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The Hit List: ZAP Festival

The Hit List: ZAP Festival

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!

We'd love for you to share your ZAP festival experience using the VAULT29 app!


The Hit List: Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) part 2

The Hit List: Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) part 2

Wine drinkers always want to know: Where can I find a good glass (or bottle) of wine? Well, we have you covered! This week in "The Hit List," Contributor Ro (@TravelingFlute) stops by to talk about her favorite places for wine in Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) in the second part of a two part series. (Click here to read Part 1)

Ro: Contributor

Ro: Contributor

D’Vine Wine Cellar

Tucked inside the basement of The O Hotel, you are immediately transported to a small town in the South of France.  I kid you not!  I was immediately drawn to the large French oak like vault door before I even entered the cellar. 

Once you are seated at a table lined with light linen napkins, beautiful long stem Bordeaux glasses and classic flatware, you are transcended by the most beautiful French blues-mixed with Sam Cooke playing in the background.  This is my kind of wine bar!  You have quite the options to choose from because D’Vine literally caters to every wine lover who is looking for just the right place with just about everything you could want from a wine bar.  Three reasons this is a must visit when DTLA and they are quite simple: Ask & Tell.

D'Vine Wine Cellar via VAULT29
  1. Ask Joe to recommend a flight of 3 wines for you to enjoy with the complimentary chef’s d’morsels special.  During my 1st visit I had the baked crostini of goat cheese (tomato, basil and drizzle of goat cheese) accompanied with a one bite sliver of prosciutto wrapped around a baked date…TOO DIE FOR!
  2. Tell Joe what notes you are looking for in a wine. If you like a Bordeaux, Syrah, Pinot or Rose, Joe will offer you a sample and pair that with a beautiful charcuterie board.  My favorite was the Gamut blend from St. Helena. Heaven in a glass!
  3. Check the VAULT29 app to see the wine experiences I've enjoyed, as well as others, while visiting D'Vine.

I’ve been to this wine bar by myself and literally can enjoy a few glasses of wine, read my book and enjoy the ambiance of people chatting among each other, enjoying the music, or just getting into lively conversation at the bar.  Nicest transport from Connecticut that will grow on you within 5 seconds of meeting him. He’s passionate about his work and just wants to ensure you enjoy the experience. Stop in a say hi to Joe and his crew.  They will definitely make you feel like family. 

Follow D'Vine Wine Cellar on Facebook - 821 S. Flower Street (basement level in The O Hotel).

LA Chapter.JPG

L.A. Chapter at the ACE Hotel

If you look up and see a sign that says JESUS SAVES then you’ve made it to the right place.  Once you enter you have 3 options.  You can:

  • Grab a bottle of wine on the ground floor of the hotel bar, tuck yourself into a corner booth and take in the sights of Broadway Avenue
  • Grab a sit at the bar with a glass of Gamay and small plate of almonds and olives infused with citrus and olive oil 
  • Head up to the rooftop bar and take in the DTLA’s skyline with a bottle of Bourgogne Blanc.  This bar is a little on the pricier side but the ambiance, European meets California fresh menu and Downtown L.A.’s skyline backdrop make it all worthwhile.

You can find my L.A. Chapter wine experiences in the VAULT29 app! Follow L.A. Chapter on Twitter and Instagram - 930 S. Broadway in the ACE Hotel.


Bar and Kitchen

Tucked inside The O Hotel, this boutique hotel is host to Bar and Kitchen that serves seasonal American cuisine and small produced California wines from the Central Coast, as well as wines from the Rioja region of Spain. Choose from reasonably priced wine list of Balleto Estates Pinot Gris, Clos la Chance Sauvignon Blanc to my favorite the Cabernet/Merlot/Bordeaux blend from Haut la Pereye.  Pair your selection with one or two savory bites from the 4-7pm happy hour menu.  I miss the Korean Inspired Hot Wings, but the Pork Belly Tacos and Warm Spicy Feta are A-OK in my book.

Post your Bar and Kitchen wine experiences in the VAULT29 app. Follow Bar and Kitchen on Facebook and Twitter - 819 S. Flower Street (ground level in The O Hotel).

Follow Ro on Twitter @TravelingFlute, or visit her websiteYou can also keep up with her on the VAULT29 app! Be sure to capture your DTLA wine experiences using the app too!

The Hit List: Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) part 1

The Hit List: Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) part 1

Wine drinkers always want to know: Where can I find a good glass (or bottle) of wine? Well, we have you covered! This week in "The Hit List," Contributor Rashanda Marie (@TravelingFlute) stops by to talk about her favorite places for wine in Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA). 

Ro, Contributor

Ro, Contributor

Buzz Wine and Beer Shop

Buzz Wine and Beer Shop is adjacent to one of DTLA’s premier spots: The Last Bookstore on Spring Street.  This wine/beer shop, and all things in between, boosts unique and organic wines from Santa Barbara all the way to the Loire Valley region in France. If you are looking for an organic wine or something from a vineyard on a smaller producing scale, stop in, talk to the owner and let him choose the right one just for you. Or stop in for happy hour at the wine counter and ask the owner to choose a brand of wine to your liking. I highly recommend the reasonably priced Hidden Gem Flight for happy hour. Take flight with a beautiful glass of 2013 Compte Leloup, Melon de Bourgogne.  This crisp French wine is layered with the most delightful citrus and floral notes. The owner and head buyer are 2 of the nicest guys on all of Spring Street.  Best $8 flight I’ve ever taken!

Follow Buzz Beer and Wine Shop: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook


PERCH Los Angeles

Sitting pretty inside the Pershing Square Building on Hill Street brings hipsters, working class and visitors to this beautiful rooftop bar & lounge with a bird’s eye view/best view in all of Downtown L.A.  The 4-6pm aperitif hour boosts the most beautiful bubbly poured in the City.  Expect to pay a bit more for the French inspired cuisine and wines from the Burgundy, Bordeaux and South of France. Take the elevator up to the 15th floor, sit outside amongst the plush landscape with a glass of Bordeaux Rose or Cotes du Rhone. The City ought to be admired while perched so high, right ;)

Follow PERCH Los Angeles: TwitterInstagram | Facebook

Keep an eye out for "The Hit List: Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) part 2 and follow Ro on Twitter @TravelingFlute, or visit her website. You can also keep up with her on the VAULT29 app! Be sure to capture your Buzz Beer and Wine Shop & Perch wine experiences using the app too!

The Hit List: The Spanish Table

The Hit List: The Spanish Table

Daniel Santos,  Contributor

Daniel Santos, Contributor

One of the great joys in life is traveling and discovering the great cultures that exist all over the world. Those discoveries are even better when the cultures have such a rich history in wine and food like the Spanish do.  Bringing back or discovering that rich history is now easier than ever to do especially when you find a true culinary treasure like The Spanish Table nearby.  With four stores located in Seattle, Berkeley, Santa Fe, and Mill Valley you can easily be transported away to Spain as you enjoy shopping for Spanish food and wines in one of their wonderful locations. To those who are not nearby one of the physical storefronts, never fear, you can get your Iberian fix by shopping online.

The Spanish have been making wines since Roman days and they enjoy a rich history in viticulture.  With over 600 varietals planted throughout their wine regions, many of those grapes are native Spanish varieties that can only be found in Spain.  We visited the Berkeley location, which opened in 2001.  They have a great wine selection from all over Spain and their staff are very knowledgeable and willing to help you choose and select the right wine for any occasion.   For those who might be new to Spanish wines you will be happy to know that the wines span many different varieties and styles, from bubbles in Cava, to Tempranillo in Rioja, as well as other more familiar varieties such as Granacha (Grenache), Cabernet, and Sauvignon Blanc.  The Spanish Table in Berkeley has a wonderful selection of all these different styles and varieties.   

An interesting thing to note is that in 2013 Spain became the world’s top producer of wine beating their historic rivals France and Italy.   This was in large part to a perfect growing season in Spain that meant a bumper crop for many of its wine producing regions.   This surplus of fine wine will be a definite plus for those who are in the know.  If you’re looking for great new wines to discover in 2015, at an affordable price, you should become familiar with Spanish wines.  

On the day we visited the Spanish Table in Berkeley we were there to pick up some Spanish Chorizo sausage, and Spanish Paella for a dinner we were prepring that evening. The Spanish Table is Paella supply heaven, not only do they carry all the cookware, spices, and special Spanish bomba rice, but they also carry a variety of Spanish groceries, Olive oils, and Spanish ham known as Jamón Ibérico.

2007 LAN Rioja Reserva.jpg

We asked for some help with a bold red wine that would pair well with the Paella, something with rich fruit and a nice amount of smoke and spice.  The wine steward recommended a 2007 LAN Rioja Reserva, a 91 Point TWA (Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate) wine that is about 90% Tempranillo and spends up to 15 months in both French and American Oak barrels, at about $17.99 it was a definite winner.  We plan to return to the Spanish Table and pick up some more LAN Reserva, we recommend you do the same.

Don't forget to capture your wine and paella experiences using the VAULT29 app.


The Hit List: The Barlow

The Hit List: The Barlow

Photo cred:

Photo cred:

One of the greatest pleasures as a wine lover is to go beyond the "big names" and discover the smaller, boutique wineries in lesser known regions. As a Californian, our unlimited access to some of the best wine in the world is a car ride away, whether you're in Northern California (Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Anderson Valley), Central California (Monterey down to Paso Robles) or Southern California (Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and even San Diego). 

One of my most favorite places to visit is the small town of Sebastopol, 20 miles east of the Pacific Ocean in Sonoma County. In the past, the town was known for its sprawling plum and apple orchards, but today, most of the land is predominently vineyards. Emeritus Vineyards (recently featured in our inaugural Wine Mic Mondayseries) is a personal favorite, along with the very friendly folks at Dutton Goldfield, Marimar Estate and Lynmar. 

A new addition to the town is The Barlow: a state of the art "business community" made up of wineries, eateries and galleries. The concept is to bring together consumers to learn, enjoy and appreciate all that goes in to producing the best food, drink and art - a really cool concept!

WINE:  At the top of our list is MacPhail (no appointment needed, gorgeous tasting room and the ultimate hosts in Jim and his friendly staff!) Don't miss: (1) their "terrior wall," which showcases the different soil types in the vineyards they source grapes.  (2) the Gap's Crown Chardonnay and the Anderson Valley Pinot from the Toulouse Vineyard. They also offer food and cheese pairings - highly recommended!

For the religious Wine Spectator readers, Kosta Browne (appointment needed but their entire facility and operation is located here) is a must. The #1 in 2011 (Kosta Browne's 2009 Sonoma Coast Pinot) will be long gone, but they consistently make exceptional Pinot Noir year after year. 

FOODZazu Kitchen + Farm says "you don't get any more local than local can get." Bacon is the common staple here, with the brussel sprout salad and "bacon in the burger" pretty popular menu items. The wine list has lots of local varietals to try, and if you're in the mood for a cocktail, they have you covered too!

Black Pig wine at Zazu.jpg

Other notables: Spirit Works Distillery, Subzero Ice Cream and Yogurt, Taylor Made Farms (Organic Coffee) and Woodfour (Brewery). 

You can find our Barlow experiences in the VAULT29app, but we encourage you to visit and add your own!

The Hit List: LA's Beach Cities

The Hit List: LA's Beach Cities

Wine drinkers always want to know:  Where can I find a good glass (or bottle) of wine?  Well, we have you covered!  This week in "The Hit List," we feature our favorite spots in LA's beach cities:

The scene at Bodega Wine Bar, Santa Monica.   Photo credit:

The scene at Bodega Wine Bar, Santa Monica.  Photo credit:

Bodega Wine Bar, Santa Monica:  Affordable wines paired with a trendy atmosphere.  Come early and claim a window seat – perfect for sipping and people watching! 814 Broadway, Santa Monica

Zinque, Venice Beach:  Higher end wine bar with boutique selections paired with small plates.  If available, try the Emeritus Hallberg Pinot Noir from Sonoma or a “GSM” (Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre) from the Paso Robles region. 600 Venice Blvd, Venice

A patron enjoys the bar at Zinque.   Photo Credit:

A patron enjoys the bar at Zinque.  Photo Credit:

A wine flight at Barsha 

A wine flight at Barsha 

Barsha, Manhattan Beach:  A diverse collection of wines, from affordable to high end, and old world to new world.  Grab a seat at the tall rustic tables and try a featured wine flight.  We also recommend their monthly wine club - wines are personally selected by the owner. 917 N. Sepulveda Blvd, Manhattan Beach

Inside the Vintage Shoppe.  Photo credit: Foursquare

Inside the Vintage Shoppe. Photo credit: Foursquare

The Vintage Shoppe, Manhattan Beach:  Higher end wine shop with casual tastings.  A nice variety of French, Spanish, Italian and California wines. 3500 N. Sepulveda Blvd, Manhattan Beach 

Friends of the Vine, Redondo Beach:  If you’re looking for rare, hard to find wines, this is the place.  Spoil yourself with a bottle of Peter Michael Les Pavots or Howell Mountain’s O’Shaunnessey Cabernet, order some charcuterie and enjoy! 221 Ave Del Norte, Redondo Beach

The wine selection at Uncorked.   Photo credit: 

The wine selection at Uncorked.  Photo credit: 

Uncorked, Hermosa Beach:  Steps from the beach, come in for wine tastings and leave with a new favorite! Great, affordable wines like the Jackhammer Pinot and the Broadside Cabernet. A current offering: the 2012 Foxen Chenin Blanc from Santa Barbara. 302 Pier Avenue, Hermosa Beach 

Got your own favorites? Be sure to add them to the VAULT29 app! Cheers and happy discovery!