Zinfandel Festival proves to be a wine and food lover’s paradise

Zinfandel Festival attendees sipped and swirled Zinfandels from over 200 wineries while nibbling on perfectly paired bites. Photo: San Francisco Zinfandel Festival. Image: S. Perkovich

SONOMA, February 22, 2013 – San Francisco’s 22nd annual Zinfandel Festival was a smashing success.  Attendees sampled some 500 different Zinfandels from over 200 wineries at four unique and delicious events that ran from January 31 – February 2.  The Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) outdoes itself every year in putting on this tremendous event.

Each year the event features four distinct Zinfandel tasting and learning opportunities:


Zinfandel Festival, Epicuria. Image: Wayde Carroll.



This is a very unique and interesting Zinfandel event. Zin winemakers pair up with hot SF, Bay Area and wine country restaurants to offer perfect pairings to their terroir-driven Zinfandels. This is a true foodie and wine-lover adventure, full of complex and versatile flavors that will have your taste buds singing loud and asking for more. This year, ZinKitchen featured celebrity chefs teaching their professional techniques utilizing Zinfandel that the attendees could incorporate into their own cooking at home.  It was a true food and zinfandel total immersion. The event is not for the light of heart though. Most foods that pair well with Zinfandel are hearty, meat-inspired dishes.  So those who want to come next year should come ready to eat very savory dishes. If you are vegetarian, there are non-meat dishes, but they are harder to find.  (Note: this is my favorite event of the festival.)


This event is usually designed specifically for the Zinfandel lover that wants to learn.  The seminar-style tasting dives into the history, culture, terroir distinctions and science behind this luscious grape.  The flights offer unique insight into the varietal as you take in the sensory experience through your eyes, ears, nose and mouth.  Now why aren’t there classes offered like this at school (other than at schools like UC Davis of course)?


Zinfandel Festival, Flights. Image: Wayde Carroll.



This incredibly fun and entertaining event was themed this year in the style of Casablanca and the fabulous forties.  Zinfandel’s premiere winemakers shared the romance behind their mouth-watering wines at the elegant reception and dinner.  Specially chosen private selections of Zinfandel were selected to feature at the dinner.  Guests imagined themselves back in time, learning about the origins of America’s heritage wine, as well as the practices being employed today. There was a live and silent auction that featured extremely rare wines as well.


This is the coup de grace of the entire festival, the Grand Tasting.  Approximately 8,000 guests sampled over 500 different zinfandels from 200 wineries at the Grand Tasting event this year. Attendees could also attend winemaker workshops, sommelier seminars and cooking demonstrations.  Zin lovers strolled through the varietal’s unique growing regions to experience the vast diversity in the Zinfandel grape. This is the world’s largest Zinfandel tasting where one can enjoy hundreds of barrel samples, new releases and premier Zinfandel wines. Guests also had the opportunity to taste reserve and library Zins at the Heritage Club Lounge.


Zinfandel Festival, Grand Tasting. Image: Wayde Carroll.


Insider tips: of course there is absolutely no way to taste all 500 wines in the evening.  Savvy guests take this opportunity to explore regions less familiar. Also recommended:  wearing comfortable shoes. At this event guests will do a lot of standing and walking.  So best to leave those 4- and 5-inch heels at home.  Also, when tasting, swirl and spit the wine. Winemakers will not be offended. This practice helps to save the palate.  Save the drinking for wines that are truly loved. And drink plenty of water. The ZAP folks have made it very easy to hydrate by having water around every corner. Last, but not least, don’t drive to the event. Pre-arrange a car; take taxi; hop on public transportation. Taxis can be difficult to get after an event like this, so either leave early or reserve a cab in advance.



One highly unusual wine available to taste only at the Zinfandel Festival is the wine made from The Heritage Vineyard in Oakville.  This year guests previewed the 2011 vintage (made by Scott Harvey) at the Friday Winemakers’ Dinner. And at the Saturday Grand Tasting, the 2010 (made by Diane Wilson, Wilson Family Winery) was available for purchase.


Zinfandel Festival, Grand Tasting. Image: Wayde Carroll.



ZAP offers a 10-day Mediterranean cruise April 24 – May 4, traveling from Istanbul to Barcelona, stopping off at Dikili, Santorini, Zakynthos, Taormina, Sorrento, Civitavecchia/Rome, Livorno/Florence, Monte Carlo, Marseille and Barcelona. Details here.

Related article: Urban Wine Tasting in San Francisco

Related article: Wine Country Weekly - Spotlight Sonoma Valley


Read more of Sherrie’s work in Wine Country Weekly and at Out And About San Francisco in the Communities section of the Washington Times.  Follow Out and About on Twitter and on Facebook for even more inside scoop.  Follow her on Pinterest to follow the visual story.


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Sherrie Perkovich

Sherrie is a perky, music and wine-loving, Northern California local that seeks out and spreads the word about San Francisco experiences as well as unforgettable wine-related travel experiences.  She is CMO of The Grape Hunter USA, where they focus on helping artisan wineries and developing unique wine travel for consumers. Follow her on Twitter @BigNoseWino

Sherrie is a San Francisco local that fancies herself an extroverted fine dining, wine drinking, know-it-all.  If it’s happening near SF, Sherrie is in on it.  Follow her columns,  for the widest range of Out and About San Francisco ~ San Jose treats and Wine Country Weekly.  


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