Thursday, December 15, 2011


ZAP Zinfandel Festival

January 2012 will bring the 21st annual ZAP Zinfandel Festival to San Francisco.  It's a great event staged each year by Zinfandel Advocates and Producers, a non-profit organization devoted to the love of, and passion for, the wines of the Zinfandel grape.  The organizers came together in the belief that "Zinfandel deserved recognition as a highly respected varietal that could compete with the finest wines around the world," according to the ZAP website.

The four elements of the 2012 ZAP Zinfandel Festival are outlined here, and Now And Zin has tickets to the Grand Tasting on January 28, 2012 that you can win!  More on that at the end of the article. 

If you'd like to become a card-carrying Zinfandel Advocate, hit this link and join.  An Annual Advocate Membership is $44 and includes up to two people.

There are four events comprising the three-day ZAP Zinfandel Festival for 2012:

Epicuria is a walk-around exploration of food and Zin pairings.  50 wineries and their Zins will be paired with 50 of San Francisco's top epicurean creators working in the ZinKitchen.  You may want to skip lunch on this day, because you'll want to try them all.  Thursday January 26th from 6:00 - 9:00 p.m. at The Concourse, 635 8th Street at Brannan, San Francisco.  Tickets are $95 for ZAP members, $125 for non-members.

Flights: Forums of Flavor is an in-depth seminar-style tasting featuring themed flights of Zinfandels presented by the winemakers.  Plenty of insights into the true nature of Zinfandel are in store.  It's a one-of-a-kind tasting opportunity which fans of the variety should not miss.  Friday January 27th from 10:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. at the Westin St. Francis Hotel, Union Square, 335 Powell Street, San Francisco.  Tickets are $60 for ZAP members, $75 for non-members.

Winemakers' Dinner is a Las Vegas-style benefit.  Wines for the dinner are chosen by the winemakers, and you can take part in the auctions.  It's a glamorous event, so you are advised to dress to the nines.  Proceeds will benefit ZAP programming, education and Heritage Projects.  Friday January 27th from 5:00 - 10:00 p.m. at the Westin St. Francis Hotel, Union Square, 335 Powell Street, San Francisco.  Tickets are $225 and include an annual Advocate membership for two.

Grand Tasting: From A To Zin allows you to explore all things Zin, including hundreds of barrel samples and new releases.  Taste away and meet the winemakers while you find out how many of them have red hair.  Keep score on ZAP's ZinTracks map.  Saturday January 28th from 2:00 - 5:00 p.m. at The Concourse, 635 8th Street at Brannan, San Francisco.  Tickets are $49 for ZAP members, $59 for non-members and $69 at the door.

The 2012 ZAP Zinfandel Festival promises to further ZAP's mission - to celebrate the appreciation for American Zinfandel and its role as America's "Heritage Wine."

You can win a ticket to the Grand Tasting: From A To Zin from Now And Zin.  

We have been graciously provided with four tickets to the Saturday tasting, which will be given away by random drawing on January 16, 2012.  Enter the contest between now and January 15, 2012 by visiting the Now And Zin Wine Blog and adding your email address in the box labeled "SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL."  You will then be eligible to win, and you'll receive email notifications of new posts on the Now And Zin Wine Blog.  All entries must be made by January 15, 2012 at 11:59 p.m.  Four email addresses will be selected at random, and you will be notified if you are a winner on Monday, January 16th.  Only one entry per email address, please.  Duplicate entries will be thrown out.

Please enter only if you plan to attend the event in San Francisco, as the tickets can be claimed at the event only by you and are non-transferable.  Good luck!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Blood Of The Vines

Wine Goes To The Movies With

For the Trailers From Hell gang, nothing gets us in the mood for the holidays like a yuletide slasher movie.  "Black Christmas" was directed by Bob Clark in 1974.  Nine years later he would settle in to a more conventional view of the holiday season with "A Christmas Story."   Ralphie would have peed in his snowsuit had he seen this film.

When you answer the phone over the holidays, you'd better hope it's Grandma and not the homicidal maniac who phones it in before he does his dirty work.  Watch "Black Christmas," and you'll immediately get rid of all the Saran Wrap in the house and put that unicorn ornament away for next year.

The title makes one think a Blaxploitation movie is about to roll.  As a result, the name has been changed a couple of times.  It was to receive yet another name change for television airing, until the TV brass said, "Never mind - it's too scary for the small screen."

Horrifyingly, the movie was based on an actual string of Christmas murders in Quebec.  It was one of the first slasher flicks and it has all the elements of a great one.  Disturbing title?  Check.  Deranged killer?  Check.  Sorority house?  Check.  A variety of gruesome killings?  Check.  All we need now is some black wine.

For "Black Christmas," lets go with a very dark and very forceful wine - the black wine of Cahors.  The Cahors region, in South West France, is the only place where Malbec is still grown in the whole country.  It hasn't been without its struggles, either.  Phylloxera killed all the Cahors vineyards in the late 19th century and a horrible, deadly freeze in 1956 brutally murdered the replanted vines.  The strong, black wine of Cahors has been a favorite of many generations of royalty, dating back to the Roman Empire.  

Château Haut Monplaisir Prestige Cahors 2007 is a $20 version of the black wine of Cahors.  The inky Malbec shows a nose of meat on the hook and herbs on the black cherry flavor.

Also in the black:

Château du Cèdre Héritage Cahors 2009 - More inky, black Malbec with 10% Tannat. $15

Black Estate Wine - from New Zealand's Waipara Valley.

I'm Dreaming of a Black Christmas - holiday musings from the very funny Lewis Black


Here's a little video with some wine images from Southern California and the Central Coast.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


wine news

News reports show up from time to time about people stealing grapes.  Lots of grapes, like a vineyard full of grapes.  An AP story recently appeared, telling the tale of thieves in Germany harvesting grapes that weren't theirs.

They came in the dead of night to Germany's Pfalz wine region and hand picked rows upon rows of Riesling, Trollinger and Grauburgunder grapes.  This would be a huge financial loss any time, for any winery, but a late frost in May 2011 killed many grapes, so the ones that survived are the last hope for these winemakers.  Add in the fact that the remaining grapes are thought to be of extremely high quality, and it's a double whammy.  Also, most of these family-run wineries have no insurance that covers theft of grapes.

It's not unusual for harvesting to occur at night, so there would nothing overtly suspicious about seeing people with flashlights working the vines in overnight hours.  Some witnesses claimed later they did see people in the vineyards, but simply thought it was the usual harvest.

Some winemakers in the region are now clinging to ice wine as their last chance to salvage something from this vintage.  Grapes for ice wine are harvested when frozen, and the winemakers are keeping close watch on their vineyards until it's time to harvest them.  They know, however, that the criminals are watching closely, too.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Golden Road Point The Way IPA

Due to my "real job" schedule, I get very few chances to join in on a happy hour.  Recently, a meeting ran shorter than anticipated (!) and I found myself near Marie Callender's.  I strolled in to see if they could make this newfound hour a happy one.  They did.

Hopping onto a seat at the bar, I watch a football game on television between two college teams I don't care anything about - Northern Something University vs Eastern Something State.

Beers are $5 - that's happy - and I spy the magic letters on one of the tap handles:  I.P.A.  It's called Point The Way IPA, from Golden Road Brewing of Los Angeles.  Turns out it's an IPA lover's version of a light beer. 

The brew registers an abv number of 5.2%, fairly low when you know that IPAs generally run well over 6%.  Master brewer Jon Carpenter says this is the beer for which the brewery was founded.  They're a new kid on the beer block, with doors open just a 
couple of months at the time I am writing this. 

Point The Way IPA has a beautiful and rich amber color with an off-white head, shows citrus and flowers on the nose and tastes quite hoppy with a strong lemon note.  It's nice and creamy and a slightly bitter nuttiness flows into an extremely lengthy finish.  It's very refreshing and makes me wish I were having it in the backyard while barbecuing - even though it's dark out and quite chilly.  

I'm sure it will still be around when summer comes back.


The Now And Zin Wine Report is a five-times-a-week one minute feature on the world of wine.  Targeted to everyday wine consumers, the daily report contains information about wine in the news, wine tasting, pairing and recommendations, wine in popular culture and wine consumerism.

The feature is hosted by yours truly, Now And Zin's Randy Fuller.  
I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoy producing it.  Cheers!

Sunday, December 11, 2011


wine news

At the recent Wine Future in Hong Kong event, three noted wine experts looked into their crystal balls and spoke of changes on wine's horizon.

An article by Richard Siddle in Harper's Wine & Spirits Trade Review cites some oeno-prognostication from California winemaker Randall Grahm, wine critic Stephen Spurrier and Master of Wine Tim Atkin.

Grahm, the visionary head of California's Bonny Doon Vineyards, sees  winemakers going for a more nutritional approach.  Grahm envisioned wines in the future would have a "life force" element resulting from winemakers gaining an understanding of how to get the most from their soil.  This would be useful, according to Grahm, as a means of coping with climate change.

The panel presented a unanimous vote for wine regions around the Black Sea having enormous unrealized potential.  

Spurrier identified what he feels are the three best areas of opportunity for wine's future: Vermentino, Cabernet Franc and English sparkling wines.

Atkin branded Turkish wine as his pick for great growth, although he added that it's possible the greatest wine region worldwide has not yet been discovered.

Friday, December 9, 2011


Wine Goes To The Movies -
Blood Of The Vines
With Now And Zin Wine and Trailers From Hell

Now And Zin is pleased to announce a series of wine articles in conjunction with

The series is called “Blood Of The Vines,” and each Thursday on both the Trailers From Hell blog, From Hell It Came, and Now And Zin Wine, Randy Fuller presents a wine and movie pairing - in tongue-in-cheek fashion.

In case you don’t know about Trailers From Hell, it’s the brainchild of film director Joe Dante.  On the site, Joe and other movie “gurus” screen movie trailers and add some personal comments about the films in question.  It’s highly entertaining, and highly addictive.  Browse the library of titles and see for yourself - betcha can’t watch just one!

Many of the movie gurus are wine lovers as well as film lovers, so this pairing of two different parts of the blogosphere came easily.  We hope you find the pairings entertaining, too.

Trailers From Hell began as a haven for horror movie fans, hence the hellish blood references and preponderance of horror movie titles in the trailer library.  Over time, the site has broadened to include other types of Hollywood offerings besides the horror genre.  It is there, though - in monsters and mayhem - where the roots of Trailers From Hell remain.

Now And Zin has dabbled in mixing wine and movies before - “never mix, never worry” - and we’re starting to get a taste for it.  We’d love for you to check out “Blood Of The Vines” on the Now And Zin Wine Blog or the new Trailers From Hell blog, From Hell It Came, as wine goes to the movies.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Maine's wine industry is a tiny one, as is the case with many of the "other 47" American states.  Their 43,000 gallons per year production is ahead of only Montana in volume.  With only a handful of vineyards in the state, Maine's wine producers often rely on cold-weather hybrids or fruit other than grapes.  Grapes are also sourced from New York and California.  You are likely to find Maine wines made from cranberries or blueberries, or cider, made from apples.

Maine, unfortunately, led the nation by passing the first state law prohibiting the sale of alcohol except for "medicinal, mechanical or manufacturing purposes."   They are, to their credit, making up for that error.

Mead is also popular in Maine.  As we have learned in the Wine Country series, mead is wine made from honey, not grapes.  Not always sweet - as one might expect from a product made of honey - meads are produced using only honey, but are also produced using a mixture of honey and fruit.

Maine Mead Works operates out of Portland.  Portland is Maine’s largest city, with over 66,000 residents, but the Greater Portland metro area boasts a population of over 500,000.  One third of the people in Maine live near Portland.

Technology entrepreneur Ben Alexander founded Maine Mead Works in 2007 with the assistance of award-winning South African meadmaker Dr. Garth Cambray.  The meadery makes their meads using Maine wildflower honey and other locally-grown products.  Their meads are sold under the Honeymaker label, and the eight varieties all register a 12.5% abv number.

Honeymaker meads come in a variety of styles - Dry Mead, Blueberry, Semi Sweet, Apple Cyser, Cranberry, Lavender, Strawberry & Dry Hopped Mead.  They also do an Elderberry mead for the winter.  They recommend you enjoy their meads by the glass, as a mixer in a cocktail or as a secret ingredient in cooking.  Maine Mead Works provided me with two samples of their Honeymaker meads.

Honeymaker Apple CyserHoneymaker Apple Cyser is a blend of 84% apples and 16% honey.  It's a light golden color with a trace of efferevescence in the glass.   A very nice nose of apples and honey is no surprise.  A slight hint of caramel apple dipped in honey flutters beneath the fruit.  The caramel hint comes across on the apple-laden palate, too.  The cyser has a nice acidity and is quite refreshing.  They recommend a pairing with turkey or pork - sounds good to me - but it's born to pair with a cheese plate.  I find it really good with smoked cheese and almonds.

Honeymaker Dry MeadHoneymaker Dry Mead is 100% Maine wildflower honey.  It shows a pale greenish-gold hue in the glass and a nose offering an herbal quality right up front, with the notes of honey coming underneath.  It should be noted that the honey aroma is not sweet at all, and neither is the taste.  The mead’s palate is as dry as advertised.  The herbaceous quality found on the nose comes through as a flavor profile, too.  That taste becomes most prominent on the finish, where it lasts a good, long while.  There’s a fruity taste as well - a green apple component that stops just short of tartness - and the honey again plays a supporting role.  Pair it with shrimp, if you like, or a fruit salad chock full of herbs.  Frankly, though, this mead is great all by itself as an aperitif.  The lack of sweetness may take you by surprise, considering it is made from something sweet.  The taste reminds me a bit of white vermouth. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Blood Of The Vines - The Phantom Planet

You may not have seen this little slice of fifties sci-fi.  You probably didn't miss it.  Trailers From Hell guru Mick Garris says "The Phantom Planet" opened - and possibly closed - in a theater in La Mesa, California.  At least it was Academy-eligible, even though it was understandably left out of the Oscar nominations.  

If you can't find it, the trailer may be just as entertaining as the feature.  In fact, the "Let's all go to the snack bar" commercial may provide more bang for you viewing buck.

"The Phantom Planet" rocks along in Saturday-matinee fashion with fakey effects, ridiculously staged "man-in-space" scenes and comedic monster suits which, in another setting, may have actually been scary.  In other words, it's a near-perfect example of the kind of movies we so looked forward to on Fear Theater, Chiller Theater or whatever they called the Friday night late show on the television station where you grew up.

The alien monster from the Phantom Planet has a face which looks like a cross between Droopy and Donald Duck by way of The Outer Limits.  Maybe the fact that he comes from a planet that's really just a big rock - well, not all that big - has a lot to do with his ill temper.  A warning for the socially-impeded among us, there is some kissing.  It doesn't last long, however.  Sadly, it doesn't involve the alien. 

The wine for "The Phantom Planet" is a no-brainer.  Bogle Vineyards makes - for my paltry amount of money - some of the most enjoyable and affordable wines around.

Bogle's The Phantom red blend is mainly Zinfandel and Petite Sirah with a splash of Mourvèdre.  The $15 price tag means you have better than a ghost of a chance of enjoying some with "The Phantom Planet."

Other phantoms to try and see:

Phantom Rivers Wine - This Arroyo Grande producer is inspired by the coastal fog which helps give Central Coast wines their character.

Phantom Wines - A part-time winemaker with a Napa Valley Merlot/Cab blend.

Phantom Canyon Brewing Company - Colorado Springs is home to this brewery with everything from root beer to cocoa stout.


In the United States, California grabs the lion's share of attention when it comes to wine.  New York, Oregon and Washington get quite a bit of notice, too - but wine is produced in all fifty states in America.

What about the "other 46"?

Wine Country is a Now And Zin series spotlighting the wines of the "other" states.  The idea is to try wine from every state and write about the experience.  Along the way, we hopefully will learn about many different grape varieties from all the different American growing regions.

It should prove to be an interesting tour, and we hope you'll join us for all the whistle stops as the Now And Zin wine train makes its way across the nation.

By the way, if you are a winemaker in one of the "other 46" states, we'd love to hear from you about the grapes you use in your area, your winery and the challenges you may have encountered.  You can email me at  We're always ready for a great story about wine.  Check for Wine Country updates on the Now And Zin Wine Blog!

The Wine Country List:






There's a lot of California wine on Now And Zin!


Decadent Saint


















New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

North Dakota

Pointe Of View Winery



Rhode Island

South Dakota 

Strawbale Winery





Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Trenza Tinto

The Grand Californian Hotel is one of my favorite rides at Disneyland.  Right, it's not a ride, it's a hotel, but I find it a very enjoyable place to relax a bit after waiting in lines for the actual rides.  After 5:00, the Napa Rose restaurant is the place to go, but during the day it's the Hearthstone Lounge.  A really good Disneyland adventure involves more time here, less time in those lines.

I tried the Trenza Winery Tinto on a cool afternoon.  This San Luis Obispo County red blend is produced by the Niven Family of Edna Valley, the folks who bring you Baileyana, Tangent and Zocker wines.  Winemaker Christian Roguenant hails from France, but has a love for Spanish grape varieties and does not feel constrained by Old World winemaking rules.

Offered on the menu as a Tempranillo-Syrah blend, the Trenza Tinto is actually a mix of 35% Edna Valley Syrah, 31% Paso Robles Grenache, 22% Arroyo Grande Valley Tempranillo and 12% Mourvèdre from Paso Robles.  Aged 16 months in mainly French oak, this hearty red carries a 14.9% abv number.

The wine is quite dark in color, but the nose seems rather slight to me.  I do pick up nice cherry aromas with hints of oak spice.  The palate certainly isn't shy, showing huge blackberry flavors and spices.  Clove, black pepper and black licorice augment the fruit, and the mouthfeel is full.  It's a very smooth drink, with fine tannins and a nice acidity.  The long finish leaves hints of dark chocolate.

Monday, December 5, 2011


Night harvest

Grapes being harvested to make wine once conjured images of a tired crew of grape pickers laboring under the sweltering afternoon sun.  While that was the correct image once upon a wine, it's not anymore.  An article in USA Today described how grapes are picked these days.

About two-thirds of California's wine grape harvest is plucked from the grapevines in the dark of night, lit up like daytime by an array of 1,000-watt lights towed through the vineyard by a tractor.

There are quite a few benefits for harvesting grapes in overnight hours.  For one, winemakers like to take the grapes when it's cool, so the daytime heat won't have a chance to change the sugar level and affect the end product.

It's also greener to pick at night.  Grapes picked under the hot sun have to be refrigerated after picking, or put through some other process to bring their temperature back down.  When picked at night, that energy - and money - can be saved.

The people who pick the grapes don't mind getting out of bed in the middle of the night to go to work - it beats working in what might be temperatures of 100 degrees or more during the afternoon.

The lights which are moved along the rows of grapes are similar to the ones construction crews on the highways use for night work.  Some vineyards are now moving past that, giving the pickers head lamps to wear so they can illuminate their own workspace.

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Sunday, December 4, 2011


Donald Trump

Virginia's Kluge Winery has come under new management.  Businessman Donald Trump and his son Eric now head the respected estate winery after Donald snapped it up after it went bankrupt.  In a report from a television station in Charlottesville, Virginia, Dannika Lewis says Eric - Trump The Younger - will be the president of the winery.  The facility will operate under the new name of Trump Vineyard Estates.

The father-son team plans to bring the winery back from bankruptcy by utilizing 100% Virginia grapes and a staff which will retain many of the people who know the estate vineyard best, including former owner Patricia Kluge.  The winery's website now sports a big picture of Eric, out in the vineyard.  Presumably, his office will have a nice view of that vineyard.

The Trumps plan to put Virginia wine on the national map through nationwide distribution.  If they use Trump's chain of hotels for this purpose, they could be on the right path.  There is some speculation as to whether or not the winery can attain that high profile using only Virginia grapes, but time will tell.

Trump's involvement with the winery will no doubt bring more recognition to Virginia wine, and many are hoping his success will lift the wine industry statewide.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011


Ancient Peaks Renegade

Nearly every wine lover has some favorite producers, a wineries you turn to when you want either "tried and true" or "pleasantly surprised."  One of mine is Ancient Peaks Winery in Santa Margarita, California, about 20 miles south of Paso Robles at the foot of the Santa Lucia Mountain range.

It was indeed a pleasant surprise to open the box and find that they had sent a bottle of their 2009 Renegade red blend for me to try.  This may read more like a heart on my sleeve than a full disclosure, but so be it.  I like the AP folks, and I like the wines they make.

Renegade is made from grapes grown in Ancient Peaks' estate Margarita Vineyard.  The winery's press release claims its historic site - the Santa Margarita Ranch, near Paso Robles, California - has played host to missionaries, gunslingers, roughriders and outlaws.  The legacy of this varied cast of characters provided the inspiration for the name.

I've written before in Now And Zin about the Santa Margarita Vineyard and its wonderful terroir.  The wines made from its grapes have never failed to impress me, and are among my favorite California wines.

The varieties used in Renegade - 46% Syrah, 31% Malbec and 23% Petit Verdot - give the promise of a substantial and complex wine.  The individual lots were aged in oak barrels, 35% of which use new oak.  The oak is 60% French and 40% American.  The wine is aged for 18 months in these conditions.  Ancient Peaks Renegade brings a 14.5% abv level - a little below standard issue for the region - and just over 1,000 cases were produced.  The wine retails for $23 per bottle.

The nose shows big blackberry aromas, along with coffee, black cherry and a waft of black olives.  The second night the bottle was open, a note of tar made itself known.
On the palate, the flavor of plums is joined by a meaty characteristic and firm tannins. The savory aspect increases after a day’s rest.  The wine displays a vary dark and earthy fruit expression, which isn’t surprising considering the grape varieties used.