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Jan 29, 2009 06:57 PM

ZAP Festival-What to Expect

My husband won two tickets to the ZAP Festival Grand Tasting at Fort Mason this Saturday. Has anyone gone and if so, what can we expect?

Also, is this something that is stroller friendly for an 11 mos old who can sleep through anything?

Thanks much...

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  1. I attended a couple of their events. Back some years ago (about 11), I had a member's pass to their Denver event. It was quite good, but we only got in about 30 mins. before the masses arrived. The room was outfitted with tables forming a large U, and I made it about four tables, before the doors were opened. At that point, everyone rushed in, staked out every table and passed tastings back to their friends. Some did not leave the tables, until the end of the event. Once the crowds hit, it took 20 mins. to make your way up to any table, as they were "staked out."

    Did two AZ events, but the rooms were tiny, and the tasting one year was spread over three small rooms. Again, the masses staked out tables, and no one could get to them, all evening long.

    It was about this point, that I let my membership lapse. It was akin to trying to get to the bar at Pat O'Brien's during Mardi Gras.

    I think that the exact venue can have a lot to do with one's pleasure. Great wines, but too many people, who have designated table-staker-outers. They only allow tastings for their group. No one else can get near.

    I would hope that SF is a much better behaved group. They should know the drill in semi-trade tastings, and respect these.

    After a couple of poor experiences, I'd say that a weekend in Santa Cruz, Amador, etc., with some time to talk to the folk, is a much better expenditure of one's time.

    As you can probably tell, I do not like to have to elbow my way to a tasting table, grab MY wine out of someone else's hand and then fight to get to the next table. It just isn't MY thing.

    Like I said, I'd wager that the SF event is a much better experience. If you can secure a membership earlier, it is well worth the effort and the few $'s. Take your time, Taste, and hopefuly you'll actually be able to ask a question, or two.

    Let me know how this one goes. I love the varietal, and so many of the producers, but my experiences with the events have been less than enjoyable. Just a couple of very rude crowds. However, Zin is perceived as the "people's grape," so maybe this is to be expected.



    PS, as for strollers, in my experience elsewhere, I'd say no way. Still, the venue and the demeanor of the crowd can differ greatly.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Bill Hunt

      I had forgotton about the mob aspect, and feel even better about deciding not to go this year. It's kind of like many of the Food and Wine festivals--extreme chaos, with behaviour worse than at the family-friendly outdoor food festivals.

    2. Go as early as possible. It will be mobbed and frustrating.

      Sorry, Rosie, but this event is no place for a stroller or even a baby carrier.

      3 Replies
      1. re: maria lorraine

        Thank you for your replies and we lucked out-grandma was available to babysit! I figured it would be a zoo and like you Bill, would much rather taste at events where I can actually talk to the people pouring the wine but since the tickets were free, we figured why not?

        1. re: rosielucchesini


          I "did" this event for something like 14 years of the 17 that they've held so far. This (2009) will be the 18th . . . feels like 180!

          In the beginning, I attended as a wine writer covering the event, and went in with the "trade" portion. I've also worked the event directly as a winery employee, as well as the sales manager for a wholesale company. In the early days it was a blast! As time when on, and the event grew, I only got to actually taste during the trade portion, and by the time the doors opened to the public, I stayed behind the table of the winery for which I was working. Then, the trade portion grew so crowded, and the event moved into two pavillions and not just one, I could only taste in the hour or so we set up -- as soon as ANY ticket holders enters, it became such a zoo . . . without a machette, you couldn't move!

          OK, Rosie, that's a slight exaggeration, but keep in mind that in 2008, there were 10,000+ people and 275+ different wineries.

          Definitely go! Everyone should do it. Once. Realize in advance that a) you will NEVER get to taste everything; b) never get to taste all the wines you want to! Sure, try a couple of the "names" -- EARLY, before they run out! -- but I would avoid the wines you already know and love, and seek out other wineries/wines that are NEW to you. My advice would be to concentrate on the smaller wineries that don't draw the crowds . . . wineries like:

          Boeger Winery, Bradford Mountain Winery, C.G. Di Arie Vineyard & Winery, Carol Shelton Wines***, Cedarville Vineyard***, Chase Family Cellars, Chateau Montelena Winery***, Cosentino Winery, Dashe Cellars***, Davis Family Vineyards, D-Cubed Cellars, Dry Creek Vineyard, Easton Wines***, Fife Vineyards, HaGafen Cellars***, Hendry, Howell Mountain Vineyards, Lava Cap Winery***, Ledson Winery & Vineyards, Limerick Lane Cellars, Mauritson Family Winery, Mazzocco Winery, Meeker Vineyard***, Mount Aukum Winery, Peachy Canyon Winery, Pedroncelli Winery, Perry Creek Winery, Ridge Vineyards*** (hardly unknown, but certainly worth the stop!), Robert Biale Vineyards*** (the same), Rosenblum Cellars (the same again), Saddleback Cellars***, Sausal Winery***, Scott Harvey Wines***, Seghesio Family Vineyards***, Sobon Estate***, Spelletich Cellars***, Storrs Winery & Vineyards***, Storybook Mountain Vineyards***, Trentadue Winery, Turley Wine Cellars, Unti Vineyards***, Venge Vineyards*** . . . .

          *** indicates wineries I would not miss.


          1. re: rosielucchesini

            The event website states that they wouldn't allow anyone under 21 at the tasting, even infants so good thing you didn't bring him/her.

        2. Thanks to those who replied. We had a great time and tasted some fantatic wine from producers we weren't familiar with. Our favorites were Ridge (they had so many different ones to taste) and Storrs. All in-a fantastic time.

          1 Reply