Another year means another crazy adventure in the world of California’s “home” grape! The Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) are having their annual ZAP Festival at Fort Mason on the San Francisco waterfront this weekend. Many events have already occurred in leading up to today’s press and consumer grand tasting. Over 275 wineries, 400 wines, countless other food and wine specialists and 10,000 attendees will participate with food and Zinfandel wines, again making this the largest single varietal wine festival in the entire world!
I will be posting in real-time throughout the event today until about 5pm from the Wine 2.0 Bloggers Lounge (Thanks so much to Cornelius and Abdi from Wine 2.0 (Twitter) and Lisa (Twitter) from Hahn Estates for coordination!). The post will be on the fly and mildly edited for content (especially later , similar to the now famous, Live (Speed) Wine Blogging event at last year’s 1st Wine Bloggers Conference.
I’ve already run into The Beer Wench (Twitter), Caveman Wines (Twitter), Vineyard Adventures (Twitter), the Corkeeper founders (more on that later), Sharayray (Twitter) and many more. Woohoo, this is going to be good! And now….the wines!
2007 Turley Hayne Vineyard Zinfandel
This was in a shiner, obviously just bottled from the barrel.
Color: Darker garnet with ruby edges and violet highlights
Nose: Good bramble, rosemary and red fruit, followed by some cracked black pepper
Palate: Also good, with a red fruit medley of raspberry and rhubarb, good balance with bigger tannins but not overly hot. Good.
Nose: Good cherry red fruit that turns to black cherry and blackberry, hint of sulfur, good fruit
Palate: Wow, tons of cherry here, with more of an oak presence, but not overwhelming. A very big wine with a strong grip, fnishing with more of a blueberry finish and good acidity. Good!
2005 Peju Province Napa Valley Zinfandel
Color: Lighter ruby
Nose: Touch of sulfer here as well, but bigger sweeter oak. Less fruit forward than the ‘06, with more of a black fruit character and forest floor
Palate: Lighter bodied and verrry different from the more current ‘06. Good elegance to this wine and I really like it better than the buiser above, but their both good and just very different styles. Red red fruit here on the palate, cherry is in the fore with more of a raspberry finish and good acid.
Just had a great convo with Susan from Icon Estates who own this brand. More good chat about social media and how wine can penetrate that space to better reach their fans. This is the perfect spot for that, for sure!
Color: Lighter ruby
Nose: Spicy with red and black fruit underneath, a little closed right now
Palate: Good red fruit with a fair amount of oak surrounding it, blueberry comes in on the mid and finishes with good food acid in this lighter-bodied wine. Would love to decant first!
Next stop, Truett-Hurst with Phil Hurst and GM Jim Morris in attendance. I had a great time chatting with Jim at the WBC Dry Creek Valley tasting and I was happy to run into him again here. As usual, another great convo ensued with some special secret wines that were sequestered underneath the table to those that follow Jim on their Twitter.
Truett-Hurst Dry Creek Valley Red Rooster Vineyard Zinfandel 2006
Color: Darker garnet, ruby edges
Nose: Blacker fruit here with some great black pepper and a bit of dried herbs
Palate: Another good and well-balanced effort from TH, this has more of that black fruit from the nose and good spicy herbs and white and black pepper. Very good.
Nose: More of a brambly red fruit Zin here, with a bit more oak, but still mellow.
Palate: Good raspberry with a bit of blueberry in the finish, still good round but strong grip for this varietal and a bit more bramble and oak than the Red Rooster. Also quite good.
Truett-Hurst Sonoma County Black Sheep Pinot Noir 2007
Color: Lighter burgundy
Nose: Light-bodied, but with great red fruit and a bit of cola in there, as well
Palate: Well-balanced, with some lighter florals, raspberry and cola from the nose and a nice minerally finish with good acidity. This is a first time wine for TH.
Color: Inky violet with some ruby edges
Nose: Great depths of fruit here, wow. Outstanding black and blue fruit with a touch of 5 spice and some great chalkiness to the nose.
Palate: Also phenomenal, huge, but still balanced with tannin and acid to make this great but not overwhelming for the palate. Chalky big mouth with a round and strong grip, followed by more of a blackberry in the finish that goes forever, ending in black cherry. Outstanding.
[Live blogging ended due to wifi technical difficulties]
Whew, what a fantastic event! I have to say, as a tentative Zin supporter in the past (I have had trouble finding Zins that fit my palate), I came away very impressed with the majority of the wine that I tasted that day.
Please watch this space as I continue to digest all of the fun and information that was had that day and I get the chance to add more info, reviews, photos and fun to this post!
Further Wine Reviews, post event:
I teamed up with Ashley (Twitter) and Shana (Twitter) to knock down some of our favorite wineries that we still hadn’t visited in the two buildings. I steered us over to one of my favorite wineries on Earth, Nichelini Winery, located in Chiles Valley and a place that I’ve been visiting with my family since I was a little kid. I was very excited to see them here at the festival:
Nichelini Napa Valley Estate Zinfandel 2004
Color: Darker garnet with more of a brick edges
Nose: Good dustiness to the fruit here, with some deeper red fruit that is still nicely balanced by some dried garden herbs and slight bramble.
Palate: Quite good with that same dusty red fruit from the nose, mainly cherry, but with some darker fruit underneath and integrated oak adding some complexity. Very smooth.
R&B Cellars California Swingsville Zinfandel 2006
Color: Medium dark ruby
Nose: Good bright cherry with some richness of oak and raspberry underneath
Palate: Great QPR here as this retails at $11. Huge cherry, but not enough to overwhelm some underlying oak, good tannin structure from the 13% Pet and good food acidity. Quiet a steal!
At this point, we headed over to the other building that housed roughly the other 1/3 of the wineries that were not already contained in the eastern and larger Pavilion building. These were roughly A-H wineries, in alphabetical order. Luscious Lush, Thea (Twitter) was manning the door and many other activities, volunteering for the day.
Chiarello Vineyards Napa Valley Giana Zinfandel 2007 (Barrel)
Color: Darker garnet with ruby edges
Nose: Blue fruit here with a touch of red and some pepper
Palate: This was from a shiner pulled from the barrel. This was too sweet for my taste with the residual sugar, but good blue fruit here which was nice and some of that cracked pepper in the finish.
M. Cosentino California Cigarzin Zinfandel 2006
Color: Brick red
Nose: Definitely some sweet tobacco here, they aren’t kidding. Blue fruit with some toasty oak.
Palate: Not my style of Zin at all, but lots of blue fruit, that sweet tobacco and just sweet fruit in general, finishing quite oaky.
Around this time I saw the webmaster for ZAP, Jared Krupnick. We had already exchanged cards and pleasantries earlier in the day, and he had mentioned that he’d like to demo a new part of the ZAP website for me, a portion called ZinWorld. This turned out to be very interesting and promising, a great intermeshing of social media and the true physical world. ZinWorld takes all of the members of ZAP, as well as any other people and establishments that have a connection to Zinfandel and overlays their rough physical location (their City, if a consumer member), or exact business location onto GoogleMaps. Once you click on any of the bubbles representing such members, you get a simple profile that details the member and their association with Zinfandel. Very cool. Members are encouraged to fill out their profiles and interact with other members through the site and in the outside world (anyone for a ZinUp? We can meet at one of the restaurants or wine bars featured on the Map!). I’ve already created my free ZinWorld profile, check it out and add your own!
I soon found Shana and Ashley again when Shana and I teamed up to make a name (noise?) for ourselves. As she was waving over one of her friends, her hand came down on my arm, startling me and prompting me to drop my glass…then all hell broke loose! The entire 3000+ population in the building booed, hooted, screamed and laughingly taunted the two of us (this appears to be a tradition, the whole place erupted more and more as the event went on!). Cracking up laughing, Shana and I took a bow and Ashley kindly scampered off to get me another glass (thanks!). We then moved on in search of more wineries, including one of Shana’s fav’s:
Bella Alexander Valley Big River Zinfandel 2006
Nose: Big red cherry here, with some tar on the back end
Palate: As good as the nose, that cherry is here as well, with rich depths that turn black underneath. More tar here that surrounds the dusty raspberry towards the back palate and finishing with some earthiness. Very good!
Bobcat Sonoma County Zinfandel 2007
Color: Violet with garnet edges
Nose: Smells very sweet with red and blue fruit and some bramble
Palate: Also sweet and too unctuous for my palate. Has that same red fruit of cherry and raspberry from the nose. Eh.
Following those two wines, we visited the Wine 2.0 Bloggers Lounge that was in this building and chatted a bit with many WineTwo folks, such as Smoke (Twitter), his wife Anitra and Cornelius, himself. After getting some updates on how they plan to continue to grow the Bloggers Lounge functionality at their many future events this year, we went off in search of more vino to try. On the way back out, we tried some cheese from igourmet that absolutely crushed me with its intensity, wow! We had their 2 year aged white cheddar and truffle oil cheddar. Wonderful, wonderful flavors that just stayed in your mouth for minutes at a time! Must get more…
Color: Darker garnet
Nose: Bright nose here, with some rhubarb and chery, but the fruit is more subdued here with more garden herbs to balance it out
Palate: Also more of a claret style and good, with that same red fruit from the nose, but accompanied by some tarter blueberry here. The herbs and some earthiness are also present, finishing with very good acidity.
Blaauwklippen Stellenbosch Zinfandel 2006
Color: A little more violet here than the ‘05, with ruby edges
Nose: More of a richer fruity style here, with red, black and blue aromas all represented. Some slight toast here, as well.
Palate: Bigger than the ‘05 and more fruit forward, but still with that nice acidity and also some good tannin structure to back it all up. Again in that claret style and good.
Back to the original building where we started and I headed over to one of the first through the door, Spelletich Cellars, from Napa. Barbara Spelletich, herself, was pouring these wines and I stayed for a very invigorating conversation as I tasted my way through all three of the wines that she had available that day. She is a very experimental and fearless winemaker, who is not adverse to going very against the establishment in California wines. She has a long history in the wine industry, across many different positions, so her knowledge of where changes can be made in the vinting process and where they can’t (or shouldn’t!) is quite thorough. As I tasted her wines, I noticed just how much acidity was present and yet it didn’t detract from the balance of the wine. It reminded me of some of the high acid, balanced wines that I tasted when from Kaz, when we visited with my father last Summer. Barb explained to me that she did not use any malolactic fermentation on these red wines and that was where the acidity comes from (or, rather, stays, since she’s not breaking that acid into the softer lactic acid like virtually all other CA red winemakers). That was fascinating, but not even the most astonishing as she proceeded to ask me what I thought the alcohol levels might be on these wines. I thought they were on the lower end for CA wines, say 14-14.5%. Wrong! I was flabbergasted to find out that these were between 16.5-17.1% alcohol, unbelievable! I couldn’t even detect their heat on the nose they were so balanced. Very interesting, indeed! I also ran into a high school classmate while chatting up Barb, Harry Higgins. It’s always fun to run into people fromseemingly long ago at these events!
Spelletich Cellars Amador County Alviso Vineyard Zinfandel 2004
Color: Darker garnet with ruby edges
Nose: Quite bright, with some rhubarb, cherry and blueberry mixing on the nose and some fresh garden herbs and vegetables (in a very good and mouthwatering way!)
Palate: Also quite bright and almost racy like a vibrant Pinot, this has all of the fruit from the nose and more structure than you can shake a stick at. Very tasty, and finishes with some slight char.
Spelletich Cellars Amador County Alviso Vineyard Zinfandel 2005
Color: Garnet with violet flecks
Nose: A little more plush than the ‘04, but still similar with that medley of different fruits and big brightness.
Palate: Another well-constructed wine, with great balance that features the food-necessary acidity, but also has enough fruit and tannins to back it all up into more of a classic Bordeaux style. Other components intermingle here, such as a full mouth that isn’t flabby and some cedar and pepper spice.
Spelletich Cellars Port
Color: Inky violet
Nose: Big marzipan here, with blueberry towards the center of the glass and more of a sweet cherry vanilla cola towards the rim.
Palate: Full and sweet, but again, with enough acid to make stand alone and not need some dessert to accompany the glass. Creme brulée and blueberry cobbler are present more here with a hint of cedar to round things out. Quite good and made in th tawny port method, in honor of the wines that Barb imported from Portugal, earlier in her career.
The event was winding down as were myself and the Zin posse. We headed up to the Zin Zone press area for some last nibbles and wine, as the press area contained almost all of the wines that were being poured that day and available as a self-pour station, without the frenetic (but more fun) craziness below. I had one last wine, picked at random from the tables and then I called it a day and headed out, walking back to BART.
Robert Rue Russian River Valley Wood Road Reserve Zinfandel 2005
Color: Dark garnet
Nose: Quite good, with dusty and slightly smoky raspberry and cherry and some wile blackberry
Palate: Also good and very balanced. Full, with good acid and a strong, round grip, this has the fruit from the nose, pepper, spice and some cedar in the long finish that ends with a bit of a chalky mouthfeel. Nice!