Fruit set is underway in Napa Valley

Fruit set is underway in Napa Valley

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

America's Red Wine -- Maybe, Possibly

It’s the only red grape that has been vinified into these five different wine styles: white, light bodied nouveau, full-bodied red, late harvest dessert, as well as a faux, port-like wine. That’s asking a lot from any grape, but it does give you insight into its chameleon personality. The white, whose popularity is being tested by the surging sales of Pinot Grigio, is still America’s biggest selling “blush” with its semi-sweet, modestly flavored profile, while, at the other end of the spectrum, the alcoholic red model, with its rich, in-your-face fruitiness, is enjoyed for the opposite reason.

Even though early winemakers and journalists were aware that this grape’s vine cuttings likely came from Italy, they originally acclaimed it as “America’s Red Wine,” insinuating, of course, that it was not to found elsewhere. Most recently, however, its origins were sleuthed from Italy to its apparent birthplace, Croatia, where grapevine geneticists traced its roots, so to speak, to this tongue twister: Crljenak Kaštelanski.

No matter, for despite those scientific findings, California has successfully staked a prior heritage and seems to have convinced most wine drinkers that this red is an authentic and unique California varietal. In a rather conspicuous effort to solidify that claim, a few years ago one of our State Senators sponsored a bill to have the wine named our “official state wine,” but, alas, the Governor wisely disagreed and vetoed it.

Of course, “Zinfreaks” know I speak of Zinfandel, and of all varietal wines produced in California, Zinfandel is the only one with an organized, official entity of its own. Comprised of 275 winery-members, 4000 advocate members, 100 associate members, and countless avid devotees, it’s called “ZAP” for short (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers).

Review the various classes at http://www.zinfandel.org/ and note the benefits (tastings, tours, recipes, private dinner parties, discounts, newsletters, etc.) that accrue to each class, the more important of which is assured tickets to the upcoming, 20th annual San Francisco extravaganza on January 27 - 29, 2011.

According to its press release, the “Festival consists of four events in three days, showcasing approximately 250 wineries, pouring their barrel samples and new releases, together with educational seminars, culinary demonstrations and decadent food pairings. The ZAP Festival is the most comprehensive showing of Zinfandel wines in the world.”

Events are scheduled at two locations—Fort Mason, near the Golden Gate Bridge, and at the Westin St. Francis Hotel at Union Square. Scroll through the website’s various links for more details on each day’s activities. Lastly, for you foodies, Thursday’s “Good Eats and Zinfandel Pairing” link has a lengthy list of pairings by winery and restaurant plus a mouthwatering description of each dish that will be served.

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