ZAP

The World of ZAP Changes, The Vintage Insights Remain the Same

zin 1If there’s one thing that the wine industry can once in a while guarantee, it’s a bit of consistency. The vines wake up in the spring, champagne sells like crazy as the holidays approach and the annual ZAP tasting is held during the end of January. In fact, ZAP has traditionally occupied the weekend before the Super Bowl just so zin enthusiasts don’t have to sacrifice football to enjoy their favorite wine.

After more than 20 years of the same tasting format, ZAP undertook some radical changes in the structure of this year’s event. Instead of the “Grand Tasting”, which has usually been held at the pavilions at Fort Mason in San Francisco, the day’s festivities were spread amongst three nearby buildings. Re-branded as the “Zinfandel Experience”, ZAP created three themed tasting sessions which lasted two hours with each session held three times over the course of the day.

Most importantly, “this revolutionary new format” was also significantly downsized with each of the nine tasting sessions allowing only 350 people. Compare this with the almost 9000 people who showed up each year under the old format and we are talking a big reduction in the number of people who can attend.

A lineup of Bedrock zinfandels

A lineup of Bedrock zinfandels

Not only was there a decrease in the number of attendees (and the long lines waiting for the tasting to start) but there was a significant decline in the number of wineries who poured their wines. This slimmed down tasting had about 30% fewer wineries sharing their wines and even fewer available for the trade portion tasting a few days earlier. It’s pretty clear that the ZAP of old is changing.

In addition to providing consumers the opportunity to immerse themselves in the pleasures of zinfandel, ZAP’s traditional January date has also allowed some folks in the trade to gain a look into the latest vintage coming to market, in this case, the wines from 2012. While zinfandel and cabernet don’t have much in common in the vineyard or the glass, over the years, the ZAP tasting has provided an insight about the style of the soon-to-be released California cabs. Generally, the basic qualities of a zinfandel’s bouquet and palate are a good indicator of what can be expected in cabernets from Napa and Sonoma from the same vintage.

The hype surrounding California’s 2012 vintage has been building since the grapes were crushed. Following a dismal 2011 harvest, winemakers were keen to have some good news to tell the trade and the drumbeat has been fairly insistent ever since. Not only was the quality deemed exceptional but there was going to be plenty of it.

Tegan Passalacqua of Turley Wine Cellars

Tegan Passalacqua of Turley Wine Cellars

With that background, I was looking forward to tasting as many 2012s at ZAP’s trade tasting as possible and was ready to be impressed. Maybe I arrived with high expectations but there was clearly nothing among the zinfandels I tasted that made the 2012s stand up and be noticed. The bouquets were moderately intense with soft expressions of pure fruit. There wasn’t much complexity to be found aromatically but that can be expected at this early point in their development. The palates of the best 2012s mimicked the aromatics with medium bodied flavors of dark red fruits. While pleasant, there was something missing, that wow factor that separates the best vintages from the rest.

It’s important to remember that this is just a small window on what the 2012 vintage has to offer. It’s interesting to note that similar observations have been made about the 2012s that were recently poured at the Premiere Napa Valley Auction. There will be opportunities to taste 2012 cabernets will be coming soon during the next few months. Check in with JJ Buckley’s blog to get the latest on the vintage!

Host your own ZAP tasting with these zinfandels from JJ Buckley!!

2012 Brown Estate Zinfandel

2011 Ridge “Ponzo Vineyard” Zinfandel

2010 Tofanelli Family Zinfandel

Napa on the Block: Behind the scenes at Premiere Napa Valley

Napa on the Block: Behind the scenes at Premiere Napa Valley

Post by Chuck Hayward | March 1st, 2012

This past weekend saw the wineries of the Napa Valley host their annual Premiere Auction Weekend. This was the 16th edition of the Napa Valley Vintners Association’s second most important event. The Napa Valley Wine Auction held each summer in support of local charities is more well known and geared toward raising funds from consumers. For the wine trade, Premiere Napa Valley is where it’s at. Here, auctions of unfinished wines are directed to bidders in the retail and restaurant industry, with proceeds destined for the region’s marketing and education efforts. Consumers cannot bid on these lots.

The auction represents the culmination of a week-long series of events in the valley, including a wine writers’ symposium, educational tastings, as well as the traditional parties which form the foundation of any gathering of the wine industry. It brings to mind en primeur week in Bordeaux with familiar crowds of journalists and buyers from across the globe traipsing from winery to winery attending tastings and parties.

Tim Mondavi (l) and Stuart Harrison (c) of Continuum with Joshua Greene (r), Editor of Wine & Spirits

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Adding a Little ‘Zip’ to ZAP: Improved venue breathes new life into annual zin event

Adding a Little ‘Zip’ to ZAP: Improved venue breathes new life into annual zin event

Post by Chuck Hayward | February 2nd, 2012

The last weekend of January always manages to banish the mid-winter blues with its promise of three highly anticipated annual events: the impending Super Bowl, the release of Silver Oak’s Napa cabernet, and the annual ZAP tasting in San Francisco. No matter what one thinks of the grape, the red wine confab is truly one of the great wine events held in the United States. Populist in approach with its sprinkling of thought-provoking seminars to placate budding wine geeks, the annual tribute to California’s heritage grape attracts a happy crowd of consumers and industry folks alike, and not surprisingly, very few sommeliers.

The Bucklin Winery Trio

As much as ZAP has been a model of consistency from year to year, 2012 brought about a big change as its venue transitioned from the familiar confines of Fort Mason to the far more spacious San Francisco Concourse in San Francisco’s South of Market district. The event certainly benefited from the change, as the new digs seemed to infuse everyone with renewed energy. Incredibly, all the wineries were housed under one roof and with plenty of room to spare. The carpeted floors helped to keep the noise down, especially the cheers that inevitably follow the occasional broken glass. Most importantly, there was plenty of room to maneuver about and tables were noticeably less cramped. (more…)

ZAPping the Zinfandel Debate

ZAPping the Zinfandel Debate

Post by Chuck Hayward | January 26th, 2011

In the wine industry, controversies come and controversies go, but one that seems to have stuck around a while revolves around zinfandel. And there’s no better place to dredge up the old debate than at the annual ZAP Grand Tasting held each January in San Francisco. This year marked the event’s 20th anniversary, and the question of what zinfandel is and what it should be gained even more traction than in years past.

The debate on zinfandel was probably best encapsulated by the SF Chronicle’s Jon Bonné’s Thirst column. Rather than go over it in detail, there are a few observations I think bear relevance. For one, it is very easy to project your ideas and philosophies onto a grape like zinfandel. It has a populist appeal which speaks to a broader segment of the market and grates the grits of those who take wine more seriously. Yet when one starts to dig deeper and learn about the old zin vineyards that populate California’s North Coast region, complaints arise that the prices are too high and that it drives away everyday drinkers.

ZAP: Is this the line for Turley?

There can be no doubt that the “zin-fanatics” are a unique bunch of wine enthusiasts and they can certainly rile those who take their wine more seriously, including many who are in the industry. Thing is, those are often the same people who complain that we need more consumers at wine events. Apparently, the 8-10,000 zin fans lining up at Fort Mason don’t count because they are “that type” of consumer. (more…)