Zinvolution: America's Grape Group Over Performs at 20

By Christopher J. Davies
Photo by © 2011 Zinfandel Advocates & Producers

Everything about Zinfandel is big and bold from the robust, high alcohol,
non-wimpy wines, to the fancy, in your face marketing and packaging.

The Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP), the organization that promotes
all things Zinfandel, just completed their 20th annual Zinfandel Wine
Festival in San Francisco (Jan 26 to 29, 2011). The festival was as colorful
as its wines, even draping red table cloths (watch out wine snobs) on all
exhibit tables.

Over the years, ZAP has steadily grown their festival from humble beginnings
of merely 60 guests to one of America's largest and highest attended
festivals, with 2011 attendance reaching 8,000 attendees.

Zinfandel grapes represent 10% of all vineyards acreage in California. It is
a big business for vintners as many have won high acclaim for their Zins,
selling out quickly and pouring profits into expanding their production.

One Zin success story is The Van Ruiten Winery in Lodi. Its founder John Van
Ruiten, Sr., is a colorful Dutch immigrant who bought his freedom from Nazis
during World War II. Mr. Van Ruiten's dairy background landed him and his
wife in grape-laden Lodi during the late 40's where he eventually delved
into grape growing. Zinfandel was the first vine he planted 59 years ago in
1952. Zin has long been proven the best fruit for Lodi. Unlike other "heat
loving" Zin producers, Van Ruiten's winemaker Ryan Leeman manages to keep
the alcohol levels to 14.5%.

Today, the 3rd generation family run winery is on an expansion mode, having
just added a brand new 20,000 square foot, state of the art bottling and
storage facility. Mr. Van Ruiten's son-in-law, Bill Rogan, a twenty-five
year industry veteran is the winery President.

Mr. Rogan holds high praise for the ZAP organization. "We have been members
for the past 6 years. When we first exhibited we did not have great sales.
Today we have 179 accounts just in the Bay Area".

"Our wines are now sold in 35 states with 8 to 10 more coming on board 1st
quarter 2011," reports James McMichael, Van Ruiten National Sales Manager
and 42 year wine industry veteran.

At this year's festival, more than 200 wineries poured over 400 wines in two
adjoining massive buildings at the Fort Mason event center in San Francisco.
The ZAP organization really ramped up the offerings over previous festivals.

“We wanted to help people personalize their Festival experience this year,”
explains Rebecca Robinson, Executive Director, Zinfandel Advocates &
Producers. “Our twenty year anniversary means we know how to present the
wonderful world of Zinfandel, and we challenged ourselves to burst through
expectations to offer new and compelling ways to learn all about this great
grape,” she adds.

Having attended in the past, we found this year's festival overwhelming and
cram packed with awesome wines as well as mouth watering dishes from Bay
Area restaurants (Good Eats & Zin).

5 notable wines:

  1. Racemi Zinfandel Sinfarosa 2007
    Imagine a Zin from Puglia, Italy. It is not such a far fetched concept when
    you consider that Primativo and Zins could be related. This wine has 14%
    alcohol and is aged in 50% Slovenian Oak, 50% stainless steel. It is elegant
    and smooth as a Persian cat. $30
  2. Dogwood Cellars 2007 Dry Creek Zinfandel
    Pure candy in a bottle! Raspberries with hints of cherry red lifesavers. 20
    months in Oak. 15% alcohol ($30)
  3. Twisted 2007 Old Vine Zinfandel-California
    Food friendly Zin at it's best. Swirl your glass and you will taste a blend
    of berries, plums, Ghirardelli chocolate and pine nuts. Alcohol 13.8% ($8)
  4. Ballentine Vineyards 2007 Zinfandel Block 9 Reserve
    A delicious blend of 95% Zinfandel, 3% Syrah and 2% Petite Sirah. Big
    berries, coffee and tobacco flavors. John Wayne would have loved this wine!
    16% alcohol ($31)
  5. Wine Guerrilla 2009 Sonoma County Zinfandel
    Wonderful packaging, easy open screw cap, friendly on your palate. 81%
    Zinfandel, 10% Petite Sirah, 8% Carignan and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon. Great plum and raspberry flavors make this an excellent food-friendly wine. 15% alcohol ($15)

5 Notable Restaurants:

  1. Johnny Garlic's- Sashimi Wontons
    Paired with Grgich Hills Estate Zinfandel
  2. John Ash & Co- Sonoma Lamb Navarin with zinfandel sauce over roasted
    garlic mashed potatoes
    Paired with Leonhardt Vineyards Zinfandel
  3. One Market Restaurant- Zinfandel Risotto - Duck Confit, Mushrooms,
    Applewood-Smoked Bacon
    Paired with Three Wine Company Zinfandel
  4. Preferred Sonoma Caterers- Cocoa five spice smoked pork shoulder over
    creamy polenta
    Paired with B.R Cohn Zinfandel
  5. CK Kitchen/ Kollar Chocolates- Zinfandel Chocolate Truffles
    Paired with Artezin Wines

Save the date!
2012 ZAP Festival: January 26 - 28, 2012
For more info visit

About the Author:

Follow Christopher's national examiner column, click subscribe above.

Christopher Davies is the Editor, Publisher and Co-Founder of Wine Country
International magazine. His latest publication, VinoTasting is a quarterly
newsletter that uncorks the best values in wine. Visit

Christopher Davies is also a professional photographer and member of ASMP,
The American Society of Media Photographers. Check out his photography

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