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10 September, 2018

The Zinfandel Experience from ZAP: Tasting More Zinfandel Than You Knew Existed

Posted in : Primitivo / Zinfandel, Red Wine, Wine on by : The Gourmez

The Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) association, website here, is one of the most active wine organizations I’ve come across in my decade’s worth of food and drink blogging. If you’re a zinfandel lover like myself, you’ll be interested in all the great events they put on during the year.

zinfandel advocates & producers, zap, zinfandel experience, zinexpoThe next one coming up is Zinfandel: Stories from Napa Valley, one in a series of events ZAP sponsors that highlights a particular zinfandel-growing region. It’s happening September 22, 2018, and if you’re interested, better jump on those tickets soon, as the seminar is already sold out, leaving only the walk-around reception available: Tickets here. Not to worry—20 wineries will be presenting their wares at that reception!

My first experience at a ZAP event was their marquee festival, the Zinfandel Experience (ZinExpo), this last January. My media ticket was comped, so feel free to consider that in my description of the day. And yes, that was my obligatory disclaimer.

Just one of many zinfandel lineups at the ZinExpo.

The Zinfandel Experience is the largest single-vintage wine festival in the world, with over 500 wines available for tasting from over 120 winemakers last year. Gaining entry before Saturday’s Grand Tasting enables ticket holders to try barrel samples and private reserve vintages that magically disappear when the public at large is let in for the Grand Tasting. I visited most tables with my wine blogging friend, Liza of Brix Chicks, and we had to take pics of this barrel pour from Quivera Vineyards.

Among the MANY tables we visited, my favorite wines came from Fritz Estate and J Dusi.

The Fritz Estate Reserve Zinfandel 2015 is a small production, great reserve wine. Soft spice knocks on the door and asks gently if you’d like more. Say yes.

I’m not sure whether I had the 2014 or 2015 J Dusi Escandaloosa, but either way, it’s a blend of zinfandel, mourvedre, and petite sirah, and it’s 100% yum. Yes, zinfandel blends are acceptable at ZAP, and frankly, y’all should drink more of them.

The food at the Zinfandel Experience is also intriguing—if you’re fast enough to grab some! Take it from a regular big-tent event attendee: keep an eye on the food tables at all times and swoop in as soon as you see the samples going out. People are vultures at such events, and you don’t want to be left picking at the carrion, because this food is great, and so inventive. Many of the vendors represented restaurants run by the wineries on the floor.

I was thrilled to see so many food samples featuring duck, and the best of the best was Twenty Five Lusk’s composed salad of duck confit, griottine cherries, roasted fennel, and frisée.

It was a refreshing treat with lots of contrasting flavors and bold taste and a nice break from crostini. My second place went to the simple bites of lamb merguez sausage from the City College of San Francisco, under Chef Keith Hammerich. As I have no picture of those, enjoy this close contender instead: Smoked duck breast and liver mousse crostini with pomegranate jam and pickled mustard seed from Seghesio Family Vineyards.

I still can’t forget the Champagne New York Cheddar Cheese samples I enjoyed from Yancey’s Fancy out of the Finger Lakes in New York. They had such a lovely burst of delicate champagne sweetness that would pair perfectly with a slice of Granny Smith apples. You can order all Yancey’s Fancy’s adventurous flavors online.

Of course, many tasting events in San Francisco gives you the opportunity to take in views while relaxing with your sip, an added plus at the 2018 Zinfandel Experience.

Next year’s Zinfandel Experience takes place Thursday, January 17, through Saturday, January 19, 2019. The schedule is already announced, and you can get tickets here, whether you’re interested in any of the winemaker dinners, seminars, auctions, or just the Grand Tasting event. It’ll set you back $80 to $300, but if you’re a dedicated zinfandel lover, this may be a can’t miss event for you. Also mark your calendars and this link for Zinfandel: Stories from Lodi on 11/14/2018.

Thank you for joining me for this whirlwind recap of the Zinfandel Experience from ZAP, which is exactly how the experience felt to me: a whirlwind of wines and bites that left me longing for a moment to lounge and fully relax into the glory of zinfandel. May you find the perfect bottle for that at the next ZAP event.

Attended 20 January 2018.

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