The yearly Grand Tasting put on by the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (i.e. ZAP) in San Francisco turned 21 this past Saturday, January 28: that is to say, after over two decades, it’s matured into one of the grandest, most bodacious yet, if you can believe it, most civilized wine events in the country.
A new venue at The Concourse certainly helped. Close to 8,000 true-blue and purple teethed zin lovers strolled through the length of this south-of-Market building’s 125,000 square feet of spectacularly skylighted heights, rich wood and exposed brick walls (this 8th & Brannan exhibition center was carved out of an old train station).
Tasting Zinfandels produced by over 200 California producers (although there was also one each from Italy, Arizona and South Africa!) can be like, well, a party, yet ZAP’s 2012 Big Event definitely had a cultured feel that past Grand Tastings may not have completely attained (perhaps it was the carpeting – no more unruly roars from the crowd each time someone dropped a glass on the concrete floor, which regularly occurred at the old venue in Fort Mason).
But perhaps it was also because Zinfandel as a whole is being produced in increasingly less of the ultra-ripe, high alcohol/octane style that has always made, say, Pinot Noir and Bordeaux aficionados pooh-pooh the grape. Overall, contemporary Zinfandels seem less unruly, more structured and, well, civilized!
Maybe Zinfandel is growing up, which can’t be bad!
Lordy, lordy… Lodi – the American Viticultural Area that crushes over 40% of California’s annual zin crop – was well represented, and even singled out by several sommeliers (including two Master Sommeliers, Catherine Fallis and Tim Gaiser) in a panel discussion entitled Top Sommeliers Choices; and you know how sommeliers get: fussy, fussy, fussy. Yet out of the nearly 1,000 different Zinfandels being poured, there were four Lodi grown zins specically mentioned by the somms:
- The restrained, earth and soft leather textured 2010 St. Amant Mohr-Fry Ranch Old Vine Zinfandel ($18)
- The plump yet round, fluid 2010 LangeTwins Estate Zinfandel ($18)
- The bright and irrepressibly berryish 2009 Klinker Brick Mokelumne River-Lodi Zinfandel ($18)
- The soft, easy going 2010 Deep Purple Lodi Zinfandel ($12) that practically makes you sing funfunfun-tillyourdaddytakestheeetbirdaway (or if you’re inclined, mywomaninfrom-to-kee-yo).
- 2010 Gnarly Head, Lodi Zinfandel ($12) – Lips tingling blackberry fruit wrapped around a supple velvet core.
- 2009 Brazin Lodi Zinfandel ($16) – By the same good people (DFV) who make Gnarly Head, except deeper, sturdier, maybe even funner.
- 2009 Harney Lane Lodi Zinfandel ($22) – As reliably zinful as they come these days – all the lush, round, friendly red berry fruit that leads zinners into temptation.
- 2009 m2 Artist Series Lodi Zinfandel ($35) – Earthy complexity to ripe, aromatic fruit in fleshy, flowing flavors.
- 2010 Macchia Outrageous Noma Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel ($24) – Stupendously rich yet balanced example of a usually “big” style, restrained by vagaries of vintage.
- 2009 McCay Jupiter Lodi Zinfandel ($24) – Contemporary “restrained” style by it-boy Michael McCay; with floral, raspberryish, zesty, smooth flavors.
- OZV Sweet Solera Zin ($30/500 ml.) – By Oak Ridge Winery, a sweet and jammy “mini-Port” style, like candy to a zin lover.
- 2009 Spenker Estate Lodi Zinfandel ($16) – Nice, brothy , medium intense zin-berry qualities, with a mochachocolata finish.
- 2010 St. Amant Marian’s Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel ($24) – From the oldest block at Mohr-Fry Ranch – dense, round zin character in chock-fulls of berries, chocolate and nuts.
- 2009 V. Sattui Pilgrim Vineyard Lodi Zinfandel ($34) – Full, bouncy, yet balanced and buoyant berry-jam flavors over a core of firming tannin.
- 2009 Van Ruiten Family Old Vine Zinfandel ($12) – Bright berry and roasted coffee aromas, with finely textured, medium bodied sensations.
- 2010 Zynthesis, Lodi Zinfandel ($18) – Super-soft, sweet raspberry toned, almost frothily fruity and Beaujolais-like quaffibility.
Some other scenes from the 2012 ZAP Grand Tasting: