Groups of eight had a total of 10 minutes to converse with individual winemakers, rotating through with their curiosity on fire.
Nearly 250 guests came to taste the wares of about 60 wineries with a keen eye on the latest zinfandel offerings.
Tasty eats on the premises included inventive sandwiches from Jimtown Store, a trio of pizzas from Bella Familia Wood Fired Pizzas, and refreshing treats from Three Twin Ice Cream.
One of the winemakers fielding questions posed during speed dating was Randle Johnson, winemaker for Artezin Wines, a brand produced by Napa Valley’s Hess Collection. Johnson said a hot topic was the definition of old vines.
“It’s a huge question,” Johnson said. “Everyone has their own definition of old vines. In my world an old vine is 50 years old or older.”
Johnson said he was proud to be pouring an old vine zinfandel – the Artezin 2013 Collins Vineyard Zinfandel. The grapes in this bottling were groomed from a vineyard on Limerick Lane that dates back to 1934.
The characteristic of an old vine zinfandel vineyard is that it has lower yields which translates into more intense flavors, said Rebecca Robinson, executive director of ZAP.
Johnson said he’s a fan of both new vine zin and old vine zinfandel.
“I tell people old vine zin is a genre of zinfandel,” the winemaker said. “Like your kids, you love them all. It’s hard to pick a favorite.”
Johnson referred to old vine zinfandels as “survivors” that have weathered tractors, insects and viruses.
“I’m 60 and I’m young compared to some of these vineyards,” Johnson said. “I’m humbled by them. We honor and respect these old vineyards.”
Nick Lyon, 22, was game to taste new vine and old vine zin. The bartender and server at Il Davide in San Rafael said he’s a fan of zins because they pair so well with meat and rich pasta dishes.
Lyon said he tasted 20-35 wines, but added that he was careful to spit.