Sunday, January 29, 2012

Report from the Zinfandel Festival

One of the perks of working at a winery is occasionally scoring free tickets to wine events, such as this week's Zinfandel Festival hosted by ZAP, the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers.  And so on Saturday morning, a friend and I headed over to San Francisco for the Grand Tasting event.  So awesome! I'd never been to an event like it, so I'm still a bit overwhelmed.

The first thing that happens when you walk in is that you get an 80-page booklet detailing all of the wineries at the event: first by appellation (where the grapes are grown); then by whether they are old vines or single vineyard wines; then by number of cases of wine produced; then by price; and then alphabetically by winery, including what vintages are on hand.

Then you hand over a ticket and pick up your glass, inscribed with the ZAP logo, that you will use to taste all the wines you care to taste and that you get to bring home as a souvenir.
Goody! A souvenir!

Then you walk a little further and a man wearing white gloves hands you a mini-baguette wrapped in a napkin.
Goody! Bread!

Then you think to yourself, "I wish I'd brought a tote bag," since you don't have the four arms required to hold wine glass, baguette, and program while taking notes on the wines you are tasting.  Nevertheless, you press on and enter...

the Grand Tasting itself...

where every Zinfandel producer from Acorn Winery to Zynthesis Cellars is set up...

with open bottles of wine, ready to tempt you.  It was daunting, and there's no way to do them all so you have to be selective.  We stopped by the Hendry table to say hello...

My co-workers, Luis and Angela (my boss!)
...and to get some suggestions on whose wine to try.  Even then, it was still too much to do; my sense of taste got burnt out pretty quickly. But with bites of bread and sips of water in between each sample, I think I was able to get a good sense of what I was tasting.

We ended up sampling wines from about 10 different winemakers, and it's astonishing how different they can be--even from one winery, going from year to year or location to location.  

Rosenblum (Alameda, represent!) was especially noteworthy for using grapes from different sources and having completely different wine profiles. All so good! D-Cubed, whose winemaker is the current president of ZAP, served both 2008 and 2007 vintages, which were notable for how different the years were.

Two of my favorites were the 2010 R.W. Moore Vineyard Zin from Robert Biale Vineyards--poured for us by Bob Biale himself--and the Mayacamas Range Zin from Storybook Mountain Vineyards.

I'm not going to say which one was jammy or peppery or had a lot of red fruit flavor, mostly because I don't have a clue what I'm talking about, but I can tell you that tasting all of these Zins at once--well, first of all, I can understand why they gave out a baguette; but secondly, it was amazing to get the sense for what wine people are talking about when they talk about the differences among wines.  They were all so distinct.  I'm sorry I didn't get a better chance to write notes while I was tasting as opposed to scribbled memories on the BART train back home. But I tell you one thing, when people talk about how wines and wineries and vintages have individual characters, I have a better idea of what they mean. It's so fun to get the opportunity to learn something about it. What a treat.


Lorin said...

I'm a little jealous! I work near the expo center and when I saw the sign for the Zin festival, I really wanted to go. Alas, I didn't have time and have a head cold anyway, so it would have all tasted like grape juice. But Rosenblum is one of my favorite wineries and Zin is my absolute favorite varietal.

Rose City Reader said...

What a fun event! When I lived in SF, Hubby and I had fun touring the wineries and zin was a favorite, since neither of us are big cab fans. Your post brings back memories. And gives me ideas for future visits.