Zapped Away to an Array of Zin

We said this a long time ago: We never met a Zinfandel we didn’t like.

By Dianne Boate & Robert Meyer
Published: March, 2007 

It looks like 9,000 other people feel the same way, for that is the estimated number of guests who attended the ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) tasting at Fort Mason last month, the final event of a four-day, first class festival in San Francisco. It is thought to be the largest single varietal event in the world.

One evening, there was a 3-hour wine and food pairing event, Good Eats and Zinfandel, where wine from over 50 top Zinfandel makers was matched with food from a top restaurant or chef. A lot of hearty meats and stews to go with this wine. One of the best dishes was albondigas (special meatballs in sauce) from Tres Agaves restaurant. A favorite wine that night was from Edmeades, Mendocino County.

There are wine events and then there are Wine Events that are so outstanding because they also create the greatest hospitality. The ZAP organized an outstanding event where the details were carefully thought out. On the day of the tasting, there were 300 well-trained volunteers in butter yellow shirts to answer all questions and keep things running smoothly, while attendees had the opportunity to taste 550 Zinfandels from 273 producers. There was 1,500 pounds of cheese to nibble with 8,000 loaves of bread. We believe the patrons really got the most for their money. They only had to enter and receive a program and an attractive glass and away they went toward the vast array.

But, what is it about Zinfandel? What’s the passion, the mystery, the magic? There might be 9,000 answers, but for us: It’s drinking pleasure that remains fresh, interesting and intriguing! There’s enormous variety within the varietal, which, of course, means locality of vineyards. Elevation, farming practices, pruning and the winemaker’s style are all factors. We are reminded of the words of Robert Mondavi from a wine seminar in Maui: Ladies and gentlemen, let us not forget that the reason we are in business is to make wine that tastes good. Zinfandel makers know this in spades.

Probably, the most interesting discovery at the ZAP tasting was finding out about the Heritage Vineyard in Napa Valley, a vineyard where the varietal is researched and cultivated; it has an unprecedented collection of rare and famous Zinfandel vine cuttings grown throughout California. There are 90 cuttings culled from vineyards that were planted before 1930 — the so-called old vines.

James Wolpert, UC Davis professor and chair of the Viticulture and Enology Department explains in the ZAP Resource Guide: The Heritage Vineyard is a vibrant ‘ongoing’ museum of the grape. For the consumer, the vineyard is living history and provides an easily accessible demonstration of where Zinfandel is really made — in the vineyard. For the wine industry, it has special significance because it represents a resource for future plantings of Zinfandel with a broad range of selections.

For information on the Heritage Vineyard and the Zinfandel varietal, also called, America’s Heritage Grape, visit

Zin Purchase

Another surprise - zin-fat-u-a-tion, made by Trinchero Family Estates, has a label that reads: A condition affecting wine drinkers, characterized by an intense insatiable appetite for the incredibly luscious and lively taste of Zinfandel. It’s only $10 at Cost Plus World Market, find one 3 ½ blocks south of Pier 45 in San Francisco.

Dianne Boate is a freelance writer, photographer and botanical illustrator. Robert Meyer is a consultant to the wine and spirits industry. At the end of a recent wine event, one woman was getting a little too close to Robert. Dianne stood up and announced to him in a loud voice, The children are hungry. Another guest sputtered, asking how old the children were. Dianne answered, 8, 9 and 11. Indignation and confusion reigned for a few minutes until it was disclosed that the children were our cats.