SF Wine Blog

Exploring wine in and around San Francisco.

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ZAP! WHAM! POW! – A Zinfandel Festival Recap

By Derek Mims

Well, it’s been a couple weeks, and we’ve recovered from the intense experience of the annual ZAP festival.  Three straight days of zinfandel events, lots of wine and food to sample, plus tons of interesting discussions made for a great weekend.  And it turns out that even John found some zins to love (or at least like)!  In short, there are plenty of reasons why you should keep this event in mind when it comes around again next year.

What struck me most was the versatility of zinfandel as a varietal; it is made into everything from white zin (which perhaps not surprisingly–and in my opinion blissfully–did not come up too often ZAP) to port-style dessert wines, with a wide range of red wines in between.  These “true” zinfandel wines vary in texture, acidity, complexity, and spiciness, offering something for a wide range of palates.  All this variety makes the grape accessible and enjoyable to almost everyone.

There were also a wide range of events that were a part of the Festival, giving a lot of different perspectives on Zin.  Thursday night’s Good Eats wine and food pairing was unique in that each winery was specifically paired with a food, and oftentimes the chef had used that winery’s zin in his or her recipe.  This definitely enhanced my appreciation of how the different styles of zin can complement different kinds of food, and again speaks to the versatility of the grape.

On Friday, I had the privilege of attending a seminar discussing different regions and vineyards in California where top Zinfandel is grown.  Joel Peterson (pictured standing), winemaker at Ravenswood, moderated the event.  The vineyards represented ranged from Paso Robles to Mendocino, Russian River to Napa.  Also presented were pure (virtually 100%) zinfandels as well as field blends – wines that contain at least 75% zinfandel and are thus labeled as such, but actually contain as many as 18 other varietals in the blend, with all of the fruit coming from the same vineyard.  A well-known example of a field blend, and my favorite wine of this tasting, was the Ridge Lytton Springs.  The panel also discussed the Heritage Vineyard Project, the goal of which is to research and document the history of zinfandel and identify best practices and profiles for making zinfandel wines.

And of course the Grand Tasting on Saturday: two whole Fort Mason pavilions-worth of zins to try.  John was the man on hand to wade through all those wines, and he was pleasantly surprised.  His take-away was: “Even though I’m not a zin convert, I was impressed with the diverse range of zin out there … places like Biale, Brown Estate, and Bedrock Wine Co. gave me a lot to think about (and enjoy).  And, of course, Ridge and Seghesio continue to shine.”  If you plan to go next year, you should arrive early not only to make sure you’re not fighting the crowds (which may be inevitable — this is a popular event and there was a line outside before the doors opened to the public).  Plus, you may be able to get a sip of some extra special wines that were being poured for the trade / media tasting.

I have mentioned how much I like Biale’s zinfandels (and Rhone varietals) before, and I also liked the Chateau Montelena (though they are better known for their Cab and Chard).  I am also a fan of Seghesio (particularly their San Lorenzo vineyard) and D-Cubed.

Overall, a great (dare I say “zintastic?”) weekend!  Thanks to ZAP for providing tickets for us and our contest winners, and to all our readers who participated!


Good Eats and Flights pictures provided courtesy of ZAP by Wayde Carroll.


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Wine Events: Week of Jan. 31

All y’all in Hayes Valley and Bernal Heights — congrats!  You’ve got two new wine spots opening in your ‘hood this week.  And that’s just part of the fun going on as we kick of month No. 2 of 2011.


Wed., February 2:  Bedrock Wine Co. Tasting @ FPWM (Financial District)

Ferry Plaza Wine Merchants
The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA

4:30pm – 7:30pm ($22 for flight)

If you follow the wine paparazzi, you know that winemaker Morgan Twain Peterson is hotter than Hansel right now.  The son of Ravenswood founder Joel Peterson, Morgan has made his own name by launching Bedrock and making some of the most exciting wines coming out of Sonoma.  Check out his great profile from the SF Chronicle, and stop by FPWM to taste his wines this week.

2009 Bedrock Cuvee Caritas Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon, Sonoma County
Retail $30, 5oz. glass $10.75

2009 Bedrock Pinot Noir Rebecca’s , Russian River Valley
Retail $42, 5oz. glass $13.75

2009 Bedrock Heirloom Blend Dolinsek Ranch , Russian River Valley
Retail $40, 5oz. glass $13.25 — [note – this was a home run at ZAP this past weekend!]

2008 Bedrock Co-Fermented Syrah, Hudson Vineyard, Carneros, Napa Valley
Retail $42, 5oz. glass $13.75

2009 Bedrock Botrytyis Semillon Old Vine, Lachryma Montis , Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley
Retail $30 375ml, 5oz. glass $n/a


Wed., February 2:  Pause Wine Bar Grand Opening (Hayes Valley)

1666 Market Street
San Francisco, CA

5:00pm – 11:00pm

The good folks over at Yield Wine Bar have spread their good cheer, launching a new spot just south of Hayes Valley (in the old Cav Wine Bar space).  This might quickly become a wino’s dream block, with Hotel Biron around the corner, and Zuni just down the street.  Stop in and congratulate the staff during their grand opening.


Thurs., February 3:  Italian Wine tasting at Liberty Cafe (Bernal Heights)
410 Cortland
San Francisco, CA

6:00pm – 8:00pm (FREE!)

Liberty Cafe is re-launching their wine bar concept and offering some free tastings to celebrate.  This week, they’ll be featuring “The Wines of Piedmont,” and will have live music and complimentary hors d’oeuvres.


Sat., February 5:  Australia, New Zealand, South Africa Tasting @ K&L Wine (SoMa)

K&L Wine Merchants
638 Fourth Street
San Francisco, CA

12:00pm – 3:00pm – $15

A romp through Southern Hemisphere wine lands brought to you by K&L.


Sat., February 5:  Wines & Wishes Event for the Make-a-Wish Foundation (SoMa)

City View
4th Floor of the Metreon,
101 4th Street (at Mission)
San Francisco

Gourmet Food & Wine Tasting 5:00 – 7:30pm; $150 per person

Winemaker Dinner 7:30 – 11:00pm; $350 per person (includes Tasting)

Come out for a good cause, and sip wine poured by some of the best wine slingers in the city, including Paul Einbund (Slanted Door) and Shelley Lindgren (A16 and SPQR).

See our earlier post here.


Mon., February 7: Palmina Wine Dinner @ flour+water  (Mission)

flour + water
101 4th Street (at Mission)
San Francisco

9:00pm ($130/person)

flour + water has received attention from the national press for being one of SF’s best new restaurants of 2010.  Come check out why they have the foodies droolin’ while sampling some italian varietals made by California’s own Palmina winery.   This is a five course dinner with two wine pairings for each course, and will be held at the Chef’s table in the restaurant’s Dough Room.



Solano Cellars: East Bay Winos Rejoice!

Solano Cellars

Solano Cellars
1580 Solano Avenue
Albany, CA 94707-2117
(510) 525-9463

Solano Cellars (Albany, CA) is one of those places that you walk in just know — these folks get it.  It ain’t fancy, but its the lack of bells and whistles that just screams:  this place is about wine.  About hard to find, unique wines that won’t break your budget, but that will expand your palate.

But here’s the real kicker:  it’s got a little wine bar that serves up small-plates to compliment the stuff in your glass, AND it offers some great wine events and wine classes.  Just yesterday, they hosted “Champagne College.”  The only thing I don’t like about this place is that I have to drive across the bridge to get here.  But now that I’ve been, I’ll be sure to be back for more (especially since I can enjoy the free WiFi and do some writing from the road).

Wine Bar @ Solano Cellars

Wine Bar @ Solano Cellars

I stopped by for their “Taste of the Case” special this past Sunday:  $12 for 12 wines that make up their May “sampler.”  Yes sir – you too can have your own handpicked case of wine for only $150.  Yup, you heard me right:  one-fitty.  Bargain.  I’ve attached the full list here, but here are some highlights:

  • 2009 Hofer Gruner Veltliner – $16 bucks gets you this 1Litre of summer-in-a-bottle.  Imported by the legendary Terry Theise, this casual big-boy is topped off w/ a soda cap.
  • 2009 Preston Sauvignon Blanc – Did someone say summer?  This citrus-drenched wine will be a popular item as you sit on patio and soak up some sun.   BTW – you should stop by this charming winery in the Dry Creek Valley.

I walked away with a bottle of 2008 Bedrock Sonoma County Syrah, brought it to a dinner party, and it just flew out of the bottle.  Will definitely be back for more!