The Greatest American Wine Fest
After 22 years, the Zinfandel Festival produced by Zinfandel Advocates and Produces (ZAP) remains the most meaningful public wine tasting and most important gathering of wine producers in America. The Zinfandel Festival is the annual opportunity to taste the full depth and breadth of America’s only truly original contribution to fine wine. Furthermore, the Zinfandel bottlings at the Zin Fest derive from every corner of California, and even beyond. It remains, after 22 years a remarkable opportunity for the true wine lover.
Like past Zin Fests, the 2013 version will present hundreds of Zins to taste. Some will be produced from 100 year-old vines. Some will come off of mountain vineyards located at 2,000 feet above sea level. Some will deliver on the promise of ultra ripeness. Some will demonstrate that Zinfandel can produce a traditional claret style drink. Perhaps more than any other grape, Zinfandel amplifies and presents the entirety of the California wine industry.
The Zinfandel Festival is broken up into four distinct opportunities over the course of three days.
The grand tasting is aptly named and is the culmination of the three-day fest. I wish I had reliable advice as to how to attack a room full of hundreds of Zins waiting to be tasted. I don’t. It can be an overwhelming experience. I only suggest you adopt some strategy since no matter how you attack the room, you can’t taste everything. Over the years, I’ve deployed the following strategies for working the room:
The Old School: Hit those Zin producers that put Zin on the map. Ridge, Turley, Rosenblum, Ravenswood, Renwood, Dashe, De Loach
The New Kids: Seek out those producers you’ve never heard of. Discovery is great delight of wine. Zinfandel probably provides more opportunities to discover something new than any other varietal.
The References: This one is fun. Head to a winery table. Taste the wines, then ask the person behind the table pouring to recommend one winery, then go taste its wines. Ask for a recommendations, then taste those wines. And so on and so on.
What also needs to be said is that ZAP, the producer of the Zin Fest, must rank among the most important wine organizations in America. This is not merely an event producer. ZAP sponsors important historical and viticultural research around this most important grape. ZAP has worked tirelessly to identify and help preserve important old Zinfandel vineyards. And it annually takes its Zinfandel show on the road to different cities, taking Zin outside of its traditional home state and showing it off to wine lovers across the country.
I can think of no non-regional association that has done more to promote real intimacy between consumers and the California wine industry. This effort is what draws folks to ZAP, joining the organization as members alongside producers. There are various levels of membership in ZAP, each delivering its own level of benefits. The most enthusiast Zinfandel supporters can join at the Imperial VIP level and enjoy dinners with vintners and places at the table of each and every ZAP event. And yet there are ZAP membership levels a far lower prices for those who simply want to support this important organization and get some benefits in the deal.
At the very least, if you are a serious student of wine, a devotee of California wine and want to experience something special, get your tickets to the upcoming Zinfandel Festival:
When: January 31 – February 2
Where: The Concourse and The Fairmont Hotel—San Francisco
Why: See Above