January 2011

I am thrilled to announce the winner of two tickets to ZAP’s 20th Anniversary Grand Zinfandel Tasting, the biggest Zinfandel tasting in the world each year, and what many feel to be the crown jewel big event of the entire 3 day, 4 event Zinfandel Festival.

Earlier this week, I announced the ticket giveaway contest, writing

To be in consideration for the pair of tickets to the Grand Zinfandel Tasting, name a Mendocino winery that produced a Coro Zin blend in 2010. Leave your submission as a comment to this post. Contest entry submissions will be accepted through noon California time, this Thursday, Jan 20, 2011.

I spread the word using facebook and twitter, and received entries from eight folks, and correct qualifying entries from seven.

For the record, the 11 wineries of Coro Mendocino are Brutocao, Mendocino Vineyards, Fetzer, Golden, Graziano, McDowell, McFadden, McNab Ridge, Pacific Star, Parducci, and Philo Ridge Vineyards. The 2007 vintage was released on Saturday, June 26, 2010 at the Little River Inn on the Mendocino Coast. Coro Mendocino wines from all 11 wineries were poured that evening.

When there were only 6 correct entries, I was going to use a die to determine a winner, each die side representing a contest entrant.

I went looking for my 7 sided die when I received the, just barely in time, 7th correct qualifying entry; but I don’t have a 7 sided die.

From my son’s room, I did find a set of various energy cards from Pokemon, the card game. I chose 7 different energy cards, one to represent each contestant, directly from cellophane packaging. The contest instruments of randomization could not be more fair, more even.

These are the entrants, their qualifying winery, and their energy card:

Robin Miller – Golden Vineyards – Psychic Enrgy Card

Gina Braden – Brutocao Cellars – Lightning Energy Card

Sara Raffel – Fetzer – Darkness Energy Card

Michael McMillan – Graziano – Water Energy Card

Elizabeth McLachlan – Brutocao, McFadden, Parducci – Metal Energy Card

Ian Karch – Pacific Star Winery – Fighting Energy Card

Brendan McGuigan – McFadden – Grass Energy Card

I shuffle cut the cards for ten minutes, chose one at random and it was the Metal Energy Card.

That means Elizabeth McLachlan is the winner of the pair of tickets to ZAP’s Grand Zinfandel Tasting. Congratulations to Elizabeth, and thanks to everyone who entered and made this a fun contest.

Tickets are still available for purchase to attend the Grand Zinfandel Tasting at Fort Mason in San Francisco on January 29th. Tickets are not available for all Zinfandel Festival events, having sold out, so I would urge anyone considering purchase to hurry and do so.



Yesterday, I visited Campovida, home to the wines of the Magnanimus Wine Group, to drop off a package.

While there, even without a walk through the gardens, I was wowed by the serenity and beauty, the magic of the place…again.

I took a couple of pictures, sort of abstract for being close ups cropping out background information or clues. I thought of it as a deconstructed view of my visit. Enjoy.

Last week, I gave away two tickets to the Thursday night, January 27, 2011 Good Eats and Zinfandel Pairing event, kicking off the four event, three day Zinfandel Festival in San Francisco, thrown by ZAP, Zinfandel Advocates and Producers, each year. The lucky winner was, and is, Nancy Howard Cameron Iannios.

This week, you have a chance to win a pair of tickets to the final event of the Zinfandel Festival, the Grand Tasting on Saturday, January 29, 2011, 2:00-5:00PM at Ft Mason’s Herbst and Festival Pavilions in San Francisco. The pair of tickets is valued at $140.

With around 1,000 Zinfandels being poured, learning to spit instead of drink is highly recommended, and because Zin is a big bold high alcohol content, black pepper spiced fruit bomb of a wine, expect some palate fatigue.

It is best to plan ahead, figure which dozen or two Zinfandels you want to taste, then follow your plan – allowing for an extra taste or two to take advantage of wines receiving positive buzz from the crowd. Taste, spit, cleanse palate with bread, repeat. Stop while still sober. Enjoy.

I decided to focus more on the wines from where I live this year in my writing. Sadly, the only four Mendocino County wineries pouring their Zinfandels, so far, at this year’s Grand Zinfandel Tasting are: Brutocao, Claudia Springs, Edmeades, and McNab Ridge. I hope to find wineries from outside the area pouring wines made from grapes from within the county.

I would love to see more wineries from the county pouring, and bringing along their Coro as well.

This year, ZAP is allowing Zinfandel blends to be poured where the companion grapes are ones found in traditional field blends, and these wines will be called Heritage blends. Coro Mendocino is kind of a Mendocentric Heritage, where a participating winery makes a Zin blend, choosing what they feel are the best grapes for blending from Mendocino County’s vineyards to make the best bottle possible. No two Coro are alike, winery to winery, vintage to vintage, but they are all stellar.

To be in consideration for the pair of tickets to the Grand Zinfandel Tasting, name a Mendocino winery that produced a Coro Zin blend in 2010. Leave your submission as a comment to this post. Contest entry submissions will be accepted through noon California time, this Thursday, Jan 20, 2011. I will randomly pick, and announce, a winner Thursday afternoon or evening.

Good Luck!


I was contacted by the folks who make sure that Korbel CA Champagne, and Bollinger Champagne, separately but within a day of each other, about running a piece related to bubbly as we get closer to Valentine’s Day.

Thanks to the marketing folks at Brown-Forman and Terlato Wines, that is exactly what will be happening. Owing to my commitment to focus on wines from Mendocino County this year, I hope to include a bubbly from either Roederer Estate in Philo or Rack & Riddle from Hopland too.

Brut Rosé will be my focus for the upcoming piece. I just wanted to give you all a “heads up” so you could start thinking ahead about the perfect romantic beverage for Valentine’s Night.

For any of my readers in southern California, pay attention, there is a huge wine event this Saturday, January 15, 2011 at Barker Hanger in Santa Monica Pinot Days. Over 100 top domestic Pinot Noir producers, and a couple from outside the US, will be featured. This is huge.

In fairness, the event is called Pinot Days, not Pinot Day, so here is a more full schedule of events:

Winemakers “Table Hop” Dinner at Wine House Upstairs, Thursday, January 13, 2011 6:00-10:00PM, Wine House, 2311 Cotner Avenue, Los Angeles, CA $90 – Enjoy a sit down five course Pinotcentric meal created by Chef Todd Barrie to pair with 10 delicious Pinot Noirs. The Winemakers will move seats with each course, so diners can experience ten true characters.

Pinot Days “Meet the Winemakers” Night at West Restaurant at Hotel Angeleno, Friday, January 14, 2011 6:00-9:00PM, West Restaurant at Hotel Angeleno, 170 N. Church Lane, Los Angeles, Penthouse Level, 17th Floor $28 – Angeleno’s West will prepare small appetizer Pinot focused food pairings to go with the Pinot Noir poured by the winemakers from Fog Crest Vineyard, Thomas Fogarty Winery, Derby Wine Estate, Big Basin Wine, Cuvaison Estate Wines, and Willamette Valley Vineyards.

Pinot Days Pinots and Grilled Cheese at Wine House, Friday, January 14, 2011 8:15-10:00PM, Wine House, 2311 Cotner Avenue, Los Angeles, CA $25 – Chef Todd Barrie will create gwine guerrillourmet versions of the classic comfort food to pair with some of the country’s best Pinot Noir.

VIP Regional Tours and EARLY ACCESS to Grand Festival, Saturday, January 15, 2011 12:00-2:00PM Barker Hanger, 3021 Airport Avenue, Suite 203, Santa Monica, CA $100 – Enter the Grand Festival two hours early, enjoy a winemaker guided tasting tour of different Pinot Noir regions – including Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, Santa Maria Valley, and Santa Rita Hills – and spend the last 30 minutes of your bonus two hours tasting from any of the 300 wines in a nearly private opportunity.

2ND Annual Pinot Days Southern California Grand Festival Public Tasting, Saturday, January 105, 2011 2:00-6:00PM Barker Hanger, 3021 Airport Avenue, Suite 203, Santa Monica, CA $60This is it, this is the biggie! The Pinot Days Grand Tasting will feature over 125 top producers of Pinot Noir, from the Anderson Valley to the Santa Rita Hills, from the Willamette Valley to the Russian River Valley – every important growing region will be represented. Taste Pinot Noir from the deservedly heralded 2007 vintage. Nearly 400 wines will be poured Saturday, and you may be able to share a few words with your favorite winemakers as the pour taste after taste for a happy group of wine loving attendees. Join the fun, this is THE event in Southern California for Pinot Noir lovers.

The folks at Pinot Days have given me a discount code to share with my readers. Enter JOHNWINESC11 when prompted as you order tickets for any of the events, and you will enjoy a 10% discount on your Pinot Days event tickets.

For more information, and to order your Pinot Days event tickets, with your JohnOnWine 10% Discount, visit the Pinot Days Website.


Nancy Cameron Iannios has won two tickets to the ZAP Good Food & Eats Pairing Event Thursday, January 27, 2011in San Francisco.

Nancy’s BBQ Cowboy Pizza Topped Herbed Pizza Crust recipe won Nancy a $280 value pair of tickets to the first night’s event at this year’s Zinfandel Festival.

I hope Nancy and her husband Aris can get some time off and come down for the event; but if they can’t attend, I know Nancy has many friends in the area, and the tickets will be well used. Congratulations to my loyal reader, and, far more important to me, my good friend, Nancy Cameron Iannios.

50 Zin producers last year meant over 150 wines, paired with 50 delicious food treats, an incredible kickoff event. Thanks to Zinfandel Advocates and Producers for making these tickets available for me to give away.

Look out for another contest for another Zinfandel Festival event, where I’ll be giving out another pair of tickets.

You can also visit ZAP’s website for more information or to order Zinfandel Festival event tickets.


Not long ago, I received some sample wines to taste, and I opened a bottle to pair with some pasta I made for dinner recently.

The wine I opened was the Wine Guerrilla 2009 Coffaro Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Sonoma County $40.

Admittedly, my pasta was somewhat pedestrian, but the wine kicked my pasta right in the meatballs. Really delicious, almost a thick red vine of endless juicy, jammy fruit flavors. Like a trip to Jamba Juice for the best berry smoothie in memory, this Zinfandel was accessible, had good depth, and was very drinkable. Nice balanced acid, providing structure for all of the fruit to show, and inviting another taste, and another.

100 plus year old vines, 84% Zinfandel, 16% Petite Sirah; 15% alc;  100% go buy some. It made my pasta far more enjoyable. Only 145 cases produced.

Wine Guerrilla will be pouring their delicious wines at ZAP’s Zinfandel Festival Grand Tasting, January 29th too!



Yesterday, I wrote about the three day, four event Zinfandel Festival in San Francisco January 27-29, 2011 put on by ZAP, Zinfandel Advocates & Producers.


ZAP has made a pair of tickets available for me to offer to you for two of the events. First, we will be offering one pair of $140 tickets (prize value: $280) to Good Eats & Zinfandel Pairing at Herbst Pavilion at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco Thursday, January 27, 2011 from 6:00 – 9:00 PM.

One winner will receive the pair of tickets. Getting to the event is on you, but for my many readers who live in northern California, that shouldn’t present any difficulty.

I wrote yesterday about tasting Carol Shelton’s acclaimed Karma Zin and Black Magic Zin paired with Smoked Elk Loin with Raspberry Compote on a Manchego Cheese Crisp AND Espresso BBQ pulled Pork with Raspberry Salsa and Point Reyes Blue Cheese on Focaccia Crostini prepared by the chefs from Nectar Wine Lounge and Restaurant; and imagining at least 49 additional delicious wine and food pairings, each intended to showcase how well Zinfandel works in the kitchen, all at ZAP’s Good Eats & Zinfandel Pairing event.

I mention Carol Shelton often. I sold her wines for years and developed a “house palate,” I am predisposed to like what she makes; but liking, or loving, Carol’s wines is easy. Carol was the top award winning winemaker in the nation over a dozen years, and she is recognized as one of the nation’s best Zinfandel winemakers.

Carol Shelton recently wrote about the ZAP Good Eats & Zinfandel Pairing, “This is the BEST ZAP event—less crowds, best wines and yummy foods to try, and music to boot!”

I think each of the four events of the Zinfandel Festival are perfect, each different, but each exactly as it should be. Easily, however, the most enjoyable of the events is Thursday night’s Good Eats & Zinfandel Pairing.

50 wineries will be pouring Zinfandel, and 50 restaurants will be providing food created to pair with Zinfandel; Chocolate, mushroom, cheese, pork shoulder, pork belly, house made bacon, spicy beeftacos, al Pastor tacos, and lamb will be featured in some of this year’s dishes.

ZAP has provided the recipe from one of my favorite dishes from last year, Ruth’s Chris Lamb Lollipops drizzled with a Zinfandel Brown Sauce:


1 rack Domestic Lamb (yields 7-8 lollipops)

Sea Salt

Fresh Ground Pepper

Generously season lamb rack with salt & pepper. Sear both sides of rack on a hot cast iron griddle or skillet for 2-3 minutes per side. Then place in 350 degree pre- heated oven for approximately 12 minutes for Medium Rare (internal temp of 125). Remove from oven and let rest for about 5 minutes. Then slice between the bones to create individual lollipops. Arrange on serving platter and generously drizzle with Zinfandel Brown Sauce. Garnish with fresh thyme.


Yield: 1 cup

1/2 oz. Olive Oil

2 Tablespoons Onion, finely diced

1 Teaspoon Chopped Fresh Garlic

1/2 Teaspoon Whole Black Peppercorns

1 Sprig Fresh Thyme

1/2 Cup of Your Favorite Zinfandel

1 Cup Veal Demi Glaze (available at Whole Foods and other specialty food stores)

Place saucepan on medium/high heat. Add oil to heat, then add chopped onion and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent, about 2 minutes. Be careful not to burn garlic. Then add black peppercorns, fresh thyme, and zinfandel. Cook until wine is reduced by 1/2. Add Demi glace and heat just until it is melted. Remove from heat, strain through cheese cloth. Keep warm until needed.

I hope your appetite has been whetted, and your creative juices are flowing, because here is what you need to do to win the pair of tickets: visit the ZAP page dedicated to the Good Eats & Zinfandel Pairing event, take a look at the list of wineries that will be pouring their Zinfandels, but take your time as you take in the foods being prepared for the event, and follow the link to look at recipes for five of the dishes being served.

Now it is your turn, clicking “Leave a Comment” at the top of this post, leave a recipe for a delicious dish that will pair well with Zinfandel. Recipe entries will be accepted through noon here in California on next Tuesday, January 11, 2011. You have one week to enter the contest. The recipe can be inspired by something you have previously seen or tasted, but the recipe must be original to you – recipes from your grandmother are acceptable, even recommended, JohnOnWine loves grandma’s cooking. I will look at the entries, and privately assign each a score from 1 to 10, based on how well I think it would pair with Zinfandel, and how inspired I am to make it myself. A bonus point will be awarded if you send a picture by email to JohnCesano@aol.com, so the highest score I will give an entry is 11 points.

I will not be posting scores, so don’t be shy about entering your recipe; but I will post the winner’s recipe next Wednesday, January 12, 2011, and the lucky winner will win the two Good Eats & Zinfandel Pairing tickets.

Tickets need not be won, they are also available for purchase, and this is a very worthwhile event to attend if you are able.

A year ago, last January, I wrote a decent piece announcing the three day Zinfandel Festival put on each year by ZAP, Zinfandel Advocates and Producers. Well, the new calendar brings us to the 20th Anniversary edition of the Grand Zinfandel Tasting.

The dates of this years Zinfandel Festival, themed 20 Years of Zinspiration, run January 27-29, 2011.

Good Eats and Zinfandel Pairing kicks the Zinfandel Festival off in grand style Thursday, January 27, 2011, at Ft. Mason’s Herbst Pavilion in San Francisco from 6:00-9:00 PM. At least 50 top Zinfandel producing wineries will pair their most delicious offerings with food created by 50 of the Bay Area’s top restaurants and purveyors of tasty morsels.

Imagine tasting Carol Shelton’s acclaimed Karma Zin and Black Magic Zin paired with Smoked Elk Loin with Raspberry Compote on a Manchego Cheese Crisp AND Espresso BBQ pulled Pork with Raspberry Salsa and Point Reyes Blue Cheese on Focaccia Crostini prepared by the chefs from Nectar Wine Lounge and Restaurant. Now imagine at least 49 additional delicious wine and food pairings, each intended to showcase how well Zinfandel works in the kitchen.

This is the ultimate tasting event.

Flights! Stories From The Vineyard at the Westin St. Francis on Friday, January 28, 2011 from 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM is a seated tasting led by top vineyardists and winemakers.

This year, Joel Peterson of Ravenswood will speak about the Old Hill Vineyard, David Gates of Ridge Vineyards will speak about Lytton Springs Vineyard, Janell Dusi of J Dusi Winery will speak about Dusi Vineyard, and Steve Tylicki of Steele Wines will speak about DuPratt Vineyard, each leading us on a liquid tasting of that vineyard. Terroir and blending choices are sure to be touched on as stories are told and passions shared.

This was the event I learned the most at last year; although sitting for an hour at lunch after Flights! with Joel Peterson and Morgan Twain-Peterson by pure chance, listening to them share their knowledge, passion, and experiences, was a special treat for me.

Evening With the Winemeakers Benefit Live Auction and Dinner Friday night, January 28, 2011 from 5:00 – 10:00 PM at the Westin St. Francis is your chance to play dress up and enjoy a sumptious meal paired with wines from 27 participating Zinfandel producing wineries.

I have not attended this event, but I have heard that is a wonderful evening for attendees.

Grand Zinfandel Tasting at Herbst and Festival Pavilions, Ft. Mason Center, San Francisco on Saturday, January 29, 2011 from 2:00 – 5:00 PM, with and extra early hour for ZAP members only, is the big daddy of Zinfandel tastings. Roughly 200 wineries show up and pour their Zinfandels. With each winery pouring from one to a dozen Zinfandels, most in the three to five range, there are more Zinfandels to taste than is humanly possible.

In what will likely be an annual posting, I urge you to attend this event. Zinfandel is California’s wine, which pretty much makes it America’s wine (written with apologies to Oregon, Washington, Virgina, and Alaskan wineries not producing quality Zinfandel). The event is as big, as serious while being fun, as the wine itself.

Tickets, and more information, are available through ZAP.