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01.14.2010

ZAP Zinfandel Festival 2010: January 28-30, San Francisco

zin_logo.jpgIt's that time of year again. I know of no other event that seems to bring out the inner wine lover in so many San Franciscans more than the annual ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) Festival. It never ceases to amaze me how many people turn out with such enthusiasm for this single varietal festival. Don't get me wrong. I love Zinfandel -- unabashedly so. But I tend to forget how many other people do too. Especially those that live in San Francisco.

Of course it's not just San Franciscans that turn out for this one-of-a-kind weekend. People come from all over. The Zinfreaks crawl out of the woodwork, so to speak, and march their way into San Francisco to celebrate their grape of choice, along with the rest of us who sometimes wonder where the rest of these folks hide themselves the rest of the year.

But come one, come all, there's plenty of Zin to go around.

The annual ZAP festival is comprised of several events. The week begins on Thursday January 28th with the Good Eats and Zinfandel Pairing, a walk around event that features dishes prepared by chefs from all over the U.S. specifically designed to match Zinfandel wines. Attendees can wander from station to station with glass and plate in hand trying different combinations of food and wine until they find their favorites (or until they topple over like plump rabbits in a food coma).

Friday features a series of seminars that allow attendees to taste flights of wines in a guided fashion with commentary from winemakers, as well as the Evening with the Winemakers. This event features a live auction for charity, a pre-dinner tasting, and a sit-down dinner with winemakers. You can buy some great wine while giving to charity, and then you can have a great meal while a winemaker pours a selection of their wines and answers all the questions you ever might have about making Zinfandel.

And finally on Saturday, the ultimate San Francisco wine tasting begins. Starting at 2:00 PM, the floodgates open and hundreds of Zinfandel wines are available to the public for tasting. There is simply no other opportunity like this to educate your palate about Zinfandel as a wine, and no other chance to so easily discover new Zins for yourself.

The event tends to get a little crazy as the afternoon progresses, both in terms of the size of the crowd and its level of inebriation, but don't let that stop you from showing up early, enjoying yourself, and then making your exit before the sloshing and stumbling begin.

Especially because you might get to go to the tasting for free

I've got four tickets to give away to the Grand Tasting on Saturday, January 30th. All you have to do in order to win is get creative. I'll give the four tickets to the folks that provide the best/funniest/most heartfelt/strangest/etc. explanation in the comments section of this blog about why they should get a free ticket to the tasting. I'm the sole judge and will pick the best four submissions based on my own arbitrary criteria. Be sure to leave me your e-mail address in the field provided. I'll accept submissions until January 21st.

Have fun!

ZAP Zinfandel Advocates and Producers Festival
Grand Tasting: Saturday January 30, 2010
Doors open to the public at 2:00 PM (members can get in an hour earlier)
Herbst and Festival Pavilions
Marina Boulevard
San Francisco, CA 94123 (map)

Tickets for the Grand Tasting are $59 if purchased in advance (which you should do most assuredly). If any tickets are left they will be $69 at the door. Tickets for other events range from $95 to $210 depending on the event. ZAP members receive discounts on all tickets. For more information about the event and to purchase tickets, please see the ZAP event web site.

Tasting tips: I recommend wearing dark clothes that you won't mind getting a drop or two of red wine on when someone accidentally jostles your glass (or theirs). I recommend showing up with a full stomach, drinking lots of water as you go, and spitting instead of swallowing. You ain't got any taste buds in your throat, and if you want to learn anything you need to stay sober. Otherwise you'll be one of the drunken fools that everyone makes fun of at 4:30 PM on Saturday.

See you there.

Comments (16)

Chris Lopez wrote:
01.15.10 at 12:47 PM

I once bathed in a vat of zinfandel, at 15.5% alcohol it really cleans out the pores!

Debbie Scopelite wrote:
01.16.10 at 9:42 AM

Well, mine is simple and not made up or creative but heartfelt. I love wine, especially zinfandel.My husband of 30 years just sent me an email this past week saying that he filed for a divorce. Sad but true, but I have to believe that since I have loved, forgiven, learned and grown that the future is a beautiful open book to explore... full of promise and hope. I would like the opportunity to meet new people and attend this event if you would choose me for the tickets. Thank you.

Luke Sykora wrote:
01.16.10 at 11:15 AM

I don't remember my first Cab or Pinot or Shiraz--I remember my first Riesling--but my first Zinfandel I do remember; it was a Buena Vista Zin that I bought for around six bucks and drank on the roof of a Presbyterian church in Minneapolis, Minnesota where I lived on the second floor rent-free in a U-shaped apartment that wrapped around the back of the organ in exchange for mowing the lawn, locking and unlocking the doors, and shoveling the snow. Every Sunday morning at 7:00 a.m. the organist would practice for the service and I would hear and feel a whirring of air through the big pipes behind the wall, and then the entire apartment would shake and resound with a massive, rolling chord, and whatever ghosts inhabited the grounds were woken up and I suppose communed with angels, while I hid under the blankets seeking darkness, and a headache chewed away at my brain.

There is a poem by Robert Hass that begins, "All the new thinking is about loss," and ends, "blackberries, blackberries, blackberries." I think that Zinfandel is really almost a religion of being--lost in the brambles on a warm Summer day, sweating and picking one's way toward a bucket full of berries and getting ever more lost as one goes along, so that one has to follow the trail of dropped berries, the ones that we're rejected (too soft; bug-eaten; green), in order to find one's way home. So in a nutshell, that is why I'm interested in paying a visit to the ZAP tasting.

Luke Sykora wrote:
01.16.10 at 11:24 AM

Also, Zinfandel is my girlfriend's favorite, so this is a shameless attempt to get an extra ticket for her...

J R W wrote:
01.17.10 at 2:07 PM

I think 'Zin' is going to be the buzz word of 2010.... Events like this make me wish I lived in the US preferably as a wine producer in California - sounds like a lifestyle most would want?

To the above poster, you girlsfriend love Zin and it seems like many women love pink wine like an addiction..... just cannot wait to see how the rose wine sector matures.

Robin R. D. wrote:
01.17.10 at 3:53 PM

Because I drink White Zinfandel. My snobbish wine friends tell me that I need to "grow up" and drink "real" wine. Maybe this event would make me a convert.

Wendy wrote:
01.17.10 at 6:15 PM

I have just moved from cold, frigid, Rhode Island 6 days ago. I need to learn what all these SFOians already know! I live in Oakland, love wine...am a speaker and have done talks on Wine and Leadership. Great combo, eh? Please pick me...

Paul D wrote:
01.17.10 at 8:19 PM

My friend Angie's birthday is coming up and her husband, my wife and I discussed attending the Zinfandel Festival to celebrate. Angie smiled at the idea because Zinfandel is her favorite wine and she loves wine tasting. Angie indicated she'd like to attend, but experienced some sticker shock when told the cost of the tickets. She told us she was noncommittal about attending because her hours at work were reduced recently. Scoring our dear friend Angie a free ticket would be a fantastic birthday surprise and get a true Zinfandel lover into the show! Thank you for your consideration.

Robbie C. wrote:
01.17.10 at 9:17 PM

I love the ZAP festival! Some of the producers will have drawings, and I recommend you sign up. I won some very nice, etched bottles of wine one year!

I'm so sad I can't go anymore! Unfortunately, I now live thousands of miles away in Asia. If I lived anywhere in North America I would be there. I love the chance to explore the wines and food of such a great city!

01.18.10 at 12:23 PM

I first met Zin in SFO in 1983. The house wine. "What is this stuff?" I asked. "Oh, it's just Zin" said mine host. "Just Zin", I said, "do you realise how great this stuff is?" I'm a Brit who lives part time in the Bay Area. I'll fly over from London just for this.

Samantha T wrote:
01.18.10 at 12:50 PM

I was born and raised in the Zin crazed town of Lodi, CA. My first word as a young child was "Zin." (Actually there's no proof of that last one but who's counting.) I was taught at a very young age that "fruit juice" was a better name for White Zin and that friends don't let friends drink that pink stuff. When I was 6 my mother forced me into wearing balloons all over my body for the annual grape festival parade (so I'd look like a bunch of grapes). Speaking of the grape festival - how many people can say they've made a mural out of single grape berries? I have and it's all because of my mother.

My mother loves wine so much that she suggested I get my degree in it., so I did (Cal Poly Wine & Vit grad - 2009). I worked at quite a few wineries over the course of my education and let me tell you, they never experienced someone taking full advantage of the "employee discount" as my mother did. Before I was even 21, on any given day you'd see that woman rolling a dolly stacked with cases out of the tasting room because her girlfriends all placed orders at their last bunco night (which I've learned first hand should be renamed to wine night). Now I just get multiple calls on what to have ready the next time we see each other.

The apple must not fall far from the tree because I too love wine as much as my mother and her rowdy wineaux friends. The lengths I would go for a good glass of wine are very, very far. Just check out my legs. You'd see the lovely rubber boot tanline I'm rocking in all it's glory from sorting grapes in 100 degree weather, the slight tinge of pink -that just doesn't go away- from treading grapes in 40 degree open top fermenters, the bruises from when I thought the man hole would be a great slip in slide and the multiple scratches from the rungs of the barrels I monitored fermentation on every morning. I won't even get into the status of my hands - that's a whole different rodeo. But let's just say that I stirred barrels of Zin stuck at 4* Brix for weeks and found no greater happiness that when those suckers finally went dry.

Long story short, even if my reasons are not enough, I'd gladly pass the opportunity to attend ZAP to my mother. Now let's all say it together - "Ahhhhhh."

Kristin H wrote:
01.19.10 at 4:19 PM

When I was in college in Michigan I drank boxed wine. Franzia Burgundy. Sometimes Peter Vella Cabernet Sauvignon if it was on sale. But I only drank boxed wine. My roommate Tara and I took turns buying the house box, and then of course, squeezing the bladder through the cardboard hole to get the very last drops out. I can still remember how it sounded to pull the plastic out – kind of like if a stuffed animal was stuck inside a small tuba while someone was trying to play a very sad tuba song.

When I was in graduate school in Iowa I drank boxed wine until I met Luke and he convinced me that there are better things to drink. Luke is nice and wise and he has a funny laugh that makes other people laugh.

Then, all MFA’d in poetry writing*-up, Luke drove me the rest of the way to California following my mountains-are-scary-I-refuse-to-drive-anymore-breakdown in Wyoming. Luke has your back like that. He convinces you to stop drinking boxed wine. He drives you over scary mountains when you get spooked.

I’d like to go to the ZAP Festival because zinfandel really is my favorite, and because Luke really wants to go and he is always doing stuff for me, so how great would it be to win, to get tickets for free!

*I mention this part to suggest we’re not very rich. Poems is not a very rich career. Nor is it a career at all. And you can’t really do anything with an MFA in poetry except move to California and drink Zinfandel.

Alder wrote:
01.24.10 at 12:02 PM

Thanks everyone! I've decided to give the tickets to:

Luke Z.
Kristin H.
Paul D.
Samantha

I hope to see everyone, and especially these four, at the tasting.

01.24.10 at 4:07 PM

I'm a virgin and I really need to get cherry popped. I've never been exposed to the Zin festival even though I've been a long time Bay Area resident. More criminal still, is the fact that a big, bold Zin with a eye-brow, raising long finish was THE varietal that was responsible for my love affair with wine. Pair my Zin wiht a bit of melt-in-your mouth, eye fluttering Belgian dark chocolate and heaven is found. It would be such a shame to miss out on this fabulous opportunity to swing with other Zins.

Barbara wrote:
01.27.10 at 11:43 PM

I just saw in twitter that TeraRecipes gave some nice recipes with Zinfandel to this event: http://www.terarecipes.com/recipe_search_engine/specialrecipe/Zinfandel - just if you like to stay at in your kitchen :-)
Barbara

Naomi Yamamoto wrote:
12.23.10 at 5:09 PM

My dad is turning 75 that day, he loves Zinfandel and like father like daughter, so do I! It would be a great treat to take him to this event to celebrate his birthday. Thank you!

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