ZAP-Fest attracts a host of Zin masters

The ZAP-Fest, an annual gathering of Zinfandel fanatics in San Francisco by the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers, or ZAP, was everything I had heard that it was, and more.
 Not your usual namby-pamby gathering, it was an exciting delight from the start of its three days of creativity to the grand tasting that filled two large buildings with more than 200 wineries at Fort Mason, with the  Golden Gate Bridge as a backdrop.
Eight thousand guests poured over the wines offered. 
It was the 20th ZAP gathering so a Roaring 20s theme was cut loose and burst through expectations with new ways to learn about this grape with a strong European influence. 
This “used-to-be” jug wine with boyish fruit and high alcohol has its roots in such far away places as Campania, Italy, where it is known as Primitivo, with traces of this varietal verified across the Adriatic, in Croatia.
Cuttings were brought to California in the 1820s from Austrian sources who gave it the Germanic name. 
It grew vigorously and later in the 1900s became popular as a blush wine, White Zinfandel. Old vines were preserved for their lengthy production.
Joel Peterson, founder and winemaker for Ravenswood since its beginnings in 1976, is also one of the founders of ZAP.
He is also a member of the 2011 Vintners Hall of Fame as the Zinfandel Pioneer who held the varietal together and changed its perception to that of a premier, premium wine.
Joel works with more than 100-plus growers that provide grapes for Ravenswood, which offers a huge variety and range of Zins, from the Vintners Blend Zin, seen in most supermarkets, to select vineyard premiums from Napa Valley, Sonoma and Lodi ($35). Visit www.ravenswood.com for more information.
Other Zin favorites at the festival included BR Cohn Sonoma Valley ($28), Bogle Old Vine Zin from Lodi ($11), V Sattui Winery Napa Valley makes 12 different styles of Zin ($36), Seghesio Family Wineries has won worldwide awards for its six collections of estate Zins ($36), Pedroncelli in Sonoma has scored well with its Mother Clone Old Vine and Dry Rose’ of Zin ($15), and a newcomer, Wine Guerrilla of Sonoma, is worth a try ($30).
The next Zinfandel Festival is in Paso Robles from March 18 to March 20. From great Paso Zins, food from master chefs and auctions, there are many ways to enjoy this major event. See all the options at pasowine.com.
Wine Bytes
— Il Farro Italian Restaurant in Newport Beach has a Sardinian Wine Dinner at 6:30 p.m. March 10. Wine owners Pina and Francesco Soletta will present the wines.  The cost is $59 per person. Call (949) 723-5711 for more information.
— Orfila Winery in Escondido has an eight-wine blind tasting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. March 10. The cost is $25 each and includes a How to Taste guide. Top score wins a bottle of Orfila Wine. Call (800) 868-9463 for details.
— Cakebread Wines are the select feature at the Wine Bank in the Gaslamp, downtown San Diego from 6 to 8 p.m. March 11. Cost is $20 for Napa Valley’s elite wines. Call (619) 234-7487 for details.
— Canapes in the San Marcos Restaurant Row has the Robert Hall wines for a tasting from 3 to 6 p.m. March 13. The cost is $10 per person and includes paired appetizers. RSVP at (760) 510-2088.
— Firefly Grill and Wine Bar in Encinitas has a Treana Winemaker Dinner at 6:30 p.m. March 14. These wines are some of Paso Robles’s best. Cost is $59. Reserve your place at (760) 635-1066.
— Il Fornaio at the Del Mar Plaza has its next Festa Regionale with a salute to the wine and food of the Trentino-Alto Adige districts of Italy from March 6 to March 20.  Local wines and food featured. Visit ilfornaio.com for details.

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