The kick-off event is Epicuria, a pairing event formerly called “Good Eats and Zinfandel Pairing”, a name which better explained the concept: fifty chefs create dishes to pair with fifty zinfandel wines. The chefs are from local restaurants, catering companies, culinary programs and in some cases work for the wineries directly.
Although the zinfandel grape can produce many different kinds of wine, today its best known for being a bold red, and many of the chefs that participate in the pairing go in that direction. For instance, Rosamunde Sausage Grill, a restaurant better known for its craft beer menu, paired a Saddleback Cellars zinfandel with a lamb merguez and wild boar sausage with mango chutney and sauerkraut.
But since the point of this event is show off the varietal in all its many aspects, there are more unusual pairings that wouldn’t immediately leap to mind. For instance, Swan Oyster Depot, the San Francisco seafood institution, went nontrad with a Peachy Canyon zinfandel with shrimp cocktail. Several chefs used zinfandel in dessert pairings, notably a Grgich Hills Estate zinfandel paired with lavender black cherry vanilla caramel from Sacramento’s 3D Candies.
Epicuria is held at the Concourse Exhibition Center, a purpose built event space that became the event’s new home after it outgrew its former digs at the Herbst Pavilion at Fort Mason. Although long-time festival goers miss the waterfront location, the Concourse is appreciated for its carpeted floors, which helps to keep the noise level down. Be warned, readers who do not like big events: this one always attracts a big crowd. And be warned, everyone: you’ll definitely want to pace yourself. Tickets: $125 for non ZAP members.
Flights and the Winemakers' Dinner
On February 1st, 2013, the first event of the day is called Flights, a seminar-format wine tasting which includes speakers from Napa, Sonoma, Lodi and Mendocino counties, and takes place at the Fairmont Hotel. It kicks off at the barely civilized hour of 10:30 a.m. and goes until 1 p.m. Tickets: $75 for non ZAP members.
There are a few hours for a nap before that evening’s Winemakers Dinner, which starts at 5 p.m.. also at the Fairmont Hotel. This is a formal affair with a Casablanca theme. The evening includes a live and silent auction, the proceeds of which benefit ZAP. Tickets are $250 and include a ZAP membership.