For 22 years, the annual tasting sponsored by the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) has been America’s benchmark red wine event. Held in San Francisco at the end of January, the ZAP tasting draws fans of America’s heritage grape from all over the country and around the globe. Over the years, though, it gradually morphed into a mob scene: hundreds of winemakers, thousands of tasters, and long lines for the top tables.
Starting this year, ZAP is getting a complete makeover. The event will be scaled down in size and upward in elegance. The main tasting, held at the Presidio on January 25, will be divided into three intimate events limited to 350 people each, taking place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Sensory Tasting will feature 80 different wineries paired with a range of food flavor elements. The Terroir Tasting will give aficionados the chance to explore the differences among Zinfandel major growing areas (Napa, Sonoma, Lodi, Sierra Foothills, Paso Robles, etc.). Finally, the exclusive Reserve & Barrel Tasting will offer a special opportunity to sample upcoming vintages from the 44 top properties. Between sessions, participants can refresh themselves at the battery of food trucks at the Presidio.
On the day before the main tasting, two special events will be held at the Four Seasons Hotel on Market Street. A professional tasting seminar from 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. will place emphasis on highly allocated, small-production Zinfandels from historic vineyard sites. Friday’s Evening WithThe Winemakers, a benefit for ZAP educational activities, will feature a menu crafted by Four Seasons Executive Chef Mark Richardson, paired with a unique selection of wines.
For red wine lovers, it looks like ZAP has achieved a difficult task: transforming one of the year’s great tastings into an even more special and worthwhile event. To join ZAP, or to purchase tickets for the new 2014 Zinfandel Experience, go to zinfandel.org.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, published by Lyons Press; his second book, Moonshine Nation, is forthcoming from Lyons Press in June 2014. For more information, go to amazon.com