POSTED ON February 1, 2009 | IN Wine News | BY joe

The 18th annual ZAP Festival drew its usual mass of crowds to Fort Mason in San Francisco on a very beautiful and sunny Saturday, the last day of January 2009. The ZAP festival is strictly for Zinfandel lovers. An amazing 250 wineries were packed into two pavilions at Fort Mason pouring their Zinfandel wines. Luckily for us, we were part of the media and were able to get into the 10am to 1pm session for trade and media only. After that, the public comes in, and it becomes almost a tasting frenzy of 10,000 or so thirsty wine lovers searching for the perfect Zinfandel wine.

For three hours we tasted and spit out about 100 different Zinfandel wines from 70 wineries. One thing for sure, the economy has not driven down the price of Zins. Most of the ones we tried and liked were well above the $25 mark. The Turley Napa topped the list at $75. What a wonder they were pouring such an expensive wine. Could the reason be because no one is buying a $75 Zinfandel given the present economy?

As far as Napa Valley Zinfandels, we noticed that many of the Napa Valley wineries were producing Zins from wine regions outside of the Napa Valley. There were sourcing their grapes from Amador, Lodi, Mendocino, Dry Creek and elsewhere. If you don’t have a Zinfandel vineyard on your Napa estate, it makes no sense to replant an existing Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard. But they can still jump on the Zinfandel bandwagon by purchasing grapes from wine regions where it is plentiful. Interestingly enough, the Napa wineries seemed be charging more per bottle compared to the Zinfandel made in those other wine regions. A Lodi winery sells its Zinfandel for less than a Lodi Zinfandel made by a Napa winery. It’s all in the name!

Here are some of our favorites of the Napa Valley wines we were able to taste. We use a Five Point Scale to rate and we are listing those above 4.0

Artezin Winery — 2006 Dry Creek – $25
August Briggs — 2006 Old Vine – $32
Ballentine — 2005 Old Vines, Pocai Vineyard – $20 – Good Value
Bourassa Vineyards 2006 Odyssey3 – $25
Brown Estate Vineyards 2007 Napa Valley – $36
Chiarello 2007 Giana Barrel Sample to be bottled next week – $35
D Cubed 2006 Howell Mountain – $37
Fontanella Family Winery 2007 Mt. Veeder – $36*
Frank Family Vineyards 2006- $32.50
Gerard 2006 Old Vine – $24
Storybrook Mountain — 2006 Mayacamus – $34
Tofanelli Family Vineyard — 2006 Estate – $36*
Tres Sabores — 2006 Estate Rutherford – $35
Turley 2006 Hayne Vineyard, Napa – $75
Turley 2007 Old Vines – $25
Venge Vineyards — 2005 Scouts Honor – $38

If you study out list you will see a big gap with the middle of the Alphabet. This just happened to be the way we strolled the aisles in the two pavilions. Next year, we will make sure to hit the middle alphabet wineries.

*The Fontella Family Winery and the Tofanelli Family Vineyard are both new wineries and making a great early start. These are wineries to watch in the Napa Valley.

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