ZAP 2013 - Three days of loving Zinfandel

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Have a taste: Over 200 producers from across California were at the 2013 ZAP recently to pour and exhibit a variety of Zinfandel and Zinfandel blends. | Photo by W. Peter Hoyne

Zinfandel enthusiasts converged on the Concourse in San Francisco Jan. 31, Feb. 1 and 2 for the 22nd presentation of ZAP, Zinfandel Advocates and Producers, in a show of solidarity and loyalty for this age-old grape varietal.

This three-day event of Zin flights, tastings and food pairings attracted nearly 7,000 people from most parts of the country. A dedicated and unpretentious group of Zinfandel lovers gathered at the Concourse on Saturday for the Grand Tasting to receive an etched wine glass along with loaf of bread before embarking on their afternoon journey. Over 200 producers from every region of California showcased their Zinfandel and Zinfandel blends including the well-knowns Ridge, Ravenswood, Turley, Grgich and Storybook Mountain in addition to the relative newcomers of Carol Shelton, Deering and Beekeeper Cellars.

There was also a large presence of small artisan producers. During this year’s tasting, participants were given an opportunity to compare Zins grown in different climates and soils from Dry Creek, Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and the Sierra Foothills. One fact that always remains obvious is that the character of Zinfandel closely resembles the personality of the winemaker more than the terroir where it is grown.

Zinfandel has genetic similarities to Italy’s Primitivo grape but its heritage and DNA has been traced to the Crljenak Kastelanski grape from Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. It traveled to California’s West Coast in the early 1800s and has evolved from a blending grape in table wines to an unrestrained, exotic red that likes to take center stage. It enjoys warm, hot climates and being fully mature with a casual fruit driven personality and loyal following among everyday consumers.

This year’s venue featured the cooler climate vintages of 2010 and 2011 along with a retrospective view of some older vintages. The 2010 showed dark fruit overtones with a firm tannic background and potential ageability, while the 2011 vintage was restrained and a bit challenging to assess at this early stage. The older vintages from 2004 and 2007 have retained their lively, vibrant flavors over time and were a testament to Zinfandel’s ability to improve with bottle age.

Some standouts from this year’s tasting that showed Zin’s classic characteristics of brooding, opulent spice were the 2011 Brown Napa Estate Zinfandel, 2010 Klinker Brick “Old Ghost” Zinfandel, 2009 Carol Shelton “Karma” Zinfandel, 2009 Rosenblum “Monte Rosso” Zinfandel and the 2010 DeLoach OFS Zinfandel.

W. Peter Hoyne has been a wine journalist for over 20 years, covering stories of national and international significance. While his professional relationships in the wine industry have allowed him to share a unique perspective of wine, he is also intrigued by the culinary aspect and harmony that exist between wine and food. As a wine advocate, he is committed to consumer education and is focused on upcoming trends and American wine-buying habits.