ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates & Producers) has become a San Francisco tradition. The 19th annual festival will take place January 28th through the 30th, with several different events scheduled all about Zinfandel wine. Nope, no other wines will be served or can be served at any time. The main event, and the one that seems to bring out every Zin lover in the area, is the Grand Tasting at Fort Mason on Saturday. The event is from 2 to 5 for the general public and tickets cost $59 a person unless you are a member of the ZAP organization, in which case you will pay $49. Over 200 wineries will be pouring Zinfandel in two of Fort Mason’s biggest halls, the Festival and the Herbst. This event attracts 10,000 plus attendees, so if you have never been before you need to be prepared. We have attended for several years and here are my tips on how to get the most out of your $59 ticket.
Get there at the start. That means you should be at the door at 1:45 and not looking for a parking space at 1:45. You are more likely to win the lottery than find a nearby parking space. If you live in or close to San Francisco, take public transportation or take a cab. If you get there early, you can park your car at Marina Middle School (maybe) on Fillmore Street. When you enter the hall, you will get a glass, spit cup, and booklet listing the wineries pouring Zins. Your most important item of the three is the spit cup; use it so you can get the most from your three hours of tasting Zinfandel wines. By 4:00 a good portion of the crowd will have been overserved and behaving badly because they didn’t spit. There is an art to spitting, but it only takes about five spits to get it right. It’s very tempting to swallow some of the better wines, but if you do that you’re not going to last very long.
We avoid the biggest winery names because there are always too many people in line waiting to get a taste. Be adventurous and hit some of the smaller or unknown wineries. At the ZAP Website you can get a look at all the wineries that will be present. It always helps to make your choices before the event. This way you can attack alphabetically, which is the way ZAP organizes the wineries.
I find it too difficult to write in the booklet listing the wineries. Bring a small writing pad that you can fit into a pocket to take notes and rate the wines. I think it’s easy to rate wines on a five-point scale or just to say what I liked about the wine. If you don’t want to take notes, take a photo with your cell phone of any winery where you tasted a standout wine. If you plan to take information sheets on the various wineries, you might want to bring a backpack so you don’t have to juggle papers along with wine glass, pen and notepad.
Report back through our comment section your list of favorite wines. It will be fun to see what everyone liked.