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Friday Fishwrap
Zinfandel Love Does Not Get Better Than This

By Connoisseurs’ Guide

There is a new venue, a new look and a new feel to this year’s Zinfandel Festival, and, if Day One is any indication of what is to come, this year’s event may prove to be the best yet.

We will also be reporting on the giant tasting tomorrow. Look for live tweets every half hour starting at 1030 with comments about wines to taste and possible hidden gems. Go to @charlieolken and follow along.

The Zinfandel Advocates and Producer’s (ZAP) annual extravaganza has traditionally started with an informal walk-around evening of tasting and eating wherein various restaurateurs, caterers and chefs are teamed with noteworthy Zinfandel producers to come up with a winning food and wine match. Formerly called “Zinfandel and Good Eats”, the gathering now goes by the name “Epicuria”, and the evening just finished earns a tip of the CGCW hat.

As long-time ZAP supporters and sponsors, we never miss this night of nibbles and wine, yet good intensions and effort duly noted, some years have been better than others. Last night, however, the bar of achievement was raised to new heights, and, if fairly reluctant to get too excited lest our comments take on a “too bad you weren’t there” tone, we nonetheless think a bit of applause is in order.

We simply cannot recall a previous incarnation of Epicuria, nee Good Eats, wherein the featured dishes showed as much success in both concept and execution across the broad. We were particularly struck by the former insofar as participant chefs, with very few exceptions, really seemed to grasp just what the varietal was about and embraced the idea that, while delicious with the usual tomatoey pastas and barbecued pork, Zinfandel can make transcendent drinking with a spectacular range of foods. That was a message missed by none in attendance.

Now, I do confess that we did not/could not try every one of the more than fifty dishes on the menu, but particularly worthy of note and universally successful with all but the most alcoholic, over-the-top wines (of which there were mercifully few) was a bite of Braised Lamb shoulder with Black Pepper Spaetzle, Burnt Orange and White Anchovy Salsa Verde from Wayfare Tavern, the Braised Pork Sliders from Equus, the Pork Rillette Crostini w/ Zinfandel and Onion Jam prepared by Bin 38, and A16’s Duck Terrine with Pickled Huckleberry and Pistacios. Le Truc checked in with a terrific Pan-seared Pork Belly with a Zinfandel-Cracked-Pepper Glaze and Mardi Gras Slaw, and small Cochinita Pibil Tacos filled with slow-roasted pork flavored with sweet-and-sour achiote paste and baked on banana leafs was an altogether surprising hit with the softer, less acidy Zins. There was a Duck Chili and spicy Bahn Mi sandwiches that found fine affinity with the honoree of the night, and a sublime Truffled Ricotta Ravioli from Rose Pistola was an astonishingly perfect foil to Storybook Mountian Vineyard’s 2009 Eastern Exposures. And, while not formally paired up at the same table, the roasted-lamb lollipops offered up by Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse were nothing short of perfection with the altogether stunning 2004 Ravenswood Old Hill Ranch Zinfandel poured by winemaker Joel Peterson.

Again, while meant to give credit where credit is due, this recitation of a marvelous menu is less about critical review and meant more as a celebration of Zinfandel’s extraordinary ability to marry with such a wide range of foods, from rustic to sophisticated, from complex to simple.

We like well-made Zinfandel...always have, and we cannot seem to get enough of it. You will find us at ZAP’s Grand Tasting this Saturday, and if you happen to be there too, please drop by our table and say hello. If this year’s gathering is not on your calendar, you might want to start making plans for next January. And remember to follow us on Twitter. Just click the button:


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No Subject
by Chuck Hayward
Posted on:1/27/2012 10:01:28 AM

I'm hungry.....


See you tomorrow!!

Hungry too
by Samantha Dugan
Posted on:1/27/2012 11:37:23 AM

Charlie, as you know Zinfandel simply is not one of my things. I'm not even talking about the over-the-top stuff, just not a wine I typically enjoy but this lineup of dishes, damn. Sounds amazing and I was thrilled to see that the restaurants involved really seemed to keep the wine in focus. So much of the time when you do wine dinners the chef is more interested, (and I can't say as I blame them really) in showing off their kitchen prowess, often times at the expense of the wine. Gives me hope this re-cap. Thanks for sharing and while I shan't see you tomorrow I send you much adoration kid.

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