I'm not exactly sure how long a particular event has to have been going on for it to be credibly labeled an institution, but whatever that length of time, the ZAP Zinfandel Festival in San Francisco would certainly qualify. For nearly 25 years lovers of Zinfandel have been descending upon San Francisco in late January to celebrate their favorite grape.
While there are now many Pinot Noir festivals, several Cabernet happenings, and more than one event focused on Rhone grape varieties, there has only ever been one ZAP. And while Zinfandel might be poured at other regional tastings, no event ever offered such a comprehensive view into the grape that very nearly became California's official state grape.
But after more than two decades of opening the floodgates of Zinfandel to the masses each winter, ZAP has been in a mode of reinvention. For starters, the event is no longer known as ZAP, it is known as the Zinfandel Experience, or ZinEX for short.
What was once something of a bacchanalia has now become a more understated, more intimate gathering of dedicated Zinfandel lovers. The grape has lost some of the popularity it held during the "fruit bomb" era of the early 2000s. But this is a shame because in some ways there's more good Zinfandel being made than ever in California, as winemakers have slowly retreated to a higher-acid, more drinkable form.
Care to assess the state of California Zinfandel for yourself? There's no better way than the Zinfandel Experience.
Starting on Thursday, January 17th, the event kicks off with a dinner for VIP ticket holders at One Market restaurant. Friday sports a guided seminar focused on flights of Zinfandels and a winemaker dinner and auction dubbed "The Grape Gatsby Gala."
The main event, however, comes the next day, when Pier 27 hosts a complete day of Zinfandel immersion. From 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM attendees can wander around and taste Zinfandel to their heart's content. If you're not up for the full six hour affair, you can also purchase a ticket to the general public tasting from 2 to 5 PM.
Now go get your Zin on!
2019 Zinfandel Experience
Saturday, January 19, 2019
11:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Pier 27 - Cruise Terminal
San Francisco, CA 94111
The All-day ticket will run you $180 (or $150 if you're a ZAP member) and the afternoon tasting ticket costs $80 ($70 for members). Purchase your tickets online soon, as they may sell out.