Zinfandel Zaniness Returns to SF

All tastes turn to Zinfandel this week as the world’s largest gathering of fans of California’s adopted grape unfolds in San Francisco.

Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) is in the midst of a week of Zinfandel-focused events that culminates with the Grand Tasting on Saturday.

More than 150 wineries will be pouring samples of their best zins at the SF Concourse at 8th and Brannan in SF. Tickets for the Grand Tasting are $59 in advance and $69 at the door.

For a more formal food-and-wine experience, check online to see whether tickets are still available to the Viva Las Vegas Winemakers Dinner at the St. Francis on Friday (Jan. 27). Tickets to the charity event, which includes a live auction, are $225.

Quick Peek at Some Favorites

I checked out some of the featured wines at a special wine-and-food pairing preview Thursday in San Francisco. I’ll file a full report on the Grand Tasting later this weekend.

Kokomo

I enjoyed two bottles from Kokomo Winery in Healdsburg, both from the 2009 harvest.

The Winemakers Reserve from the Timber Crest Vineyard ($32) was a bit more extracted with nice blackberry/raspberry fruit. Wine Spectator gave it a 92 rating.

The Pauline’s Vineyard Zinfandel from Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley is blended with a very small percentage of petite sirah, which adds a bit of tannin to the mix and pushes the level of complexity up a notch. There’s nice raspberry fruit, but not overly sweet.

Delicious Dusi, Beautiful Ballentine

Janelle Dusi sells most of the grapes grown on her family’s 100 acre spread in Paso Robles, but she keeps 10 percent of the crop and bottles it herself under the J. Dusi Wines label.

Look for the 2009 J. Dusi Zinfandel ($35) is you want an approachable red wine that’s fruit forward with enough acidity to balance out the brambly zinfandel character. You can taste her grapes in wines made by several other high-profile producers, including Turley, Tobin James and Four Vines.

Another 2009 reserve wine, from Ballentine Vineyards in St. Helena, stood out from the crowd.

The Ballentine Block 9 Reserve ($31) is blended with 4.5 percent Petite Sirah to produce a wine with high-tone raspberry fruit and a dusty back beat that was delicious.

Fresh and Affordable

Two lower-priced wines also caught my eye and taste buds.

The 2010 Deep Purple Zinfandel, grown in Lodi, sells for $12. It’s a fruit bomb with lovely blackberry aromas that lead to a lip-smacking finish.

The 2008 Old Vine Zinfandel from CalStar Cellars in Sonoma, also made from Lodi fruit, follows the same pattern, but with a slightly higher-level taste profile.

There is gobs of blackberry fruit, balanced with enough acid to produce a delightful mouthful of balanced taste in a $15 bottle.

Cavalcade of Cabernets Coming Up

New releases from four Napa Cabernet Sauvignon specialists are coming up next weekend, with special events planned at Silver Oak, Bennett Lane, Girard Winery and Consentino Winery on Saturday, Feb. 4.

Silver Oak is pouring its 2007 Napa cabernet at two locations — its Oakville winery and its winemaking operation in Geyserville. Tickets are $40 and $30, respectively.

Girard is charging $20 for tastes of its 2009 Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon at its winery in Yountville.

Consentino, also in Yountville, will offer a pre-release taste of its reserve Cabernet.

Bennett Lane will be offering tastes of its 2009 Cabernet and 2009 Reserve Cabernet for $25 at the winery in Calistoga.

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