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On the Right (Zin)Track

Not long ago I took my wife to one of the many trade wine tastings I get invited to pretty much every week. Importers, distributors, regional associations – they all do it the same way: Rent out a big space; set up rows and rows of tables cluttered with wine bottles and one or two pourers stationed behind each; and invite everyone under the sun to come in and squeeze into the aisles and push each other out of the way for a taste of this or that.

“How do you do this every week?” my wife asked me. I’ve long since shrugged it off as a hazard of the trade. You take a few elbows to the ribs, see one or two people you’d been meaning to catch up with, see twice as many you’d managed to avoid for months and spit a lot of unpalatable and brilliant wine alike before staggering back to the office and pretending to work for the rest of the afternoon. And at the biggest importer portfolio tastings, you wander around as if you’re lost in the Tokyo subway. Even a map would do you no good whatsoever.

However, I’m actually excited to attend the ZAP Zinfandel grand tasting in San Francisco this January for the reason that the organizers have come up with a very simple, elegant solution to the problem of finding your way through a ginormous wine venue packed with thirsty people: ZinTracks.

Want to stick with all the Zins from a specific appellation, such as Dry Creek or Mendocino? Follow the ZinTrack in the tasting book you’re handed as you walk through the door. Same for if you only want to try Zins under $10. Or only organic wines. Or only wines made by women. Or only wines made by family-owned companies. Or wines made by people of a certain hair color – or with no hair, for that matter.

Admittedly, some of this is a little weird. Maybe Larry David only likes Zins made by the bald community, but hey, it’s San Francisco. It’s got to have at least a little weird, right? Of course, the same could be said for only wanting to try Zins that are blended with other varieties, such as Syrah, Petite Sirah or … Mataro, Alicante Bouschet and Black Malvoisie, whatever those are. They sound like models of early-‘80s Croatian cars.

The point is, however, that I’ve never wanted to go to a massive wine tasting for 10,000 people. Now I actually do, given that there’s a sensible method of guiding me to the wines I might want to try. Even the one that, perhaps, is made by a bald, female winemaker who’s blending her $10 Zin with grapes that sound like cars driven by Eastern European drug dealers.

Thanks to ZinTracks, I will find that wine – without taking an elbow to the kidney on my way there.

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