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Proof that Zinfandel Can Go Very Well with Food

I hear a lot of people say that Zinfandel isn’t good food wine. Perhaps they are drinking the wrong Zinfandel. The fact is that traditional Zinfandel is an excellent wine to drink with a meal. It offers attractive fruit flavors with moderate body and acidity. And when the Zinfandel is blended with compatible grapes, such as Petite Sirah, Sangiovese, and Carignane, the wine is more complex but is still not so delicate that a person need be concerned about overwhelming it with hearty food.

It’s true that these days there are some Zinfandels which are very high in alcohol, heavily oaked and dominated by flavors of over-ripe, even raisined, fruit. As Alton Brown would say, that’s not good eats. Frankly, it’s not necessarily good wine either. But we should not dismiss a whole category of wines based on one subset of its bottlings.

Good Zinfandel is a versatile partner for good food. Its fruit-focused flavors vary based on the region in which it’s grown and the way it’s treated at the winery. Do you want blackberry to go with game, cherry for duck or strawberry for chicken? You can get any of those and more by selecting the right bottle. If you’ve got spicy food, look for a Zinfandel with rich fruit but relatively low alcohol. Tomatoes are notorious for being tough on wine. And most people think only of white wines for seafood. But, if you’re having cioppino (seafood, tomato AND spice) Zinfandel is your wine. And it's fine with grilled salmon too.

But, to paraphrase Dante, the proof of the pairing is in the tasting. Fortunately, there is an easy way to learn more about pairing Zinfandel with food. It’s a learning experience that will delight your taste buds. Go to the Good Eats & Zinfandel Pairing tomorrow night in San Francisco. Part of this weekend's Zinfandel Festival, it is dinner, drinks, live entertainment, and wine education all at the same time.


Good Eats and Zinfandel is a walk-around tasting/grazing. More than fifty Zinfandel wines will be available for tasting. Each will be paired with a complementary dish from a good Bay Area restaurant. There will also be live cooking demonstrations.

You can see the full list of pairings, and buy tickets, at the ZAP website. (ZAP members can purchase discounted tickets.) Scanning through the list has me salivating. Here are a few of the pairings you should make a special point of trying (starting with light dishes and moving toward hearty):

Alexander Valley Vineyards with Sweet Potato Souffle Timbale from Flavor Bistro
Starry Night Winery with Truffled Porcini Tortellinin fro Il Davide Restaurant
McCay Cellars 2007 Truluck with Mushroom Risotto Cake from Wine and Roses
D-Cubed Cellars with Beet, Gaeta Olive and Ricotta Crostini from A16 Restaurant
Gamba Vineyards with Green Tomato BLT from Estate Restaurant
Storybook Mountain Vineyards with Beef Tartare on Crostone from Rose Pistola
Bedrock Wine Company with Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo from Town Hall
J Dusi with Corn and Shrimp Fritters from First Crush Restaurant
Grgich Hills Estate with Bocadillo of Smoked Pork, Romesco, Olive Tapenade and Idiazabal Cheese from Solbar
Rancho Zabaco with Pan-Seared Kobe Flat-Iron with Huckleberry Jam from Equus
Three Wine Company with Zinfandel Risotto of Duck Confit, Mushrooms and Bacon from One Market Restaurant
McCay Cellars Reserve 2009 with Smoked Duck Breast, Cranberry Relish and Dark Chocolate Sauce from Wine and Roses
Scott Harvey Wines with Black Garlic Sauce Beef from Chef Tyler Stone
McCay Cellars 2007 Jupiter with Beef Short Rib, Juniper Berry, Cloves, and Aged Cheddar Polenta from Wine and Roses
Sausal Winery with Short Ribs in Chili-Zinfandel Sauce with Parsnips and Blue Cheese on Potato Crisp from Q Restaurant

With at least 15 “can’t miss” pairings — and there are more — Good Eats & Zinfandel is itself a “can’t miss.” I’ll see you there!

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