275 wineries! Two Pavillions at Fort Mason, San Francisco! An enormous event, and almost mind-boggling. After a week of wine tastings in Sacramento, however, I was more interested in talking to the Zinfandel producers themselves than tasting wine, and frankly that was the right attitude for an event that I arrived at close to 10:30 in the morning. Soon I'l post the compilation of what's on the mind of the 22 winery owners or winemakers I spoke to regarding marketing issues right now in the wine business, and packaging issues and changes ahead. Bear in mind that many of these Zin producers are smaller wineries, so there is some distortion in the sample (ie, not representative of the wine business as a whole) but regardless of that, the dialogue was pretty consistent with what I'd heard from some of the Biggies (Gallo, Wine Group) in Sacramento last week.
But yes, I did sample some wines, and here are a few notes. Starry Night Winery (Novato, CA, which is in the San Francisco Bay Area) had a yummy 2006 Old Vine Zinfandel made from grapes from five vineyards on Tom Feeny Ranch-Russian River Valley. Two of the vineyards were planted in the early 1900's, one in 1928, one in 1934 and the last in the mid-1940's. All vines are dry farmed and produce a limited crop, which, according to the tasting notes "results in deep and complex fruit and spice flavors". To me, the cherry aroma was a standout, and the taste of pepper really came through on the back of the palate. You can buy one of the bottles from the 1200 cases they produced, for $28 a bottle. 15.2% alcohol. (And at 10:30 in the morning, that'll set you up for the rest of the day!)
In mid-afternoon, I enjoyed the 2006 Harney Lane Old Vine Zinfandel from the Lizzie James Vineyard in the Mokelumne River area of Lodi, CA (Central California). It's softened with 3% Petite Sirah, and has terrific balance of aroma and mouthfeel, and is consistent across the palate. Berries come through nicely, although the tasting notes cite a vanilla finish that I didn't personally find there. $28 a bottle, only 221 cases made. Alcohol 15.6% This wine won a Gold medal in the 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
AND POSTED ON FEBRUARY 5 2009, A SUMMARY OF "WHAT ARE THEY THINKING" about marketing, packaging, and oh did we mention The Economy? ....