Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Miscellaneous wining...ZAP & Family Winemakers & some random thoughts...

In January, JD and I went north for ZAP - the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers 4-day event. Well, we didn't go for four days, we went for the Grand Tasting. It was immense - over 200 wineries all pouring Zinfandel from all over the world.

Some wineries, like Ian Blackburn's Beekeeper Cellars, poured one wine; others poured anywhere from 3 to 9 wines - all Zins! We were grateful to have been included as media, so that we were able to enter the tasting at 10 a.m., and we still tasted only a fraction of the wines by the time we left at 3:30 p.m. There were writers who reported within 24 - 48 hours that they had tasted hundreds of wines. By my reckoning, we tasted the fruits of around 40 wineries, so maybe we tasted 80 - 100 wines.

It was fascinating to taste the regional differences among all those Zins. I discovered that if I'm going to just sip a Zin, I want Zin from Paso Robles or Lodi, but if I'm going to pair it with food, I want a Zin from Dry Creek. I also realized - well, I knew this already - that I would rather taste fewer wines and have a bit more quality time with the winemakers to get the inside story about their passion and process.

It was great to taste the wines of young winemakers like Clay Mauritson from Mauritson Wines and David Mounts from Mounts Family Winery while listening to them talk about growing up in the industry and making wine in Dry Creek. I've written about Clay before when we visited his winery, and he took us high up the Rockpile to show us the vineyards owned by his family. Clay's family have been farmers and sheep growers for several generations in Dry Creek; David Mounts' family has been growing wine grapes for 3 generations in Dry Creek, and David is the first to make wines under the family name. The wines they poured were rich and nuanced - and delicious. And I should mention that Clay is the winemaker for the above-mentioned Beekeeper, which was named the most outstanding Zin of the Fest!

It was interesting to taste Zin from South Africa and Italy - terroir does make a difference! It was great to see friends from all over California, and good to have visited a huge annual event in a new venue. The winemakers were happy, the crowds were happy, and we were tired and happy. We also didn't drink any Zin for a few days after!

In March, we had the opportunity to attend the Family Winemakers of California trade event in Pasadena. JD attended last year and wrote a great recap for me. This year, I took a vacation day from the earth job and did some serious tasting. From their website: Family Winemakers of California represents wine industry issues before the California Legislature and applicable state regulatory agencies. Issues that impact small producers drive our focus. Without an active voice and presence in Sacramento other groups will make decisions that influence your ability to succeed as a vintner or grape grower. FWC remains the primary vintner-oriented advocate for inclusiveness on laws, regulations and industry practices for wine producers.

The event was very large. It was great to see a number of friends and acquaintances at the tasting on both sides of the tables. And it was - like many of these large events - a bit overwhelming. Standouts of the day were Bex Bishop of BX of Napa with her outstanding Syrah, Melinda Doty of Stage Left Cellars' delicious blends, Wes Hagen of Clos Pepe pouring some aged library wines, perennial favorite Karen Steinwachs of Buttonwood Farms Winery, the inimitable Larry Schaffer from Tercero, new offerings from Martian Vineyard, and many more.

The problem with huge tasting events like these two - both of which offer an astonishing and diverse range of wines to taste - is that they are too big. Even with a plan, it's impossible to taste everything, you have to spit everything, and you have to get water and food, because even if you're spitting, you're still swallowing a lot of alcohol and you don't want to get drunk. I know it seems silly to carp about having too many wines to taste, but I think something gets lost when you're trying to speed thru a tasting.

And upcoming, JD and I are heading north to the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association wine fest this weekend. It promises to be another huge and delicious tasting. My plan is to focus on wineries I'm not familiar with, although I know I'll stop and chat with friends and taste their wines, too.

It's a rough life, but I promise not to weaken!

No comments: