Daniel Santos, Contributor

Daniel Santos, Contributor

Zinfandel Wines have been produced in California since the early 1800s.  A rich and flavorful wine, Zinfandel has a great history in California.  The origins of the grape have long been argued with some believing that the grapes originated in Italy, Croatia, and other simply championing Zin as an American vine and wine.  In the 60’s and 70’s a professor from UC Davis discovered a link to an Italian varietal named Primitivo, the grapes seemed to be genetic cousins.  That discovery let to questions about a possible Croatian connection but the truth remained elusive for many years.  In 1991 Croatian-born Mike Grgich, of Grgich Hills Winery, helped to create ZAP along with other winemakers with the purpose of helping to promote Zinfandel wine and also to raise money for research for this beloved grape[1].  In 2001 researchers discovered nine ancient vines off the Dalmatian coast in Croatia known a as Crljenak Kaštelanski a grape that is indigenous to this region[2]

ZAP was held this year at the Presidio in San Francisco and the Golden Gate Club and the Film Centre.  There were over 86 wineries participating in the event many of them pouring 2-3 wines each.  It is a Zinfandel lover’s dream!  The majority of the producers were from California, but some of the wineries that attended came from as far as Arizona and Texas and one producer even made the journey all the way from Italy!  Zinfandel is a grape with quite a bit of range.  While much of the market has been flooded with a lot of very ripe, extracted, jammy wines, you will find Zinfandel in all its manifestations here at ZAP.  Colder cooler climate zins will sometimes exhibit some more peppery notes and herbaceous and floral characters, while the warmer climate zins will have their trademark blackberry character.  When you arrive at the ZAP experience you will be handed a program, wineglass, and a baguette!  You will need all three.  

The event is held in two different building and its set up with multiple tables with each winery pouring through a selection of wines that they have brought especially for this event.  This year we were pleasantly surprised at the quality of Zinfandels that are being produced from all the different regions. Like always, there are generous cheese tables where you can stop to gather your thoughts, write some notes, and cleanse your palate with some fine cheeses!   

 Christian Tetje, Owner & Winemaker at Cypher Wines

Christian Tetje, Owner & Winemaker at Cypher Wines

But ZAP is also about the people, we had the opportunity to meet winemakers from different regions that were producing great wines with their own signature style.  We met Christian Tetje, owner and winemaker of Cypher Wines.  Christian set up an impromptu tasting in the middle of the tasting hall and led a motley crew of us who were looking for cheese through a vertical of one of his wines, Anomaly.  The wines were amazing, a blend of Zin and Rhone Varietals.  It was one of the nest tastings we had all day, and to top off the experience he pour a wine aptly named Zinbitch, I know, it’s fun to say!  Just as quickly as he set up, he packed up and moved on elsewhere in the event.  Talking to Christian it was easy to see that he is passionate about what he does and we plan to visit him in Paso very soon!

 Nils Venge, Winemaker Saddleback Cellars & Daniel Santos

Nils Venge, Winemaker Saddleback Cellars & Daniel Santos

We also ran into Nils Venge from Saddleback Cellars. Nils has been producing wine in the Napa Valley since the 70’s and had worked and consulted for some of the most respected names in Napa.  He earned the title as the King of Cabs when he scored 100 points for his Groth 1985 Cabernet from Robert Parker, his wine was the first American wine to ever score a perfect 100 from Parker.  We tasted through his great wines at ZAP and were couldn’t resist but take a picture with Nils.  

ZAP is a great event to participate in, we suggest you plan for it next year when ZAP will be celebrating 25 years!  Bring some friends or meet them there, we know you’ll have a great time.  If you can’t wait till next year send us an email [contact] and we can point you to some other local events that are upcoming, or you can read our blog to see which producers we are showcasing.  My next event will be the Russian River Barrel Tasting festival, it’s a tough job but someone has to cover what’s happening in wine.  Cheers!


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