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2010 Zinfandels a Mixed Bag at ZAP Tasting

Notes on my favorite wines at the annual San Francisco event
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Feb 1, 2012 10:00am ET

The political parties are having their big conventions later in the year but the Zin Party caucused over the weekend at the annual Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) Festival in San Francisco.

The main event was Saturday's walk-around tasting, which drew nearly 8,000 fans and more than 200 Zinfandel producers. I liked the new venue this year. The Concourse is roomier and allows for all the wineries to gather in one space instead of separated into two locations a la Fort Mason.

Producers were mostly pouring from the outstanding 2009s but there were plenty of 2010s, many still barrel samples. Since it's not a blind tasting, I try not to read too much into individual wines. That said, ZAP often gives me an early glimpse of the quality of a new vintage. This year, the 2010s were a challenge.

I'm the first to applaud Zin's unpredictability, its lack of polish, its ever-youthful exuberance, but the 2010s seem to be all over the map stylistically, even by Zinfandel standards. That's not a bad thing, necessarily, but I worry that the quality of 2010s varies as widely as the style. Ripeness seemed to differ extensively and there was no shortage of acidity and tannins, but that doesn't necessarily mean the wines across the board showed good structure or balance, at least not yet. It's simply too early to tell for sure.

Zinfandel certainly has had a run of great vintages, from 2005 to 2009, so you shouldn't begrudge winemakers for what may be a good, old-fashioned average vintage. The past three years haven't exactly been a cinch for Zin producers. The 2009 harvest was a headache and 2010 and 2011 were nightmares.

Just consider what Sonoma County faced in 2010. There was record cold in the spring and a late budbreak, then 20 inches of rain hit in May while many Zin vines were in bloom. July was the second-coldest on record, then in late August a record heat wave struck with 100-plus degree temps for days on end, cooking many of the grapes on the vine. Then a week before Halloween, a storm dumped 4 inches of rain.

Old timers had never seen anything like it. Some regions had it even worse than that in 2011.

While I'm reserving my judgment on the 2010 vintage, the following are a list of my favorite wines from the tasting, mostly from '10. Each has a preliminary rating on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale. Look for my official, blind reviews in the future.

Bella Dry Creek Valley Maple Vineyard 2009 ($38, 88-92 points

Carlisle Sonoma Valley Monte Rosso Vineyard 2010 ($45, 90-94)

Claudia Springs Redwood Valley Rhode's Vineyard 2010 ($24, 88-92)

Easton Amador County 2010 ($17, 88-92)

Mauritson Rockpile Rockpile Ridge Vineyard 2010 ($37, 88-92)

Miraflores El Dorado 2009 ($25, 90-94)

Robert Biale St. Helena Old Crane Ranch 2010 (NA, 90-94)

Seghesio Alexander Valley San Lorenzo 2010 ($60, 90-94)

Outpost Howell Mountain 2010 ($45, 90-94)

Turley Napa Valley Hayne Vineyard 2010 ($75, 90-92)

If you were at ZAP this year, what were your favorites? Who did I miss?

Brian Peters
Broomfield, CO —  February 1, 2012 4:15pm ET
Did you get a chance to taste the D-Cubed Zins?

Tim Mc Donald
Napa,CA —  February 2, 2012 1:44pm ET
Great picks Tim, I thought the D Cubed were pretty spot on and Rock Wall too. Nice selections though, thanks!
Jonathan Lachs
Fair Play, CA —  February 2, 2012 3:57pm ET
Hey Tim, glad you liked the Concourse. A lot of work went into the selection and preparation of this new venue, and it appears to be well received. And I completely agree, it's nice to have all us wineries in the same building.
Jonathan Lachs - Cedarville Vineyard (and ZAP Board of Directors)
Brian Hays
Campbell, CA —  February 2, 2012 10:24pm ET
Good job Tim. Biale rules!!
William C Moore
Philadelphia, PA —  September 10, 2012 12:59pm ET
how do you rate 2010 in general, for types other than Zin's? Wondering if the fall 'releases' will be worth a neophyte to speculate on, or if staying with other years would be best? I really enjoyed your discussion of the Zin's and found it very helpful.

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