Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) is hosting their 20th annual tasting and festival in San Francisco from January 27-29.
The ZAP tasting is the largest single-varietal event in the country, and one of the largest wine tastings open to the public. It’s obviously a must for lovers of Zinfandel, which ZAP refers to as “America’s heritage grape.” Although scientists may debate whether the grape variety originated in Southern Italy or Croatia, there’s no doubt that over the past century Zinfandel has become emblematic of the California wine industry.
The festivities begin on Thursday evening, January 27, with the “Good Eats and Zinfandel Pairing” at Fort Mason Center, featuring 50 wineries and 50 restaurants. On the following day, two interesting events are being held at the Westin St. Francis Hotel. “Flights! Stories From The Vineyard” offers participants the opportunity to be guided through wines from iconic, old-vine vineyard sites by the winemakers themselves. Friday night is highlighted by the “Evening With The Winemakers,” a gala dinner and auction. Part of the proceeds from the dinner go to the American Heart Association, while profits from the live and silent auctions are donated to ZAP’s Heritage Vineyard project in conjunction with the U.C. Davis Winemaking School.
The culmination of the weekend is the Grand Zinfandel Tasting, held on Sunday at Fort Mason Center from 1-5 p.m. The tasting takes place in two large buildings the size of football fields, with some 350 wineries pouring their products. Producers take this event seriously, and consumers have the opportunity to chat with winemakers (in the early stages, at least, before the exhibition halls become crammed with tasters). As the afternoon goes on, plan on acquiring both purple teeth and palate fatigue. When I attended ZAP about five years ago, participants were greeted with a liter bottle of water and a loaf of bread upon entering the hall. Depending on your tolerance for full-bodied wines and formidable tannins, you might plan on taking some sausage or cheese with you.