A Sneak Peek at ZAP Festival Zinfandels

Top wines to watch out for this year


Zinfandel is an American treasure. There are great old-vine vineyards around the globe that range from Nero d’Avola in Italy to Grenache in Spain and Malbec in Argentina, but only in California can we find the finest examples of Zinfandel. And when the discussion comes around to Zinfandel and experiencing all it has to offer, one is inevitably drawn to ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates & Producers)'s Annual Zinfandel Festival, one of the premier wine-tasting festivals held in this country, and one that just happens to focus on Zinfandel exclusively.

This year’s ZAP Festival will be held in San Francisco from January 27 to 29. There are great seminars but the real attraction has to be the grand tasting, where you can try hundreds of great wines. With so many wines to choose from, it may get a bit overwhelming, but I have been able to secure a sneak peek at many of the wines that will be available and am identifying some of my favorites -- maybe they’ll be your favorites as well! Check out my first top 10 list inside.
10 Top Zinfandels from California

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Zinfandel is the best domestic wine. Let me define “best” though, because it is undoubtedly not true that Zinfandel fulfills some of the criteria most frequently bandied about when making these sorts of proclamations. It is not the most ageworthy nor the most complex wine, so why you might be asking, is it the best?

Click for a slideshow of 10 Top Zinfandels from California

There are many reasons why I feel Zinfandel is the best wine we make. Among them are:

From blush wine to port, with virtually all styles in between, Zinfandel is made in a style to please any palate.

While its sheer accessibility might eliminate Zin from many people’s list of top wines, the fact that they are expressive early in their lives, and can evolve well over the course of several years, means that anyone can experience a Zin at its peak. There’s no need for a great cellar, nor does one have to pony up a huge premium for a well-aged example.

With few exceptions, Zinfandel -- even some of the greatest ones -- has remained well within the means of almost all wine drinkers. It’s hard to find such a wonderful selection of wines priced at under $30 that offer such distinction and unique experiences as our own homegrown Zins.

OK, here we are moving from the objective to the subjective, but the fact that Zin has played such a fundamental role in California’s wine industry has to count for something, right? From field blends to supporting roles in varietal wines and great jug wines to great single vineyard wines, Zinfandel has been there every step of the way. This also has led to a sadly decreasing, but still very robust, stock of wonderful old-vine vineyards.

And it’s those vineyards, dotted around the state but heavily concentrated in Sonoma County, that give us one of the great terroir wines of the new world. The diversity of these vineyards, from macro-climate to field blend, are the keys to Zinfandel’s vibrant resurrection over the past decade or two.

As you can imagine, there are tons of great Zins out there, and many, if not most, come from Sonoma County. In fact, there were so many wines to taste for this article that I’ve decided to split the load into two parts. Today I’ll be reviewing the wines from some regions that might be less well known, particularly for their Zinfandel production.

See pages 2-7 for a sneak preview of 32 of the wines at ZAP's Annual Zinfandel Festival this year.

1 2 3 4 5  ...  7 next

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: KimHauck
    Hand of Snooth
    43988 19

    Great article. We love HammerSky Zin from Paso Robles.

    Jan 13, 2011 at 4:11 PM

  • why weren't any from the Dry Creek, Alexander Valley, Healdsburg? These to me are some of the best and I have seen other reviews that claim this area to be prime Zin country. Is this because the author doesn't think they stand up to these listed? Or was it that there just weren't any in the sampling? Or, did I miss something in the report?

    Jan 13, 2011 at 5:21 PM

  • Snooth User: JJZak
    649261 11

    I too noted the absence of any Sonoma County wines. Wow! What a change. Although, Pappapietro Perry Zin (Dry Creek Valley) is a knock your socks off wine.

    Jan 13, 2011 at 5:32 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Maybe this paragraph will help explain that.

    "As you can imagine, there are tons of great Zins out there, and many, if not most, come from Sonoma County. In fact, there were so many wines to taste for this article that I’ve decided to split the load into two parts. Today I’ll be reviewing the wines from some regions that might be less well known, particularly for their Zinfandel production."

    Jan 13, 2011 at 6:21 PM

  • Snooth User: knosbetta
    729064 1

    Hmmm...A quick review of the recently released results of the SF Wine Competition shows 71 Zinfandels awarded Gold (or better) Medals in the $20-+$50 catagories. 51 of those 71 (72%) were from Sonoma County. 20 of those 71 (28%) were from Dry Creek Valley. Those results would have been even more lopsided had some of the best producers from Sonoma (Seghesio, Nalle, Raffinelli, etc.) entered the judging.
    Sort of like an article on the Rolling Stones without a mention of Mick Jagger.
    Just sayin'

    Jan 13, 2011 at 6:30 PM

  • Snooth User: outthere
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    324443 4,227

    Just goes to show you Greg that people aren't reading your articles just your recommendations.

    Jan 13, 2011 at 8:04 PM

  • Snooth User: clifhenry
    721107 27

    Curious, as well, regarding the absence of Sonoma/Russian River/Dry Creek wines; nothing from Ridge, Carol Shelton, Martinelli etc. Hard to believe, at least for me, that these guys struck out in a list of 32.

    Jan 13, 2011 at 8:49 PM

  • Snooth User: Frauenberg
    644986 21

    I live in germany, so my palate is close to european wines, but every time when i have the opportunity to taste a good zinfandel, it is hard for me to find any point in the structure of these wines, that doesn't make me feel good. Congratulations to the art of winemaking out of this grape in california! One of my favorites is the "Directors Cut" Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel from FF Coppola.

    Jan 14, 2011 at 5:16 AM

  • Thank you for the clarification. While I try to read the articles completely through, it is obvious that I missed that part. And, while you may have trouble believing this from someone who just demonstrated that they didn't read carefully, I do enjoy your articles; they are some of my favorite readings regarding wines.

    Jan 14, 2011 at 10:07 AM

  • Snooth User: tlb73737
    354038 35

    Yes folks Sonoma produces some great Zins. But to feel slighted because the article mentions Paso Robles and Lodi is more than a bit ridiculous. Those regions produce some great wines. For those of us who like Zins, those regions should be celebrated. I love those regions an am glad that to hear that they are getting some press. There is more than one region in California and as a native Californian I celebrate them all, not just one.

    Jan 25, 2011 at 11:12 PM

  • As soon as it was explained that Sonoma wines were in their separate article I retracted. My first (and erroneous understanding) was that this singular article was looking at all Zins and did not contain any from that region which was perplexing. I too, like Zins from the other regions (Lodi, especially) and am extremely appreciative of the information. I agree, to have done all of them in one article would have been too much.

    Jan 26, 2011 at 9:46 AM

Add a Comment

Search Articles

Best Wine Deals

See More Deals

Snooth Media Network