It'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 weekend begins on Thursday January 31st with the an event called Epicuria, which involves a walk around event that features dishes prepared by chefs from all over the U.S. specifically designed to match 50 specific 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 under the banner of "Forums of Flavors" that allow attendees to taste flights of wines in a guided fashion with commentary from winemakers. That evening a winemakers dinner (dubbed "Casablanca") features a live auction and a silent auction. You can buy some great wine while supporting the ZAP organization, 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. A list of the producers pouring is available on the event web site. Members of ZAP can get in one hour early, and also get access to the "Heritage Club Lounge," an area of the concourse that features library wines.
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.
Sadly, I'm going to miss this year's tasting, but I hope some of you will enjoy and let me know how the 2011 wines are looking.
2013 ZAP Zinfandel Advocates and Producers Festival
Grand Tasting: Saturday February 2nd
Doors open to the public at 2:00 PM (members of ZAP can get in an hour earlier)
The Concourse Exhibition Center
635 8th Street (at Brannan)
San Francisco, CA 94103 (map)
Tickets for the Grand Tasting are $59 if purchased in advance (which you should do most assuredly). Tickets for other events range from $75 to $125 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 also 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. Also, please leave the perfume and the cologne off for the day.
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