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Pioneering Vintner Leaves Behind Red Wine Legacy

September 19, 2018

The death of pioneering winemaker Kent Rosenblum offers a sad reminder that we are losing more of the people who shaped the California wine industry and America’s tastes in the ’80s and ’90s.

The zinfandel pioneer and accidental vintner died last week at 74, leaving decades of hearty red wines in his wake.

Raised in Minnesota, Rosenblum was a veterinarian practicing in the San Francisco area in the 1970s when he started making wine in his basement. He began his winery in the late ’70s not in Napa or Sonoma but on an island, Alameda, and highlighted a grape no one was very interested in at the time — zinfandel (the “red” kind).

Rosenblum became one of the “three R’s” of zinfandel: Rosenblum, Ridge and Raveswood.

I remember fondly time spent with Roseblum and his wife, Kathy, occasional attendees of the American Wine Society national conference. He earned that organization’s Award of Merit in 2008. Even after selling his brand to beverage giant Diageo for $105 million, he remained a regular guy who never tired of hanging out with wine lovers after hours, drinking wine and smoking cigars. Even then, he kept his veterinarian license active, seeing animals a few days a month.

I had a hard time finding any Rosenblum brand wines, so I’m not sure what the brand is becoming after a decade under Diageo. But Kent Roseblum did go on to found Rock Wall Winery with his daughter, Shauna Roseblum. She continues to advance the Roseblum style.

Rock Wall Wine Co. 2013 Rock Hound Red Bend, a zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon blend, is full of intense berry and raisins with a spicy, warm finish. $17.

Rock Wall Wine Co. Zinfandel 2013 Jesse’s Vineyards Contra Costa County Zinfandel is made from grapes from 125-year-old grape vines. The wine has a dry, cedar nose with flavors of ripe cherry and berry, tea and cocoa. The wine is richly textured and bold. $25. 1/2

GRADE: Exceptional ★★★★★, Above average ★★★★, Good ★★★, Below average ★★,

Poor ★.

DAVID FALCHEK, executive director of the American Wine Society, reviews wines each week.

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