ZAP Zinfandel Festival: January 28 – 31, San Francisco

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 annual ZAP festival is comprised of several events. The week begins on Wednesday January 28th with a series of seminars that allow attendees to taste flights of wines in a guided fashion with commentary from winemakers, as well as an exclusive walk-around tasting of so called “rare” Zinfandels that will not be poured at the public tastings.

On Thursday the education takes a back seat to hedonism, in the form of 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).

On Friday the event gets a little more swanky for an 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.

Last year I had the flu, and couldn’t make it, so I’m very much looking forward to this year again. And you should be too. Especially because you might get to go to one of the events for free. I’ve got five pairs of tickets to give away to the Good Eats and Zinfandel Pairing on Thursday January 29th. All you have to do in order to get yourself a pair of tickets is be one of the first five people to compose a haiku about Zinfandel in the comments section of this blog (and leave me your full name and e-mail address in the fields provided).

That’s it!

ZAP Zinfandel Advocates and Producers Festival
Grand Tasting: Saturday January 31, 2009
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.

SPECIAL NOTES: I don’t recommend parking anywhere near Fort Mason on the day of the event. Take public transportation or park a long way off and walk. Also I especially 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). Finally, 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.