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Showing posts from February, 2016

Zinfandel (and ZAP) at a crossroads

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Wintering 100-year-old Zinfandel in McCay's Lot 13 on Lodi's east side
This is the Big Week for Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (a.k.a. ZAP): their annual Experience in San Francisco, self-billed as “the world’s largest single varietal wine tasting event.”

This year, three days of seminars and parties are capped by a “Grand Tasting” at Pier 27 on the Embarcadero on Saturday, February 27, 2016; when consumers may pick and sip among hundreds of wines, produced by California’s finest Zinfandel specialists. A literal Bacchanal.

Though, these are funny times for Zinfandel. As a varietal, it is still an awkward, bratty, painfully hormonal adolescent. Yet in many ways, it is thanks to the founders of ZAP – classic producers like Ridge, Ravenswood, Rosenblum, and a meritocracy of a few others – that the Zinfandel grape avoided what looked like an inevitable demise as a major red wine varietal, back in the mid-1990s.

Those were the days, many will recall, when most of what was bein…

Is there such a thing as "Zinfandel Grand Crus" in California?

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Room set for ZAP's annual Flights! tasting
Is there such a thing as “Grand Crus” rankings of California wines? No, there isn’t, and for good reason: the California wine industry is continuously discovering “new” vineyards of undeniably wonderful quality and interest. We’re not like places in France, where they carry children around in baskets and vignerons have had hundreds of years to figure out where the best wines are coming from.
In a recent blogpost on Tim Atkin MW’s timatkin.com, Ron Washam made some devastating comments on one attempt to do so; citing James Laube, who “wrote California’s Great Cabernets, a book published by ‘Wine Spectator Press’ in 1989.” Quoth Washam,
You read that right — “Wine Spectator Press.” Why does that bring the Special Olympics of Publishing to mind? In California’s Great Cabernets, Laube, in his adolescence as a wine critic, took it upon himself to classify California Cabernet producers into Five Growths — think Bordeaux’s 1855 classification... …