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I received two e-mails about Zinfandel from Napa producers within the space of a few days. One offering said, “There is this inescapable fact that Zin grapes taste really good, and the resulting wines, can often be transcendent!” The other proposed that, “Our Favorite Summer Wine is Zinfandelicious!”  Herein lies the Jekyll and Hyde nature of the varietal in our culture.

I really like that Zinfandel has a real people, no BS, air about it. A grape and a wine for those who like to drink something tasty and don’t need a masters in fruit sciences or a lengthy ‘educator’ lecture to go with their bottle. A lot of Zinfandel is consumed in that casual part of your life, the European way, the one that we all claim we want to emulate in the new American lifestyle.

Is there a Napa Valley resurgence of Zintrest beyond the perennial Biale, Turley, Tofanelli, and their ilk? It feels like some Napa Valley producers have realized that they have priced their Cabernet Sauvignons, and most other Bordeaux varietals, into unicorn status. I suspect that there are going to be more Napa folks taking another look at this poor relation called Zinfandel. Suddenly those Zinfandel shotgun shacks on the poor side of town look authentic and might look nice if dusted down, renovated, re-painted, flipped, and sold as “charming.” It wasn’t long ago that if you said you were going to sell your Zinfandel for over $50 people would console you, fan you with a Reader’s Digest, and ask if you were on medication. Now it’s not uncommon and people seem to be buying it.  

Some think it was ‘White Zinfandel’ that sullied Zinfandel’s status. I believe it was a bad sort of Zinpun. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an offer for Cabernet Sauvignon that said, “Our favorite winter wine is Cabalicious.” Why not?  Because we don’t think like clever rednecks when naming any other varietal.  For some reason with Zinfandel “Zin Phomaniac” becomes a fascinating and alluring brand name for your wine label. Maybe it’s something to do with the ‘Z’ in Zinfandel that prompts this desire. The wine is at the end of the alphabet and needs a helping hand. Or maybe the everyman nature of the wine was elevated by making the names, and language around them, as informal and as ‘punny’ as we could. I went onto the internet and in no time at all had an impressive, but I’m sure by no means exhaustive, list of Zinpuns and related efforts. Zinfandelic, Zinfinity, Seven Deadly Zins, Zen of Zin, The Immortal Zin, Poizin, Artezin, Brazin, Sin Zin, and XYZin.

Lest anyone thinks I am blemish free in my casting of Zinpuns, I have to confess that GoDaddy and I had a late night Zinfueled encounter and I now own www.thezinthusiast.com (a lawsuit waiting to happen) and www.thezintensive.com. Lord knows what I’ll do with them, so feel free to make exceedingly generous offers. Even while you shake your head in disbelief at what others are doing, the puns can be Zinsidious and creep into your thoughts as, “I know, I know… but this one would be witty and amusing.”  I was helping a great Zinfandel brand in Sonoma with their storytelling not long ago. Upon arrival I looked at the bathrooms by the parking lot and thought, “It would be cool to change the signs to ‘Zinfangals’ on one side and Zinfanguys’ on the other. I held on to this delusion till one day I was talking to couple and their daughter, doing a bit of informal research. The parents were in their 60’s and the daughter was a 29 year old bright spark working for a venture capital firm in San Francisco. When one of them came back from the restroom I happened to mention the idea. One of the parents thought it would be hilarious and memorable, the other was non plussed. The young lady said firmly and quietly, “Don’t do it.” The two positions based on age might be telling. Whatever it means, my bubble burst immediately, and I realized the crassness of the idea. Having said all that, a couple of weeks have now gone by and the idea doesn’t seem so bad again. As always, the Zinpuns return pervasively to my Zinconscious…

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