The 20th ZAP Grand Tasting was a good time for all that attended. The weather threatened to get ugly but thankfully, held off and ended up being a great day in San Francisco.
The number of wineries seemed to be lower than in past years which is a good and a bad thing. The bad thing is less zinfandel to taste; the good was that there was more room in both of the event halls which seemed to help with crowd flow at the event. Also, the casting call for a extras in a Matt Damon movie help keep down the number of barely legal drinkers who normally come to get drink instead of taste.
I was able to taste a large number of wines this year even with being a volunteer for 3 hours. The wines of the 2008 and 2009 vintages were actually fairly consistent with a trend toward above average zinfandels. The cooler years seemed to help with not having too many over-ripe fruit flavors and keeping the alcohol levels down to more reasonable levels (14% and 15% instead of some of the recent vintages where alcohol were easily up in 16%+ range). The change in the fruit flavors and lower alcohol seemed to throw a few wine makers a curve ball as quite a few of the zinfandels that I tasted expressed too much oak in the nose and palate.
The wines of note for me were the following:
Black Sears Estate Wine, Angwin, Napa Valley, 707-963-1334, Website
2008 Black Sears Estate, Howell Mountain, $42 — I enjoyed this wine the most out of what I tasted. It was very well balanced in aroma, palate, acidity and overall intensity. It had the classic zinfandel fruit flavors with an added fresh cracked black pepper note that is so rare in Zinfandels now. It had a very long, pleasant finished with a greater than usual acidity for Zinfandel. The is lovely by itself but would spectactular with a peppered flank steak.
D-Cubed Cellars, St. Helena, Napa Valley, 707-963-5212, Website
2007 Howell Mountain, Howell Mountain, $37
This wine was really good! The winemaker told me the fruit comes from the Black Sears Vineyard, so no big surprise that I enjoy it so much! The wine was elegant, complex and layer in both aroma and palate. The freshly cracked black pepper aroma and flavor lured you in to enjoy the rest of a balanced and layered fresh fruit flavors starting to show secondary flavors — flavors of black tea, red fruit, black pepper and slight brambleberry.
2007 Napa Valley, Napa Valley, $27 — this was very enjoyable but not as complex or elegrant as the Howell Mountain — primarily fruit driven with noticable tannins, a dense wine.
Klinker Brick Winery, Lodi, Lodi, 209-333-1845, Website
2008 Old Vine, Lodi, $18 — this was a fantastic wine especially for the price point! The wine shows classed old vine characteristics — mixture of brambleberry, red fruit, black fruit, black tea and hint of floral. The wine is medium density with a balanced level of tannins for the intensity of the flavors and palate texture.
2008 Old Ghost Old Vine, Lodi $37 — This wine shows vintage variation; this year is a very good year! The wine is similar to the $18 but with more concentration, complexity and elegance. This wine will age well which is rare for zinfandels.
Mazzocco Winery, Geyserville, Northern Sonoma, 707-431-8159, Website
They were pouring 8 different wines — most of them single vineyard designates. The wines were excellent and worth the effort to seek them out.
Good wines — Worth trying:
Artezin Wines, Napa, Napa Valley, 707-255-1144, Website — 2008 Dry Creek Valley, $25; 2009 Mendocino County, $20
Calcareous Vineyard, Paso Robles, Central Coast, 805-239-0289, Website – 2008 Twisted Sisters, Paso Robles, $20
Downing Family Vineyards, Napa, Napa Valley — 888-440-2468, Website – 2007 Fly By Night, Oakville, $24
Edmeades Winery, Santa Rosa, Mendocino/Lake — 707-522-6488, Website — 2008 Mendocino County, $18 (Very good especially for the price — on the lighter side); 2007 Ciapusci Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge, $35. All of there Zinfandels were quite good but I liked the balance and elegance of the Mendocino County blend best.
Gamba Vineyards and Winery, Fulton, Northern Sonoma, 707-542-5892, Website – 2009 Old Vine, Moratto Vineyard, Russian River Valley $43 (typical Gamba — big, dense, fruit bomb — aka not quite Port but damn close!)
Kokomo Winery, Healdsburg, Northern Sonoma, 707-433-0205, Website — 2008 Mounts Vineyard, Dry Creek Vineyards, $32; 2008 Timber Crest Vineyard, Dry Creek Vineyard, $36
Mauritson Family Winery, Healsdburg, Northern Sonoma, 707-431-0804, Website — 2009 Dry Creek Valley, Dry Creek Valley $27; 2009 Rockpile Ridge Vineyard, Rockpile, $35
Miraflores Winery, Placerville, Sirra Foothills, 530-647-8505, Website — 2007 El Dorado, $22; 2008 El Dorado, $22. These are very good, complex wines and nicely priced.
Pezzi King Vineyards, Healdsburg, Northern Sonoma, 707-473-4310, Website — 2008 Old Vines, Dry Creek Valley, $24 — highly recommended.
Seghesio Family Vineyards, Healdsburg, Northern Sonoma, 707-433-3579, Website — 2009 Home Ranch, Alexander Valley, $36; 2008 Cortina, Dry Creek Valley $36; 2009 Sonoma, Sonoma County, $24
Sextant Wines, Paso Robles, Central Coast, 805-542-0133, Website — 2007 Holystone, Paso Roables, $27; 2008 Wheelhouse, Paso Robles, $20, 2008 Central COast, Central Coast $15
Storrs Winery & Vineyards, Santa Cruz, Bay Area, 831-458-5030, Website – 2005 Lion Oaks Vineyard, Santa Clara County $34; 2006 Rusty Ridge, Santa Clara County, $30; 2007 Central Coast $20