Madame de Pompadour wasn’t talking about ZAP, the annual (and infamous) Zinfandel Advocate and Producers festival, when she said “Après nous, le Déluge,” but no other citation summons the decadence and existential ache that defines the experience. Though de Pompadour was making a splash with the crimson humor, I cannot help transubstantiating wine and blood, seeing as I transfused about six quarts of zin this past weekend at ZAP. I am a zinfandel infidel. I’m going to Hell in a wine barrel, a single cycloptic eye peering through the bunghole as I drift aloft the River Styx to my damnation. And it was worth every drop.
Hosted at San Francisco’s Fort Mason, the yearly bacchanal was once described to me as “Burning Man for winos,” but without the whirlwinds of playa dust. And more wine. Oceans, in fact. I cannot tell if I was baptized or drowned – or both. My colleagues-in-arms and I were led on this misadventure by Christopher Sawyer, “sommelier to the stars” and one of several super-soms who, having moderated a popular panel, had reign of the place. We were joined by Sacramento Bee wine and TV scribe Rick Kushman, a nobleman among journos and the only, I know, who navigates his career with a wine glass in one hand and a remote in the other.
Kushman and I spotted several trends at the shindig, among them evolution of wine marketing into beer marketing given the seemingly sudden sexualization of their products (not to deny Dionysus his due props, of course). Consider the representative of V-Twin Vineyards and her skin-tight T-shirt that suggestively read “wine rack,” (brilliant) or the 20-something woman donned in a hula girl outfit, apparently pimped by her mother of all people, to raise awareness of an otherwise flaccid brand.
Another trend worthy of comment was the sheer amount of wine glasses that met their end on the pavilion’s unforgiving concrete floor – each followed by the collective hurrah of 10,000 sympathizers. Great brain Scott Newton, another of our “coalition of the swilling,” observed the increasing frequency of the “glass breakage events” by saying “that there was an asymptotic relationship to the pause between them, meaning that the pause between breaks was approximately being cut in half after each incident, or tending rapidly and discernibly towards zero.” Newton was later kind enough to direct me to Wikipedia wherein I learned that “an asymptote of a real-valued function y = f(x) is a curve which describes the behavior of f as either x or y tends to infinity.” (Thanks, Newton, now I need another glass of wine).
Kushman and I smuggled Newton into the press area dubbed the “Zin Zone,” where the bottles lined tables like toy soldiers. They were soon dead soldiers, thanks to me and a loose contingency of wine bloggers twittering on the periphery. Among them was Sonoman Michael Wangbickler, the astute oenophile behind CavemanWines.com, who was kind enough to take me into his clan for a spell while I was separated from mine (no one wants to be alone in a crowd of thousands, least of all when you need someone to lean on – literally). Later, when my eyes met a pair of wines on the table, I realized that I was with my clan, at least metaphysically. One of my brothers is named Shannon and there, half-empty was a bottle of Shannon Ridge from Lake County. Next to it was a bottle of Guglielmo from Santa Clara County, where my brother-in-law Alan Dewitt is a winemaker. Mercifully, both kept me company until Sawyer, et al, returned and Wangbickler was kind enough not to blog about the man saying “Hey, bro,” to a pair of bottles. He didn’t hear them return the salutation. I did.