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".

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.



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.

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.

Posted In: Events


5 Responses

  1. dfredman - January 29, 2007

    It’s possible to taste a lot of of Zinfandels in one event and get a broad sense overall quality and style. Unfortunately, it’s just not a varietal that lends itself to serious analysis when the quantities-per-session rise. I had to work through over 200 different Zinfandels at one tasting last year and it was one of the most difficult wine experiences I’ve had to deal with. The contact buzz was immense but it did kind of throw me off my feed for a couple of days.
    I’ve never attended ZAP but no matter how well run it is, I’m not sure that I want to deal with 8000 people in once place. It can make it very difficult to get to a spit bucket.

  2. Christine Blumer - January 29, 2007

    I’m glad someone else has had the same palate fatigue I have experienced at ZAP. I thought it was just me! I attended ZAP for about 5 years in a row when I worked in wine retail. Every year I just hit a brick wall somewhere between 40-50. Bam. Nothin’. No nose, not even basic tannin/acidity/structure. I think its the combo of the high alcohol wines, the crowd, the distraction/pleasure of networking – all of it. An embarrassment of riches.
    Rest assured, you’re not “getting old”. This happened to me while I was still in my 20’s.
    Cheers to you!

  3. winehiker - January 29, 2007

    Zinfandel is indeed on the map. Those ZAP folks sure deserve a lot of credit for that, and also for making this year’s shindig such an efficiently-produced event despite the numbers. Somehow I managed to escape the palate fatigue syndrome and was able to deduce the nuances after a few dozen tastes; I found I had to quit because I was hungry for spicy food!
    I thought the breadth of styles was amazing. Though I happen to like brawn in general when it comes to zins, I was equally impressed Saturday by those offering balance. I think there’s room for both.
    Now if I’d only tasted the D-Cubed!

  4. catfish - January 29, 2007

    But maybe it is time for Roshambo to disappear. Last time I visited, I don’t believe I tasted a single drinkable wine, and they were peddling a Chardonnay for $1 per case! They must have thought pretty highly of that offering

  5. Shabba Ranks - January 31, 2007

    Rosahmbo go away, I dont think so. The judges at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair beg to differ in your opinion about their wines. Oh and they are in Wine and Spirits Top 100 Wineries of the Year for 2006 (2002 Reverend Dry Creek Valley Zin 94points). I think we need more people in the industry to have the tenacity and passion that roshambo exhibits. Their amazing progress has has come by thinking outside the traditional box that so many other wineries are hesitant to do. The success for roshambo will definitely continue for generations to come. You dont have to like it but get used to it!

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