The Paso Robles Zinfandel Festival, one of the area’s oldest wine events dedicated to a single grape each spring, is launching a new name and format this weekend — nixing its traditional one-stop evening tasting event Saturday night and shifting the spotlight to various mini-parties at North County wineries.
Now called Grow Zinfully Wild Weekend, the three-day festival runs from March 15 to 17.
Winery members of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, a nonprofit trade organization that hosts various events and promotions to attract visitors to wine country, sought the changes. The group’s members include 170 wineries and wine-related businesses.
“The behind the scenes on this is a lot of (members) are wineries and really like the themed weekend approach simply because it gets people out into wine country instead of focusing them into one single event,” according to Alliance spokesman Christopher Taranto.
It also allows each winery to celebrate the festival in their own way all three days instead of pouring at a tasting event as well as hosting individual events at the same time. Such events this weekend still include barrel tastings, winemaker dinners, vineyard tours, barbecues and live music.
“The thought was, ‘It’s been 20 years — let’s shake it up,’ ” Taranto said.
The festival, which celebrated its 20th year in 2012, celebrates what the area markets as Paso Robles’ heritage grape — a varietal known for its bold flavor and heat-loving complexities thanks to the local area’s warm weather.
The new approach makes the festival similar to the Paso Robles Harvest Wine Weekend held each fall.
This weekend’s festival will feature about 130 wineries.
The new name comes from the Alliance’s new slogan, Grow Wild. Taranto’s marketing team thought it best to change the name of the festival so event-goers didn’t associate it with a centralized tasting event at one location.
Over the years, the festival has seen different forms of marquee events in different locations.
Taranto declined to say how much it cost to put on one central tasting event or its revenues, but said the event paid for itself so the Alliance won’t be losing money with the new approach.
For more information on this weekend’s festival, including how to search for activities by winery, visit www.pasozinfest.com.