Just returned from the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers tasting and BBQ at Rock Wall Winery in Alameda. This annual event brings together a number of Zinfandel producers from varied areas of California. The goal of this event is to serve food that compliments the various styles of Zinfandel made in these regions. One of the benefits of this type of gathering is that food makes these wines shine and show their different flavors when matched with dishes such as Chicken Mole, Carnitas with salsa and queso, beef spare ribs with Argentine salsa and pulled pork sliders.
In my opinion this was a better consumer value than the huge tasting in January of each year. The January event has the vast majority of quality producers pouring their wines, but the crowd is so large that it becomes extemely difficult to taste as the day grows longer. For that event I would choose a set number of wineries and go to them first. After that let your mind wander and look for someone new or a winery you have not tried in many moons.
Why was this Alameda tasting more user friendly? The first is that the crowd was not overwhelming and you could actually talk to people pouring and get information. In many instances you were able to speak to the owner/winemaker: Jeff Cohn and Carol Shelton to name a few. This event was held inside the Rock Wall winery and it was open air with tables both indoors and out. The cost of this event was $50 per person, but that is a deal when you consider tasting so many superior producers. Add to that the high quality food that was part of your ticket and $50 was more than reasonable. Think of what it would cost you to have plates of the above mentioned food along with the outstanding wines that were poured and you are getting a deal for the price of admission.
If you love Zinfandel, join ZAP and attend the various events they present to the public. These events will inspire you to try different styles of Zinfandel and expand your horizons.