PfW logo.

Search PfW

This FREE Wine Education Course Includes: Why Wine? | Wine & Health | Social History | Sensory User's Manual | Grape Growing | Wine Making | Varietal Profiles | Sparkling WineWine Information on Reading Labels, Selecting and Buying Wine, Serving and Storing, etc.Taste includes the compiled wine tasting notes from our monthly panel, as well as reports on public tasting events, wherever we attend them, and notices of recurring wine events in Central California. There is also a Food & Wine section with a few wine-friendly recipes.In Aftertaste, see if you agree with our opinions and editorials in Wrath, find our Reading List and pages of Links in Bacchanalia, to discover additional sources of wine information.Contact and sponsor information, short bios of the PfW tasting panel and the stories of PfW's formation and the web site genesis.Return to the starting point.

January 29, 2000 at Fort Mason Center, San Francisco
as reported and photographed by Jim LaMar

<<<visit the ZAP website

The annual ZAP tasting has become one of my favorite wine events. Concentrating on only one varietal and having the opportunity to taste and compare hundreds of examples is not only remarkably enlightening, but also buckets of fun. Since ZAP sells out months in advance, it is highly advisable to secure tickets as early as possible. Although there are a couple of preliminary events, a smaller tasting on Thursday and a wine auction dinner on Friday, the ZAP flagship is the Saturday tasting of both current and new releases from the now 229 ZAP member wineries.

PHOTO: Zinfandel-crazed crowd inside the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion.
Six Thousand Tasters attended ZAP 2000. Where's Waldo?

PHOTO: Overhead view of zin tasters queuing up to taste.Rabid Zin tasters queue-up to sample Ridge's latest releases.

 Participation included the ZAP Tasting Kit, consisting of a souvenir wine glass, a catalog and a personal baguette, which may actually have been a diversion...

This year, my normal channels failed and I was forced to change my plans and cancel both my hotel and dinner reservations the week prior. Then on Tuesday, the 25th, I get a call from the ZAP office with an offer of complimentary PRESS tickets! Grousing about our lack of coordinated timing, but graciously accepting the windfall nonetheless, I decided to make a day trip of it. To share the six hour round-trip drive, I recruited my friend Kevin who hadn't yet attended a ZAP. We left Fresno at 6:00 am, fortified ourselves with a hardy breakfast at Eddie's Cafe in Los Banos and arrived in San Francisco right on time. A parking spot serendipitously became available one block away from our destination, so I knew it was going to be a great day.

A new feature at this year's ZAP was a room specifically for the PRESS. Around the perimeter was an alphabetically-ordered representative collection of Zinfandels, one bottle from each winery.

PHOTO: Some tasters were going for the fruits and cheeses, too.

...from the fruits and cheeses. Considering the hungry throng, it's a good thing we made that breakfast stop.

Since the wineries chose, I figured they would either show their best OR their toughest-to-sell, in hopes of some positive press recognition and sales stimulation.

Anyway, I started at the "Zs" and methodically worked my way forward, gratefully trying to sense the positive qualities of each wine and dutifully noting my impressions on a pad. I managed to evaluate about 40 wines, reaching the low Rs before the authorities decided to close up shop and herd everyone into the public event, where I continued tasting in a less-organized fashion. Of course, with 229 wineries pouring an average of four wines each, only a team of dedicated and organized tasters could get to everything, so, you do what you can...

By grapevining (the vinous equivalent of "networking") my way around the Festival Pavilion, I was pointed to quite a number of nice wines and a few disappointments. I "doubled-back" on most of the wines, especially those at the upper and lower ends of my judgments. Any ZAP attendees with alternate or additional opinions may contact me for discussion. Here are my briefs on the mere 62 wines I was able to taste and record.....

PHOTO: Does this guy look like he's tasted 62 wines yet?
View from the Pavilion mezzanine... Who's the fat, bald guy?

(NOTES: 1. The "alphabetical" order follows the souvenir program, which sometimes uses last names, sometimes first names. | 2. Many vintages do not agree with the printed program, but my information was taken directly from the labels of the wines I was poured.)

MY FAVORITE Zin picks:

  • 1997 Dry Creek Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley "Reserve" ($30) Big style, very rich flavors, nice balance
  • 1998 Fife, Mendocino "Whaler Vineyard" ($20) BEST BUY Rich, luscious, smooth
  • 1997 Four Vines Paso Robles "Reserve" ($28) Big, jammy, complex; 11% Syrah
  • 1997 Rancho Zabaco, Sonoma "Heritage" ($12) BEST BUY Jammy flavors, balanced (also see PfW notes)
  • 1997 Saviez Vineyard, Napa "Saviez" ($28) Great fruit and balance, medium-weight style
  • 1997 Sebastiani Sonoma Cask, Sonoma "Domenici Vineyard" ($24) Very rich, mouthfilling, long finish
  • 1998 Spelletich Cellars, Shenandoah Valley "Twin Rivers" ($22) Gutsy, spicy with clove notes
  • 1997 St. Francis, Sonoma "Old Vines" ($24) Jammy, chocolatey, clean flavors, good balance
  • 1997 Villa Mt. Eden Grand Reserve, Sonoma "Monte Rosso" ($20) BEST BUY Big flavors, structure

ABOVE AVERAGE Zinfandels, with style notes: Claret, Medium, or Big (Unique = unusual, controversial flavors)

  • 1997 Aïda, Napa Valley "Aïda Vineyard" ($37) Claret
  • 1998 DeLoach, Russian River Valley Estate ($18) Medium, Unique
  • 1997 Edmeades, Mendocino ($19) Big
  • 1997 Four Vines, Paso Robles ($18) Medium
  • 1997 Gallo of Sonoma ($10) Big (Although generally good quality and indisputably good value, all Gallo of Sonoma reds seem too tannic for the "drink now" consumer. I am curious to see how these wines cellar...)
  • 1997 Gustavo Thrace, Chiles Valley ($26) Big, Unique
  • 1998 HMR, Paso Robles "Dante Dusi" ($20) Big
  • 1998 Hendry, Napa Valley "Block 7" ($22) Big
  • 1997 LaCrema, Sonoma "Reserve" ($22) Big
  • 1997 Peterson, Dry Creek Valley ($17) Medium
  • 1997 Pezzi King, Dry Creek Valley Estate ($24) Medium
  • 1997 Phillip Staley, Dry Creek Valley "Staley Somers" ($18) Medium
  • 1997 Renwood, Amador "Grandpere" ($28) Big
  • 1998 Ridge, Sonoma "Geyserville" ($28) Big
  • 1997 Rosenblum, Mendocino, Redwood Valley, "Rhodes - Annette's Reserve" ($25) Big
  • 1997 (Jeff Rundquist) Z, Amador "Massoni Ranch" ($18) Big
  • 1997 RustRidge, Napa Valley/Chiles Valley Estate ($18) Big
  • 1998 Sable Ridge, Lodi "Hensley Lauchland" ($18) Big
  • 1997 Savannah-Chanel, Santa Cruz Mountains Estate ($36) Big
  • 1997 Saxon Brown, Sonoma Valley "Santinamaria" ($35) Big, Unique
  • 1996 Sierra Vista, El Dorado "Old Vine" ($25) Big
  • 1998 St. Francis, Sonoma "Old Vines" ($24) Big, Unique
  • 1997 Stevenot, Sierra Foothills ($12) BEST BUY Claret
  • 1998 Tarius, Mendocino "Aldine" ($29) Big, Unique
  • 1997 Tarius, Alexander Valley "Demostene" ($27) Medium
  • 1994 Teldeschi, Dry Creek Valley Estate "Lot 7" ($20) Big, Unique
  • 1997 Tria, Dry Creek Valley ($18) Medium
  • 1997 Van Asperen, Napa Valley "Van Asperen" ($18) Big, faint heat in finish
  • 1997 Vista Del Ray, Paso Robles "Vista Del Ray" ($17) Claret

AVERAGE Zinfandels, with style notes: Claret, Medium, or Big

  • 1997 Four Vines, California ($11) Claret - 45% Paso Robles, 40% Sonoma, 5% Monterey
  • 1997 Hartford, Sonoma "Hartford Vineyard" ($30) Big
  • 1996 Jacuzzi, Paso Robles "Contra Costa" ($?) Big, Unique
  • 1997 Kendall-Jackson, California "Vintner's Reserve" ($16) Claret
  • 1998 Kunin, Paso Robles "Dante Dusi" ($25) Big
  • 1998 Robert Mondavi Coastal, Mendocino "Old Vines" ($20) Big
  • 1997 Ravenswood, Sonoma "Cooke" ($28) Big
  • 1997 Saddleback Cellars, Napa "Old Vine" ($26) Big
  • 1998 Saucelito Canyon, Arroyo Grande Estate ($20) Big
  • 1997 Schuetz Oles, Napa Valley "Korte Ranch" ($?) Big
  • 1997 Sobon Estate, Shenandoah Valley "Rocky Top" ($15) Big
  • 1997 Spenker, Lodi Estate ($15) Big
  • 1997 Joseph Swan, Russian River Valley "Anniversary Selection" ($25) Big
  • 1998 Tarius, Mendocino ($23) Claret
  • 1997 Victor Hugo, Paso Robles "Templeton Hills" ($16) Claret
  • 1998 Vigil, Lodi "Mohr-Fry Ranch" ($18) Big, Unique
  • 1998 Wellington, Russian River Valley ($16) Big

UNACCEPTABLE Zinfandels, with explanation of the character that offended my sense of smell, taste...

  • 1997 Robert Mondavi Woodbridge, Lodi "Select Old Vines" ($15)...H2S!
  • 1998 Pedroncelli, Dry Creek Valley "Mother Clone" ($14)...Brettanomyces!
  • 1996 Phillip Staley, Dry Creek Valley "Staley Somers" ($18)...Brettanomyces!
  • 1998 Renaissance, North Yuba/Sierra Foothills Estate ($15)...strong terpene nose!
  • 1997 Sonora Vineyard and Port Works, Amador "Story" ($20)!
  • 1996 Stonehedge, Napa Valley ($16)...moldy cheese nose!
  • 1997 Rodney Strong, Napa Valley ($16)...Brettanomyces!


Updated October 18. 2002
Except as noted, site design & content © 1999-2004 by
Jim LaMar. All rights reserved.