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02.01.2006

California's Best Zinfandels: A Report From ZAP 2006

zapfest.jpgThis past weekend, along with 8000 of my closest friends, I attended the 15th annual ZAP Festival (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) in San Francisco, as I do every year. The premiere event for Zinfandel around the world (does anyone even care about it outside the US?), ZAP is one of San Francisco's longest-running and largest wine tasting events.

The event has gotten so big it fills both exhibition halls of Fort Mason, and any year now it's gonna move to Moscone and go big time. OK. Maybe not, but it's getting more popular every year, both from the public's perspective as well as in the industry, as new wineries keep popping up on the roster.

My task at this tasting is simple: work quickly. There are so many wines, it's definitely physically impossible to taste them all -- 275 wineries all pouring on average three or four wines apiece and you're looking at close to 1000 wines. I have to try extremely hard to taste the number of wines that I taste and I barely edge towards 20%. My strategy is to do little talking, spit everything, and stop for cheddar cheese, water and bread every thirty or so wines along.

I end up having to skip a lot of wineries. Sometimes I skip them because I know the wines and they're not that great, sometimes I skip them because they're behind a mad crush of people (for instance, I didn't make it to Ridge this year), and sometimes I just don't make it to their table before the halls get to crowded to think, let alone taste wine.

The 2003 vintage, despite being somewhat variable across Sonoma and Napa counties, and not really impressing me from barrel samples last year, on the whole seems to have produced some excellent wines. And what I tasted of 2004 makes me extremely excited.


TOP VALUES:
1999 Downing Family "Fly By Night" Score: 9.5/10. Cost: $28. Where to buy?
2003 Woodenhead "Martinelli Vineyard" Old Vines, Sonoma. Score: 9.5. Cost: $25.
2003 Zenaida "Estate," Paso Robles. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $24.
2003 Wilson "Carl's Vineyard," Dry Creek. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $25. Where to buy?
2003 Woodenhead "Braccialini Vineyard" Sonoma. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $25.
2003 Scott Harvey "White Label" Amador. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $23. Where to buy?
2003 Handley Cellars, Redwood Valley. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $20. Where to buy?


TASTING NOTES FOR ALL WINES:
2004 Rosenblum "Annette's Vineyard" Sonoma. Score: 9.5/10. Cost: $30.
1999 Downing Family "Fly By Night" Score: 9.5/10. Cost: $28.
2004 Outpost Howell Mountain. Score: 9.5/10. Cost: $42.

2004 Rosenblum "Monte Rosso Vineyard" Score: 9.5. Cost: $40.
2004 Turley "Hayne Vineyard," Somoma. Score: 9.5. Cost: $65.
2003 Woodenhead "Martinelli Vineyard" Old Vines, Sonoma. Score: 9.5. Cost: $25.
2003 Wilson "Reserve" Dry Creek. Score: 9.5. Cost: $38.
2004 Carlisle "Tom Feeney Ranch" Score: 9.5. Cost: $36.
2004 Brown Estate Vineyards, Chiles Valley. Score: 9.5. Cost: $36.
2003 D-Cubed Cellars, Howell Mountain. Score: 9.5. Cost: $37.
2003 Downing Family "Fly By Night" Score: 9.5>. Cost: $28.
2003 Dashe "Luvo Vineyard," Dry Creek. Score: 9.5. Cost: $28.

2003 Wilson "Carl's Vineyard," Dry Creek. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $25.
2003 Woodenhead "Braccialini Vineyard" Sonoma. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $25.
2003 Zenaida "Estate," Paso Robles. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $24.
2004 Saddleback Cellars "Old Vine" Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $32.
2003 Saxon-Browne, Sonoma. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $32.
2004 Sextant "Night Watch," Paso Robles. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $42.
2004 Seghesio "Old Vine" Sonoma. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $33.
1995 Teldeschi Vineyards. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $25.
2002 Milliare "Chiradelli Vineyard" Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $19.
2004 Neyers "Pato Vineyard," Contra Costa. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $30.
2004 Rosenblum "Maggies Vineyard" Sonoma. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $35.
2004 Rosenblum "Richard Soret Vineyard" Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $25.
2003 Hendry "Block 7" Sonoma. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $29.
2003 Klinker Brick "Old Ghost" Lodi. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $35.
2004 Hunnicutt (barrel sample). Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $29.
2003 Scott Harvey "White Label" Amador. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $23.
2003 Handley Cellars, Redwood Valley. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $20.
2003 Handley Cellars "Mendocino Ridge," Mendocino. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $25.
2003 Benessere "Old Vines" Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $32.
2003 Chase "Hayne Vineyard" Napa Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $40.
2003 Chase "Hayne Vineyard Reserve" Napa Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $75.
2005 Charter Oak "Monte Rosso" (barrel sample). Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $45.
2001 Ballentine "Block 11" Napa. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $25.
2004 Carlisle "Home Ranch" Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $38.
2004 Carlisle "Pietros Ranch" Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $38.
2004 Chiarello "Felicia" Old Vines. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $50.
2003 Mazzocco, "Stone Ranch" Alexander Valley. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $24.
2003 Howell Mountain Vineyards "Black Sears Vineyard" Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $38.
2003 Howell Mountain Vineyards "Beatty Ranch Vineyard" Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $38.
2003 Acorn "Heritage Vines" Sonoma. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $32.
2004 Acorn "Heritage Vines" Sonoma. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $32.
2003 D-Cubed Cellars, Napa. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $28.
2002 Dashe "Todd Bros. Ranch," Alexander Valley. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $28.
2004 CrauforD Wine Company "The Kilt Lifter" Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $28.
2002 Louus M. Martini "Gnarly Vines" Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $40.

1996 Teldeschi Vineyards. Score: 9. Cost: $25.
2003 Saddleback Cellars "Old Vine" Score: 9. Cost: $32.
2004 Seghesio "Cortina Vineyard," Sonoma. Score: 9. Cost: $33.
2004 Sextant "Holy Stone," Paso Robles. Score: 9. Cost: $23.
2003 Talty, St. Helena. Score: 9. Cost: $30.
2003 Spenker, Lodi. Score: 9. Cost: $23.
2003 T-Vine "Fediani Vineyard," Calistoga. Score: 9. Cost: $30.
2003 T-Vine "Brown Vineyard," Chiles Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $30.
2004 Valdez "Rockpile Vineyard." Score: 9. Cost: $35.
2003 Vino Noceto "Ferrero Ranch," Shenendoah Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $16.
2004 Vino Noceto "Ferrero Ranch," Shenendoah Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $16.
2004 Vino Noceto "OGP Vineyard," Amador. Score: 9. Cost: $30.
2003 Woodenhead, Sonoma. Score: 9. Cost: $25.
2001 Saxon-Browne, Sonoma. Score: 9. Cost: $32.
2002 Saxon-Browne, Sonoma. Score: 9. Cost: $32.
2004 Tofanelli Vineyards (barrel sample), Napa. Score: 9. Cost: $34.
2003 Mantra Vineyards, Alexander Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $28.
2003 Mantra Vineyards "Old Vines," Alexander Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $28.
2003 Storrs "Lion Oaks Vineyard" Santa Cruz Mountains. Score: 9. Cost: $32.
2003 Storrs "Rusty Ridge Vineyard" Santa Cruz Mountains. Score: 9. Cost: $28.
2004 Rosenblum "Rockpile Vineyard" Rockpile. Score: 9. Cost: $35.
2004 Rosenblum "Hendry Vineyard" Sonoma. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2004 Papapietro Perry, Dry Creek. Score: 9. Cost: $33.
2003 Carol Shelton "Manga Zin," Cucamonga Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $23.
2003 RHR, Paso Robles. Score: 9. Cost: $32.
2003 Hendry "Block 28" Sonoma. Score: 9. Cost: $31.
2003 Klinker Brick, Lodi. Score: 9. Cost: $16.
2003 Handley Cellars, Mendocino. Score: 9. Cost: $25.
2003 Benessere "Black Glass," Napa. Score: 9. Cost: $40.
2002 Chase "Hayne Vineyard" Napa Score: 9. Cost: $40.
2003 Charter Oak, Napa. Score: 9. Cost: $42.
2001 Ballentine "Old Vines" Napa. Score: 9. Cost: $18.
2001 Ballentine "Block 9" Napa. Score: 9. Cost: $18.
2002 Ballentine "Old Vines" Napa. Score: 9. Cost: $18.
2002 Deloach "OFS" Score: 9. Cost: $35.
2003 Chiarello "Gianna" Score: 9. Cost: $28.
2004 Chiarello "Gianna" Score: 9. Cost: $30.
2003 Mazzocco, Dry Creek. Score: 9. Cost: $24.
2003 Mazzocco, Sonoma. Score: 9. Cost: $20.
2003 Lamborn "Papa's Vineyard" Howell Mountain. Score: 9. Cost: $36.
2003 Dashe, Dry Creek. Score: 9. Cost: $22.
2003 Dashe "Big River Ranch" Alexander Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $28.
2003 CrauforD Wine Company "The Kilt Lifter" Score: 9. Cost: $28.

2003 Z-52 "Clockspring Vineyard," Amador. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $20.
2003 Bucklin "Old Hill" Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $30.
2004 Easton / Terre Rouge, Fiddletown. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $25.
2002 Easton "Estate" Shenendoah Valley. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $30.
2004 Calstar "Zara Zin" Lodi. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $12.
2004 Calstar "Ata Zin" El Dorado. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $16.
2003 The Terraces, Napa. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $25.
2003 Tin Barn, Russian River Valley. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $27.
2003 Terra Mater Vineyards, Curico Valley, Chile. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $15.
2004 Seghesio "Home Ranch Vineyard," Sonoma. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $33.
2003 Talty, Dry Creek. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $32.
2004 Schrader (Vieux-Os) "Ira Creek" Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $35.
2002 Spenker, Lodi. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $23.
2004 Unti Vineyards, Dry Creek. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $22.
2003 Z-52 "Agnes Vineyard," Lodi. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $16.
2001 Rued, Dry Creek. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $24.
2003 Jeff Runquist "Z" Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $28.
2003 Jeff Runquist "R" Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $24.
2004 Rusina, Dry Creek. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $28.
2004 Rusina, Alexander Valley. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $26.
2003 Papapietro Perry, Russian River Valley. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $30.
2003 Murphy-Goode "Snake Eyes," Sonoma. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $35.
2003 Carol Shelton "Wild Thing," Cucamonga Valley. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $28.
2004 Pedroncelli "Estate" Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $20.
2004 Hendry "Block 7" Sonoma. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $29.
2003 Scott Harvey "Red Label" Amador. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $16.
2003 Howell Mountain Vineyards "Old Vines" Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $36.
2002 Deloach "Forgotten Vines." Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $30.
2002 Deloach "Garibogi." Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $30.
2002 Deloach "Riebli Valley" Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $35.
2004 Borra "Old Vines" Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $18.
2004 Easton / Terre Rouge, Amador. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $14.
2003 Four Vines "Dusi Vineyard" Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $30.

2003 Storrs Central Coast. Score: 8.5. Cost: $18.
2004 Schrader (Vieux-Os) "Train Wreck" Score: 8.5. Cost: $35.
2004 Seghesio, Sonoma. Score: 8.5. Cost: $20.
2003 Tierra, Sonoma. Score: 8.5. Cost: $15.
1994 Teldeschi Vineyards. Score: 8.5. Cost: $25.
2003 Terra Mater Vineyards "Unusual," Maipo Valley, Chile. Score: 8.5. Cost: $45.
2004 The Other Guys "Plungerhead," Dry Creek. Score: 8.5. Cost: $14.
2003 Vino Noceto "OGP Vineyard," Amador. Score: 8.5. Cost: $30.
2003 Zig Zag Zin, Mendocino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $13.
2002 Roshambo "Taylor Vineyard." Score: 8.5. Cost: $27.
2003 Rotta "Estate" Paso Robles. Score: 8.5. Cost: $27.
2003 Rued, Dry Creek. Score: 8.5. Cost: $24.
2003 R&B "Swingsville." Score: 8.5. Cost: $10.
2002 Robert Rue, Russian River Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $30.
2003 Robert Rue, Russian River Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $25.
2002 RHR, Paso Robles. Score: 8.5. Cost: $32.
2003 Murphy-Goode "Liar's Dice," Sonoma. Score: 8.5. Cost: $19.
2000 Pedroncelli "Midnight Run" Dry Creek. Score: 8.5. Cost: $20.
2004 Loxton, Sonoma. Score: 8.5. Cost: $25.
2003 Scott Harvey "Inzinerator," California. Score: 8.5. Cost: $12.
2003 Jessup Cellars. Score: 8.5. Cost: $28.
2002 Deloach, Russian River Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $18.
2003 Maquito. Score: 8.5. Cost: $18.

2004 Valdez "Lancel Creek," Russian River Valley. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $35.
2003 Unti Vineyards, Dry Creek. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $22.
2002 Zefina "Alder Ridge Vineyard." Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $25.
2004 Zin Alley, Paso Robles. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $42.
2002 Roshambo "Reverend." Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $24.
2003 Saddleback Cellars "Scout's Honor" Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $35.
2004 Sextant "Wheelhouse," California. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $17.
2003 Storybook Mountain Vineyards. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $27.
2003 Terra Mater Vineyards Zinfandel/Syrah Blend, Chile. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $12.
2003 Tin Barn, Napa. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $27.
2004 Tin Barn, Russian River Valley. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $27.
2003 Tofanelli Vineyards, Napa. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $34.
2002 Milliare "Clockspring Vineyard" Amador. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $10.
2003 Mountain View "Clockspring Vineyard" Amador. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $10.
2003 Neese "Nonno Guiseppe" Redwood Valley. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $??.
2000 Pedroncelli "Mother Clone" Sonoma. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $19.
2003 Loxton, Sonoma. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $25.
2003 Jessup Cellars. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $28.
2004 Amphora, Dry Creek. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $24.

2003 Wellington, Sonoma. Score: 8. Cost: $??.
2003 Wellington "Meeks Hilltop," Sonoma. Score: 8. Cost: $??.
2003 Wellington, "Estate," Sonoma. Score: 8. Cost: $??.
2002 Zoom "San Francisco Bay," Contra Costa. Score: 8. Cost: $24.
2003 Robert Green Cellars, Napa. Score: 8. Cost: $18.

Comments (12)

Jack wrote:
02.01.06 at 10:44 PM

"(does anyone even care about it outside the US?)" - I assume you mean, Care about Zinfandel?

The problem outside the US (and Canada?) is that the selection of zinfandels available for purchase is incredibly poor. Imagine finding 3(!)zins in a store: Ridge, Sutter Home (which has a much more upscale image abroad), and Beringer. How can you judge zin on that (esp. if you try the two that aren't Ridge)?

Doug wrote:
02.02.06 at 7:41 AM

Alder - thank you for your support of the humble Zinfandel grape. Your tasting notes are as always IMPRESSIVE!

Fatemeh wrote:
02.02.06 at 9:22 AM

Hmph. Well, I'm very bitter.

No Green & Red this year?

rama wrote:
02.02.06 at 9:56 AM

Thanks for your detailed tasting notes. I used your 05 notes to help thin out the options in an effort to to hit only the "good" tables in the time allotted- even so, with the crowds during the general public hours, that was nearly impossible.

One thing I want to mention that I was extremely displeased about: Turley packed up and was gone before 3pm! I started in the other building (the A-M wineries), and by the time I made it to the 2nd building and got my bearings, I noticed Turley's banner was missing, and there were just a few empty cases with no one to be found.

Sure Turley is probably one of the most sought after wine at ZAP, but they shouldn't even participate in ZAP if they can't be prepared. All the other wineries seemed to do fine. I hope the ZAP organizers noticed and do something about that....

Alder wrote:
02.02.06 at 10:02 AM

Fatemeh :-(

I read that post, and was very sad for you. How frustrating. Remind me when I see you next to tell you about my secret parking spot.

Didn't make it to Green and Red if they were there.

Alder wrote:
02.02.06 at 10:07 AM

Rama,

Yes, that is frustrating and annoying. I have learned to hit their table first.

Compounding the problem is that Turley also only seems to bring a single wine each year, even though they make several. I know they don't make huge quantities, but there are plenty of other wineries that have small productions, too, who find enough bottles to pour.

You should call them up and tell them how unhappy you are.

Jeremy wrote:
02.02.06 at 12:23 PM

I'm bummed you made it to wellington and not by ours next door. Oh well, Tom snubbed us too. Maybe next year. It was fun enough and we received enough good responses to go back.

Take care,

Jeremy

Bob Little wrote:
02.02.06 at 7:14 PM

FYI -

Turley makes 10-15,000 cases of Zinfandel.

Bob

Alder wrote:
02.02.06 at 9:56 PM

Bob,

Yes, perhaps I should have been a bit more specific to say that some of their bottlings (which they could have brought in addition to the Hayne) are very small productions.

Thanks for the comment !

Thomas Brown wrote:
02.06.06 at 7:53 PM

Alder,


Good seeing you again at our annual visit, thanks for the nice score.


Thomas Brown

Troy wrote:
03.05.06 at 8:32 AM

FYI I was in NY at Restaurant Daniel & they were touting this zinfandel "ottimino" as "Turley with manners!" I was blown away by this wine. I've never heard of this zin before. Then I was in LA on business and had dinner at Spagos and was saw ottimino on the wine list. They said it was one of their favorite wines?? At Zap I asked Rosenblum and Tin Barn if they could recommend any zins (I respect these guys) BOTH of them rattled off a handful of zins but they each said that I should try ottimino!!?? Has anybody ever heard of this wine?

Alder wrote:
03.05.06 at 8:16 PM

Troy,

I didn't make it to Ottomino as the part of this 2006 tasting, but I did taste one of their wines last year in 2005. See http://www.vinography.com/archives/000488.html for my scores.

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