine.
91, Ravenswood 2008 RRV Belloni. Spicy and focused with mineral notes. Intense with a rear palate bias.
89, Zinfarossa, Italy. The lone Italian entry impresses in an elegant, light style.
89, Chateau Montelena 2009. Sweet fruit with a pleasant charred oak and food-like character.