Tasting Report: ZAP Zinfandel Experience 2018

Tasting Report: ZAP Zinfandel Experience 2018

First, some housekeeping. ZAP is shorthand for Zinfandel Advocates & Producers, and around these parts they’re best known for a massive showcase of zinfandel wines that happens in January of each year. That showcase is currently called the Zinfandel Experience (though there are additional events), but most attendees just shorthand it as ZAP.

ZAP had a bad reputation for many years — attendees drawn by the cheap tickets and easy-drinking, higher-alcohol wine would come in droves, packing San Francisco’s massive waterfront event halls, drinking literally until they were sick. It was commonly said that you weren’t really experiencing ZAP until someone was throwing up over directly into San Francisco Bay. My last ZAP attendance was way back in 2010.

Things have changed in recent years, for the better. The show is smaller now, tickets are more expensive (keeping out those looking for a cheap buzz), and the event is complemented by a number of booths offering substantial, delightful foods designed to pair with Zin. While ZAP used to have a reputation for jamming a lot of low-end wines into the show, this year’s event was chock full of top bottlings, which really surprised me. Some of my favorites hailed from Dashe and Howell Mountain Winery, but I want to give special notice to Day, a new winery run by Ehren Jordan, formerly of Turley, and a sister winery of Failla.

Complete notes on everything tasted — watch for those library wines in the mix — follow.

2018 ZAP Zinfandel Experience Complete Tasting Report

2016 Bedrock Zinfandel Schmidt Road – very astringent. C
2016 Bedrock Zinfandel Esola Vineyard – concentrated, edgy. B+
2016 Bedrock Zinfandel Limerick Lane Vineyard – a bit sweeter, with some green notes. B

2016 Dashe Cellars Les Enfants Terribles Cuvee – made with carbonic maceration techniques; quote heavy with fruit. B
2014 Dashe Cellars Zinfandel Louvau Vineyard Block 2 – intricate with cola and tea leaf, a slight tobacco note. A
2015 Dashe Cellars Zinfandel DCV – more floral. A-
2015 Dashe Cellars Zinfandel Todd Brothers Ranch – very dry, austere. A-
2014 Dashe Cellars Zinfandel Todd Brothers Ranch – similar, more floral. A-
2015 Dashe Cellars The Comet – a blend; a bit over-dulled by earth. B

2016 Day Zinfandel Sonoma County – very fresh and concentrated, heavy with fruit and jam. A-
2015 Day Zinfandel Grist Vineyard – bold body with a stronger wood influence, racy acidity. A-
2015 Day Zinfandel El Diablo Vineyard Russian River Valley
– fresh, some eucalyptus, loads of spices. A-
2015 Day Zinfandel Audrey Russian River Valley
– a barrel selection of El Diablo; quite similar, with more of an oak influence, slightly herbacious. A-

2015 Dry Creek Valley V7 Estate Zinfandel – intense eucalyptus, blackberry notes. A-
2015 Dry Creek Valley Spencer’s Hill Vineyard Zinfandel – spicy, but otherwise quite straightforward. B

2011 Hartford Russian River Valley Old Vine Zinfandel Hartford Vineyard – a hint of earth, ample baking spice. B+
2012 Hartford Russian River Valley Old Vine Zinfandel Highwire Vineyard – still lively, with cedar box and a slight ash note. B+
2015 Hartford Russian River Valley Old Vine Zinfandel Highwire Vineyard 
– still quite tannin, lots of earthy notes. B+
2016 Hartford Russian River Valley Old Vine Zinfandel
– lush, with strawberry and blackberry notes, some figs; a lot going on here. A-
2014 Hartford Russian River Valley Old Vine Zinfandel Jolene’s Vineyard
– some eucalyptus, blackberry bramble notes. A-
2012 Hartford Russian River Valley Old Vine Zinfandel Jolene’s Vineyard
– austere, with tannic grip. B+

2014 Howell Mountain Old Vine Zinfandel – very fragrant and floral, loads of fruit here. A-
2015 Howell Mountain Beatty Ranch Zinfandel – intense, freshly fruity with an edge of cola. A-

2015 Limerick Lane Zinfandel Russian River Valley – very heavy blackberry notes, figs, quite unique. A
2015 Limerick Lane Zinfandel 1901 Block – similar notes, but higher in acid, less body. A-
2015 Limerick Lane Zinfandel Rocky Knoll
– a fruit bomb, with grippy cocoa powder and baking spice notes. B+
2015 Limerick Lane Zinfandel “1023”
– a zin/syrah/grenache blend; a bit doughy, lots of slate and pepper. B

2015 Mazzocco Briar Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley – blueberry pie, cocoa, ripe fruit. B+
2015 Mazzocco Verano Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley – similar, with some herbal notes, more restraint. B+
 Mazzocco Maple Reserve Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley – more nuanced, with fresh herbs and some cola notes. B+

2016 Quivira Black Boar Zinfandel (barrel sample) – bold, heavy with cocoa. B
2015 Quivira Black Boar Zinfandel – underdeveloped. B-
2015 Quivira Anderson Ranch
Zinfandel – lots of fruit, but unfocused beyond that. B-

2016 Ridge Zinfandel Jimsomare (barrel sample) – elegant and very floral, orange flowers and incense. A-
2016 Ridge Demostene Ranch – a blend; quite light, with a strange caramel note. B-
2016 Ridge Zinfandel Carmichael (barrel sample) – cherry, tar, meaty notes; some graphite. B+
2016 Ridge Zinfandel Mazzoni Home Ranch (barrel sample)
– better balance, lots of meat on the back end. B+
2016 Ridge Zinfandel Buchignani Ranch
– a bit tight, pencil lead notes. B+
2016 Ridge Zinfandel East Bench
– very restrained with tons of graphite, brambles. B+

2013 Robert Biale Zinfandel R.W. Moore Vineyard – iconic styling, jammy but also a bit thin. B+
2016 Robert Biale Zinfandel Old Kraft Vineyard 
– lighter in style, veering toward spice; balanced. A-
2016 Robert Biale Black Chicken Zinfandel
– very concentrated chocolate and spice notes. A-

2014 Rock Wall Zinfandel Jessie’s Vineyard – intense chocolate, coffee notes. B+
2014 Rock Wall Zinfandel Pearl Hart Reserve – similar as the above, more leathery. B
2016 Rock Wall Zinfandel Monte Rosso Vineyard
– brambly, with blueberry notes. B
2010 Rock Wall Zinfandel Monte Rosso Vineyard
– mellowing well, showing acidity and a gentler fruit profile. A-

2016 Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel – hugely spicy, lots of pepper. B+
2015 Seghesio Rockpile Vineyard Zinfandel – lots of cocoa, spice, lightly sweet. B+
2015 Seghesio Cortina Zinfandel – ample spice, lots of grip here. B+
2015 Seghesio Old Vine Zinfandel – bold blueberry and chocolate notes. B+
2015 Seghesio Home Ranch Zinfandel – the best for last, with notes of pencil lead, toasty wood, and coal, balancing the fruit. A-

2005 Tres Sabores Estate Zinfandel – fresh and lively, plenty of acidity. A-
2010 Tres Sabores Estate Zinfandel – mostly dry, dense earth notes. A-
2015 Tres Sabores Rutherford Perspective Zinfandel
– similarly dry, but a bit undercooked. B+
2014 Tres Sabores ¿Por Que No? Napa Valley Red Wine Blend
– a big odd, gamy. B

2016 Turley Juvenile Zinfandel – bold cocoa notes, balanced with spices. A-
2016 Turley Whitney Tennessee ZInfandel
– great balance, racy with acid, solid tannins. B+
2016 Turley Rattesnake Ridge Vineyard ZInfandel
– meaty but balanced with notes of dried fruit. B+
2016 Turley Hayne Vineyard Zinfandel (barrel sample)
– heavy herbs, some Jolly Rancher notes. B+
2006 Turley Hayne Vineyard Zinfandel – a bit Port-like, with a touch of oxidation; austere and engaging. A-

2015 Wilson Monte Rosso Reserve Zinfandel – huge blueberry notes, with tons of fruit, tea leaf, and a long, semi-sweet finish. B+
2014 Wilson Kenneth Carl Zinfandel – chewy and brambly, with blueberry and some gentle nuttiness. A-
2015 Wilson Rockpile Zinfandel – cocoa heavy, with lots of mixed berry notes. B+

Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.

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