Events round the Bay Area's calendar:
Zinfandel Festival — January Zinfandel is considered the granddaddy of grapes out here, the one that launched the California wine industry back in the mid-1800s. Every year in January, thousands of zinfanatics descend on San Francisco for this annual homage to "America's heritage grape," where some 1,500 pounds of cheese and 8,600 loaves of French baguettes are consumed along with countless gallons of wine. Events include tastings from more than 300 wineries, winemaker panels, and a live auction, with the big tasting event usually taking place at Fort Mason's Herbst Pavilion (Marina Blvd. at Buchanan St., www.zinfandel.org/festival).
Chinese New Year – January/February One of the most popular celebrations in the city, Chinese New Year starts with the first new moon in the new year (late-Jan.-mid-Feb.) and ends 15 days later with a parade that has become one of the largest and most popular of its kind in the country. Festivities kick off with a Flower Market Fair along Chinatown's main streets (Grant Ave. and Washington), featuring fresh flowers, fruits, candy, and a mini-parade with enormous puppets and a sneak peek at the 40-foot parade dragon. Concerts, carnivals, and the Miss Chinatown USA pageant highlight three weeks of events, which conclude with the illuminated lunar parade, starting at 5:30 p.m. Ferocious dancing lions, exploding firecrackers, stiltwalkers, lifesize puppets, traditional costumes, marching bands and the always-popular can-dancing garbagemen make this an only-in-San-Francisco event not to be missed. Parade starts at Second and Market sts. and ends at Kearny and Columbus Ave. Adding to the chaos on parade night is the annual Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt, when thousands of would-be detectives from around the country race through the darkened streets of San Francisco in the country's largest treasure hunt.
Film Fests Galore – January/FebruarySan Francisco has never met a niche, cult, or ethnic group it couldn't throw a film festival at. In an average year, the city hosts some 20-30 film fests, from the granddaddy San Francisco International Film Festival (April/May) to cinematic tributes to Asian, Latino, Armenian, foreign horror, silent — even sex workers. The season kicks off every January and February with the Berlin and Beyond Festival at the Castro Theatre (429 Castro St., 415-263-8760). The largest German language film fest in the USA, it presents new features, documentaries, and shorts from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Following on its heels, the popular Noir City festival pays homage to shadows and fog, gumshoes and dames, with 20 pulp-fiction rarities in 10 days and "no happy endings." Could you forgive yourself for missing such black-and-white classics as Kiss the Blood Off My Hands and Hell of a Woman? Things get even fishier in January with the annual Ocean Film Festival, featuring international movies about marine sciences, biodiversity, and coastal cultures. Finally, throughout the month of February, the SF Indie Film Fest, showcases independent, underground, cult, and downright strange films at the Castro, Roxie, and Victoria theaters in what has become San Francisco's answer to Sundance.