Getting ZAPped: The Cash-strapped wine snob recommends ...


Even as the winery was about to be acquired by beverage giant Diageo, the folks at Rosenblum Cellars managed to keep oenophiles at the 17th annual Zinfandel Advocates and Producers Festival talking about their pours. No mean feat, since last Saturday's ZAP tasting at San Francisco's Fort Mason Center featured zins from about 250 wineries, but no surprise, either, since Rosenblum produces a whopping 20 zins all on its own, including several that are modestly priced but rich in flavor.

The press, meanwhile, was going gaga for the 2006 vintage, which does, in fact, feature some affordable ($20 or less per bottle) treasures. In the "cherry bomb" category--zins with bold fruits like cherry, plum or blackberry forward and chocolaty finishes--my faves were the Russian River Valley from Inspiration Vineyards and Winery ($19) and the Mohr-Fry Ranch Old Vine from St. Amant Winery ($18).

The 2004 and 2005 vintages I liked best were lighter and drier but still chock-full of fruit flavor, with hints of chocolate coming and going: to wit, the 2004 Daschy 2 from E2 Family Winery ($14.99); the 2005 Amador County from Lang Wines ($17); the 2004 Alexander Valley from Sausal Winery ($18); the 2004 Grand Reserve Antique Vines from Villa Mt. Eden ($16); and Mendocino County's Zig Zag Zin ($17.99).

These were the best of the lot I managed to sample--with thousands of people vying to sample hundreds of wines in just a few hours, even the most dedicated taster would be hard-pressed to cut too wide a swath across ZAP--but it's arguably representative of what the festival had to offer. Judging by ZAP attendees, zin fans come in every stripe, and there's a zin out there for every palate and price point.