More than 8,000 Zinfandel fans came to San Francisco's Fort Mason Center on Jan. 26 to grab a loaf of bread and sample hundreds of Zinfandels at the 11th annual Zinfandel Advocates & Producers Tasting.
ZAP, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public about Zinfandel, continues to grow both in membership and in event participation, making it the largest tasting in the world dedicated to a single grape variety.
More than 280 wineries participated this year, pouring more than 630 wines -- all of them some variation of Zinfandel, including barrel samples of the 2000 vintage, late-harvest offerings and even a pair of grappas. Among the 54 wineries that took part this year for the first time was Bonny Doon, with winemaker Randall Graham in full costume pouring his 2000 Cardinal Zin.
"If you're new, you get 10,000 people to try your wine," said Thomas Brown, winemaker for Outpost, explaining why wineries become members of ZAP. He was pouring samples of his latest winemaking project, Chiarello Family Vineyards, along with Napa Valley chef Michael Chiarello, host of the television show Michael Chiarello's Napa Valley, who has attended previous ZAP tastings, but never as a winery owner.
Recent news that Zinfandel -- which is often thought of as "America's grape" since it is primarily grown in California -- is actually a Croatian variety called Crljenak didn't dampen the spirits of ZAP attendees. But the news that boutique producer Downing Family Vineyards is bottling its 2000 Zinfandel with a screw cap drew a lot of attention.
"Zinfandel is everything opposite of what we've learned in the wine business," commented Renwood president Robert Smerling, praising the distinctiveness of Zinfandel. "It's about drinking wines young, with completely unique style and attitude towards tannins."
As a crowd elbowed its way toward Ridge's offering of 2000 barrel samples, winemaker Paul Draper explained with a smile why he liked the ZAP crowd: "These are people who actually taste wine!"
Zinfandel Advocates and Producers
Phone: (530) 274-4900
--Photos by MaryAnn Worobiec
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