The latest issue of Connoisseurs Guide to California Wines pays tribute to Paul Draper at Ridge and Ridge Vineyards in general as being among the most responsible for popularizing Zinfandel. If you added Joel Peterson of Ravenswood to this list you’d have it covered.
However, at this point in the career of Zinfandel, you have to add Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) to the list of those who are instrumental in the success of Zin.
This weekend’s ZAP tasting in San Francisco was remarkable…in a number of ways. A few observations are in order:
There are those who don’t consider Zinfandel a "Noble Grape". Seeing the real seriousness of the procurers and the seriousness with which the attendees take this grape, you can at this point write off those would would continue to put Zinfandel outside the pantheon of Pinot, Cab, Chardonnay, Riesling and the other "Nobles".
2. "MINE"S SMALLER THAN YOURS
I can’t tell you how many producers I visited with made a point of telling me that they prefer to make their zin in a more restrained style than "others". This is significant if only for one reason: The trade is recognizing that there is a desire out there for balance over brawn.
It was great to see Roshambo at ZAP in such a visual way. They just sold their iconic winery in Russian River Valley to Silver Oak and many folks wonder what will become of this unique brand. The "ROSHAMBUS", decked out in Roshambo colors and a portrait of owner Naomi Brilliant bedecked in boxing attire should help dispel any idea that the Roshambo brand and attitude is going away.
4. D-CUBED WINERY
5. GOOD ORGANIZATION
Sure it was crowded (8,000 folks, I’m told), but I’m amazed at how smoothly this event goes off given all the potentials for disaster. I never wanted for bread, cheese, water, spit buckets and it was never hard to track down a volunteer if I needed help or had a question.
At about 40 wines I lost palate. In fact I remember tasting a Zin and thinking, "My God, I can taste nothing!". I sniffed, tasted again. "Nothing". And I thought, I’ve judged well over 100 wines in a day without this kind of palate fatigue. I think that it comes down to the process of walking and talking, and carrying stuff around, being careful not to walk into wine glasses, etc. that leads to this kind of early fatigue. On the contrary, in a judging environment you’ve got nothing to do but sit, taste and think. Maybe I’m just getting older.
VERTICAL OLD VINE
Saxon-Brown was sporting a 1997-2003 vertical of their old vine zinfandel. That was a treat to compare and see the thread of a single vineyard show through vintage after vintage, and see how even with layer of age one can still find that terroir thread. After getting back to Sonoma Valley I actually drove to this vineyard to take a look at it. It is indeed a site to see.