Went to the ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) grand tasting two weekends ago. This is the huge Zinfandel tasting that takes up 2 whole buildings in San Francisco's Fort Mason every year. Now this is an event which draws thousands of people and it can be a bit of a madhouse. There are so many producers showing that it can be hard to get a handle on which to taste. My strategy was to hit some of the ones I have liked in the past, yet try to taste some new ones as well. I tend to like the Russian River Valley and Mendocino and Napa Zins, along with the more restrained Dry Creek Valley producers. The reason is I like wines that have some acidity and balance to the fruit.
So I spent 4 hours there and here are some highlights, I won't bother describing the low points. From the wineries whom I am already familiar, I loved the whole Ridge lineup, in this case all 2009 Barrel samples. They were all good, but what really popped to me was the Paganni Ranch, really fantastic. The fruit for that wine had a super zingy and blast of red fruits, but balanced. Moving on to Ravenswood, I loved the barrel samples of the Old Hill and Teldeschi (year after year my favorites), these are cellar zins, which need a few years to combine the rather firm structure and loveley elegant and powerful fruit. On to Hartford where the Jolene's and Highwire were literally jumping out of the glass with their textbook Russian River character. Here we have high acidity and very vibrant brambly red fruits and spices. Over at Deloach the OFS was sprightly and again full of the RRV fruit I love so much, sadly they were not showing many of their smaller lot zins. Novy was showing some gorgeous easy to drink wine. A producer whom I have never tasted before, Gamba really excited me with big yet balanced and wonderful wines. Seghesio as usual had some big boned yet wonderful wines. For me the Cortina and Home Ranch really rocked. From Napa I loved the almost Claret like Chateau Montelena. Easton another producer whom I like showed a wonderful Shenandoah wine, and Claudia Springs rocked my world with all their lineup. Another new to me producer was Bedrock, who had a wonderful wine and Gundlach Bundschu was showing some fine form as well.
Anyhow, there were actually many more who I enjoyed, and it seemed to me that many producers were pulling back from some of the port-like monsters.. although there were still many of these producers and they have many fans, just not me. I really feel that people who don't look that deeply into the world of zin are missing something, because they can be such joyful and exhuberant wines. Zap was great.