Friday, January 29, 2010

ZAP! Great Annual Zinfandel Fest Ready to Start!

ZAP Zinfandel Festival from kjraymond on Vimeo.

ZAP -- the famed Zinfandel festival held each year since 1991 in San Francisco, largest single-varietal event in the world -- kicks off this week (late January 2010), culminating in the public tasting Saturday afternoon, Jan 31 -- where 10,000 or more Zin lovers are expected to stagger down ten aisles of wonderful wines in two large buildings on the City's waterfront with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The theme this year: Zin in Paradise! And it's apt -- by midafternoon, I will certainly feel that I am in paradise, surrounded by my Zinful fellow enthusiasts!

With over 300 wineries serving up tastes of more than 800 -- yes, *800* -- Zinfandel wines, the event is the annual highlight for lovers of Zin, the 'all-American' wine that derives from vines first grown in Croatia. Zin is capable of producing the biggest, jammiest, richest wines of all.

As enthused as Zin lovers are today, it was only 20 years ago that Zin was dismissed by almost everyone as a junk wine, partly because it was primarily known as the basis for so-called White Zin, a type of rose made with low acid content so it would be easy to drink for beginning drinkers who don't care for the tannins and acids of other reds or even roses. But as one develops one's palate, the lack of acid to balance the sweetness in Zin makes it seem flabby, like a soft drink. Once drinkers  move on from white Zin, they never look back.

Which is fine -- except that wine drinkers in the U.S. mistakenly thought White Zin was the only was Zin could be -- a wine with trainer wheels for college kids. But several California winemakers, including Kent Rosenblum among others, believed the Zin grape was capable of producing a great red wine.

He and others formed ZAP -- Zinfandel Advocates and Producers -- and over the years turned around the reputation of Zinfandel. The ZAP festival was one of their big publicity weapons. Its success has led to similar campaigns by enthusiasts for other underappreciated wines, such as RAP, an annual SF festival for rose wine lovers, a group also damaged in the US by the White Zin curse.

Zinfandel is one of the wines that led me, step by step, to enjoy wine, then to explore wines, and discover the joys not just of Zin, but also of Syrah, Cab, Merlot, roses of every kind, the vasty depths of French wines, the glories of Pinot Noir, and the nooks and crannies of wines from strange and wonderful places of this world.

I'll be a volunteer at ZAP tomorrow, as I am every year, helping out in the Zin Zone, where I'll be wearing a colorful Hawaian shirt and lugging around wine boxes for the wineries. I hope to see you there!

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