Getting Zapped in Europe


      There’s a great organization called ZAP, for Zinfandel Advocates & Producers, which not only promotes Zinfandel grapes and wines, but also puts on some extraordinary wine cruises around the world with help from Food & Wine Trails Epicurean Tours. Kathy and I were honored to be presenters on last summer’s coastal cruise from Copenhagen, Denmark, to Lisbon, Portugal.
     We were joined by an enthusiastic contingent of Alameda’s finest citizens and wine consumers, along with about 80 other Zinfandel enthusiasts. The cruise visited many ports including stops in Norway, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain and, finally, Portug, a canal trip with the head cheesemaker of one of Amsterdam’s finest cheese houses, Reypenaer (
     On the canal trip, we boarded a canal boat that barely fit under the canal bridges and promptly faced a bevy of seven giant lumps of different colored Gouda cheese per table along with some very elegant wine glasses. All this at 10:00 in the a.m. We proceeded to have a great tour along the Amsterdam canals with this seven-cheese Gouda tasting accompanied by a great Spanish Rioja and, finally, a rich Portuguese port.
     We finished with a great lunch at a restaurant that was more than 400 years old and bottled its own dessert wine.
The cruise ship, Insignia, of course had no shortage of fun and activities including our world famous Zinfandel Seminars, which coincidentally happen when we have a day at sea.
      I personally participated in some usual ship activities, such as the daily putting contest, where every day some senior citizen kicked my butt. I, however, did win some ping pong games to reclaim some honor along the way.
      One of the highlights was our stop in Bordeaux, France. This only occurs after the ship sails down the Gironde River for about two hours from the Atlantic Ocean. Bordeaux itself is a very vibrant town and warrants some time; however, we had groups heading to vineyards and châteaux. Our group wound up in the Château at Pichon Lalande for an elegant meal with a knockout wine tasting of the finest wines of the property. We were very impressed because we were hosted in the most beautiful wing of the château.
      As we proceeded down the coast of Spain and Portugal, the weather got fantastic, and our visit to Oporto was very special with a visit to the Taylor port folks, where they showed us how to open a bottle of old port without disturbing the cork. The method consists of a heated branding iron–type instrument that fits around the neck of the bottle. After you add cold water, the bottle top breaks off. I’m not sure it’s necessary, but it actually makes a pretty good show.
      We proceeded to a great group lunch with local fish, shellfish, duck, salami, Serrano ham, olives and copious amounts of Douro Red and Douro White, which are wines made out of traditional port varieties but done in a dry style and I think have a good future going for them.
      More to come in the future on the beautiful Douro valley dry red wines and the dessert wines of Setubul.
      Meanwhile, learning more about Zin is easy with ZAP. ZAP is a nonprofit organization, its website ( says, that has 5,000 advocates members across the globe, hundreds of associate members and more than 250 producers of Zinfandel. Its goal is to promote American Zin and ZAP does so with events like an annual festival in January, events in other cities, a newsletter and other organized opportunities like the cruises. A big deal this year is ZAP’s 20th Anniversary Festival — 20 Years of Zinspiration — on Jan. 27–29, 2011, at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center and the Westin St. Francis hotel. There’s an upcoming cruise, too, that sails April 26–May 6 from Rome to Venice. If Zin’s your thing, you won’t want to miss out.


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