Two Big Tasting Events Ahead

There’s a wine competition of some sort nearly every week, but the San Francisco Chronicle’s massive judging of American wines is something special, giving Bay Area imbibers a chance to sample the biggest all-USA wine list in the country.

The  SF Chronicle Wine Competition winners — and many of the other entries — will be featured in a one-day event scheduled Feb. 19 at Fort Mason. Advance tickets and all the details about the tasting are available online for $65. Tickets at the door, if available, are $80.

Six sweepstakes winners were announced earlier this year. There were 5,005 entries from wineries in California and 22 other states.

SF Chronicle Sweepstakes Winners

Four of the top wines were made in the Golden State, including three from Paso Robles — Thatcher Winery’s 2008 Triumvirate (zinfandel, $36), a 2008 cabernet sauvignon ($32) from Ecluse Wines and a late harvest sauvignon blanc dessert wine (2009, $30) from Alapay Cellars.

The other California sweepstakes winner was Sonoma’s Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, which drew high praise for its 2006 brut rose ($42), the competition’s top sparkling wine. I reviewed the 2005  vintage, another winner in my book, in an earlier blog.

A New Mexico gewurztraminer, St. Clair’s 2009 ($11), surpassed all other white wines in the judging while a $12 2010 rose of sangiovese from Washington’s Barnard Griffin was chosen as the best pink wine of the competition.

Warning: 20th ZAP Ahead

The 20th edition of the world’s biggest tasting of zinfandel wine is coming up in San Francisco next weekend.

The Zinfandel Advocates and Producers grand tasting at Fort Mason runs from 2-5 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 29. Tickets are $70 ($60 for ZAP members, who get in an hour early). 

More than 250 wineries will pour their finest offerings at the grand tasting. ZAP also sponsors a series of more intimate (and expensive) events in the two days leading up to the main affair.

Here’s the schedule of events leading up to the grand tasting:

ZAP Warm-Up

Good Eats and Zinfandel, 6-9 p.m., Thursday January 27, Fort Mason Center. More than 50 different wines are paired with food from 50 different restaurants. Tickets are $140 for the pubilc; $100 for ZAP members.

Flights!, 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday January 28, 2011, Westin St. Francis Hotel, San Francisco. SOLD OUT

Evening with the Winemakers, Dinner and Benefit Auction, 5 p.m.-10 p.m. ”  Westin St. Francis Hotel. Sit down to dinner with the world’s top zinfandel winemakers and bid on auction packages to benefit ZAP charities. Tickets are $225 (includes one-year ZAP membership) in advance.

New Oakland Wine Bar — Punchdown

There’s a new, fun place to taste wine in downtown Oakland, the Punchdown at 2212 Broadway.

The menu showcases a nice selection of about three dozen wines by the glass, carafe and bottle at reasonable prices. The focus is on “natural” wines, made without excessive manipulation and/or chemicalization. A limited, but tasty menu, is served all day.

Punchdown took over the same storefront that was vacated several months ago by the Franklin Square Wine Bar.

It’s a comfortable location with a nice vibe to it that made me want to come back and try more of their offerings. There are regular tasting flights of three wines each for reds and whites plus a ‘mystery flight” of three different wines selected by the house for $12. The flight is free — if you can identify all three of the wines.

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