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Friday Fishwrap: Random Jottings at Week's End
Zinfandel Pays A Visit

By Charles Olken

Zinfandel began to change about twenty years ago when many wineries discovered that elevated ripeness also meant more intense flavors. Those intense flavors found a willing audience, but, at the same time, drove away many of its staunchest fans. Zinfandel has become a wine for drinking, not for savoring. Perhaps that explains why the Zinfandel days coming to San Francisco next week will be attended by tens of thousands of people who could not care less what the wine geeks are drinking this month.

And it surely explains why Connoisseurs’ Guide continues to help sponsor the several events presented to the world by ZAP, Zinfandel Associates and Producers. Zinfandel is for drinking, and there is no better choice for red-sauced foods and savory pork dishes than a zesty Zinfandel.

Zinfandel is no long a favorite tipple of the wine geeks. It is rarely a wine you would want to put in your cellar for two decades. It is more likely to work with pizza and pasta, barbecued spare ribs and shish kebab than it is with filet mignon, crown rack of lamb or a lombata veal chop napped with a cognac cream sauce.

I once asked a group of Aussie writers and winemakers what they drink with pizza and pasta and they answered “beer”. I had been expecting the answer to be Shiraz (Syrah), a wine that I like but do not choose it for red-sauced dishes.

There are three events that are almost unrivalled in their enjoyment. On Thursday evening next, GOOD EATS AND ZINFANDEL allows dozens of wineries to show off their wines in combination with foods prepared by a series of top restaurants. This is a very relaxed affair with smaller crowds and plenty of opportunity to chat with the winemakers while enjoying specially prepared dishes designed to go with the wines being presented.

Friday night’s EVENING WITH THE WINEMAKERS is a little on the fancy, black tie side for my blood, but it is always popular and allows attendees to sit with the winemakers while enjoying a special dinner as well as participating in the auction for a couple of dozen special items ranging from travel to artist painted bottles to unique dinners.

Saturday brings the grand tasting featuring hundreds of producers. There is more Zinfandel than anyone can possibly try, so most folks taste their favorites and then search out releases from new wineries. You can also participate in the silent auction for over 90 separate lots of Zinfandel.

We have attended and help to sponsor the ZAP festival for a decade and half. These events are a lot of fun, and you will find us there at the Connoisseurs’ Guide table. For more information and tickets, go to the ZAP website at


Oh Lord, Stuck in...
by Ron Washam, HMW
Posted on:1/21/2011 11:11:26 AM

I know that I'll be at ZAP, as usual, searching for the very finest in Lodi Zin. It won't be long before I'll be in charge of wine-by-the-glass in Hell, and I want to be prepared.

Ah, I kid the Lodi Zin. It's actually a great place for old vine zinfandels. 20 years in the Lodi heat, and, bang, you've got 80-year-old vines!

Hope to see everyone there.

by jason carey
Posted on:1/21/2011 2:02:27 PM

There are still some examples of Structured Zin.. Ravenswood single vineyard, Ridge, Nalle, Harvest Moon.. and many others.. there are all sorts out there.

On Your Way to Hell
by Samantha Dugan
Posted on:1/23/2011 11:14:28 AM

Ron if you are going to ZAP you are already in my personal hell....

Hell Hast No Fury Like Pastis
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:1/23/2011 11:30:37 AM

Now, Samantha, you drink Pastis which is high in alcohol, low in acidtiy and sweet. And its color has turned. Kind of makes Lodi Zin into a walk in the park.

Not The Booze
by Samantha Dugan
Posted on:1/23/2011 12:51:45 PM

Now now Sir Charles, don't hate on my Pastis. It's refreshing as hell, can anyone say that about Zinfandel...I mean other than white Zin? Honestly it's not the alcohol or sweetness that bothers me about Zinfandel, I just hate the flavor profile....much like someone feels about all things fennel or ansie flavored. I would hate Zinfandel of they grew it in the Loire...just hits my ewe spot upon first sip.

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