On February 2, 2013, hundreds of press, trade, and then consumers filled San Francisco’s Concourse Pavilion for the 22nd Annual Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) Festival. ZAP has other events, including one in Calgary in June, but this 4-day event in San Francisco is always their main event. ZAP’s mission is to unite winegrowers, winemakers and wine enthusiasts in the preservation and recognition of Zinfandel as America’s Heritage Wine. In addition to the walk-around tastings, where most tables were hosted by winery owners and winemakers, several educational seminars were held, including one on terroir. New to the event this year, a team of sommeliers first manned their appellation booths, and then gave short presentations on their areas along with their top picks. Under the direction of writer and former national wine director Randy Caparosa, the Sommelier Team consisted of:
Napa Valley – Cassandra Brown, The Chocolate Grape
Sonoma County – Christopher Sawyer, Carneros Inn
Dry Creek Valley – David Glancy MS, San Francisco Wine School
Paso Robles – Paige Post-Bindel, Peppoli at Pebble Beach, Carmel
Lake County & Mendocino County – Catherine Fallis MS, Planet Grape
Sierra Foothills – Ron Plunkett, Hakkasan San Francisco
Amador County – Gillian Ballance MS, Cavallo Point, Sausalito
Contra Costa – Rob Renteria, La Folie, San Francisco
Lodi – Ellen Landis, Landis Shores Oceanfront Inn, Half Moon Bay
Zinfandel Varietal Profile, from the Six Week Wine Expert (www.planetgrape.net):
“round, warm, jammy, and spicy to opulent and hedonistic”
Zins offer generous notes of blueberry, raspberry, and boysenberry. The best maintain natural acids to balance their rich fruit and high alcohol levels. While many of the world’s benchmark wines are in France, the best Zinfandels in the world are, without a doubt coming from the state of California. This is why it is called an all-American grape even though its origins are in Croatia. It is related to Crljenak there and Italy’s Primitivo. The best Zinfandels come from California’s Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, Napa Valley, Contra Costa’s sandy-soiled Oakley area, Lodi, Amador County, and Paso Robles. In all but Paso Robles, there are 70 to 100-year old vines, giving depth of character and exquisite balance impossible to attain from young vines. Lighter Zins pair well with BBQ or roasted meats, poultry, or grilled peppers. Richer Zins pair well with game, red meats, or cow’s milk cheeses.
grape goddess® recommends:2007 Storrs Zinfandel Rusty Ridge Vineyard Santa Clara County $30
From an old vine vineyard near Morgan Hill on the east side of the Santa Cruz Mountains, this complex, layered, and very elegant Zinfandel really caught my attention. With notes of blueberry, blackberry, and cedar, and at 15.8% alcohol, it was certainly a big, bold Zin, but a combination of its age and higher, if not necessarily perceptible acidity gave incredible depth and balance. The vineyard yields fruit with very low pH so acids are high and the wine takes longer to develop.
The Spencer family consistently turns out some of the finest (and most underpriced) Zins in the state. The Mariani’s is bold, deep, plush and layered, and even at 15.8%, beautifully balanced. This would be an excellent premium by the glass option.
2010 Witching Stick Zinfandel Fashauer Vineyard Anderson Valley $24
Knowing my palate, Randy Caparosa suggested I check out this new tiny producer. What a pleasant surprise – their old vine Zinfandel was dry, tart, balanced, and fresh with lovely cherry and red currant notes. At only 12.8%, it is a very elegant, European style. Owners Van Williamson and Anne Fashauer were also pouring an extremely fruity yet bone dry and crisp “Rossato” of Zinfandel. Love love loved it!
2009 Amphora Zinfandel Timber Crest Vineyard Dry Creek Valley $32
Owner/winemaker Rick Hutchinson crafts big bold wines, including this deep, intense, muscular Zin. At 16.3%, the wine could easily be hot, but Rick has a way of keeping everything in check.2009 Vino Noceto Zinfandel OGP Amador County $29
Winemaker Rusty Folena knows a thing or two about the Original Grandpere Vineyard. He has been working with it since the early 1980’s. Own-root vines grown here on this isolated, plot of sandy soil are disease free, and the plants are an incredible 160 years old! Rusty does minimal handling, including a long, slow, and never hot fermentation. The alcohol is 15%, and the wine has beautiful, accessible fruit and incredible depth and balance.
Did you attend the Zinfandel Festival? If so, did you join the terroir seminar? Do you have other favorite Zinfandels or regions?