Oklahoma Wine Buying Guide

Thanks to Oklahoma City channel 9 (CBS affiliate) for this handy Oklahoma wine buying guide. We advise treating this as an example that can be easily applied to other areas.  And to think — our site is still free!

Oklahoma wine buying guide

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(Thanks to @GretchenInOK for the image.)




Two Post Holiday Sales Worth Your Time and Money

Siduri and the Loring Wine Company both make superb pinot noirs.  And now they are running two post holiday sales worth your time and money.

Siduri routinely has a post-holiday warehouse clearance sale.  This is a rare opportunity to acquire some older vintages.

Siduri

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But the real find is Loring Wine Company.  They were one of our three newcomers of the year in 2014.  We first encountered them at the 2014 Santa Lucia Highlands Gala. Our review was detailed and very favorable.

Loring has reduced their prices and is now offering 30 percent off.  Here’s the official announcement.

Loring1

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Loring2

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Siduri’s sale ends in a few days.  They are already running out of some wines.  As far as we know, Loring hasn’t put a time limit on their sale.  But I have little doubt that they, too, are seeing their inventory depleted.




Something Every Wine Lover Can Use

We all have bottles of wine that are not quite up to our standards, but still quaffable. Cartoonist Sandy Boynton (@SandyBoynton) has created something every wine lover can use.  Download the image, print it, trim, and apply as necessary.  (Published here with Ms. Boynton’s permission.  Thanks, Sandy!)

Sandy Boynton wint label something every wine lover can use

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Lynmar 2013 Quail Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir Magnum

A few years ago we were pleasantly surprised to receive a magnum of this wine. The Lynmar 2013 Quail Hill Vineyard pinot noir magnum was a special gift to long-time members of their Advocates club.  We have extolled the virtues of wine clubs in the past, but Lynn and Anisya Fritz regularly exceed our very high expectations.  (We recently received another magnum of the 2018.  We will try to be patient.) We cracked open this bottle for our recent anniversary.

Lynn and Anisya Fritz

Lynn and Anisya Fritz

The wine might develop over the next few years, but it is delicious today.  Aromas of dark chocolate and forest floor.  The palate is black cherries with more dark chocolate and damp bark.  The finish is amazing.  Tannins are fully integrated and linger on the tongue.

 

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Thank you Lynmar for your delicious wine for our anniversary!

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While there may be a few bottles of this stashed in the Lynmar library, you can’t buy this through the winery website.  The moral is clear. When you find a winery you like, join their wine club on the spot.




The Perfect Quarantine Furniture Does Not Exi … Oh Wait

The Perfect Quarantine Furniture Does Not Exi … Oh, Wait, Yes It Does!

Winebag chair




A Wine Glass For Troubled Times

No idea who did this.

Wine glass for troubled times




Dinner at the Siduri Warehouse

Overview

Music, mood and mirth with plenty of wine at Siduri’s warehouse winery again! This year CaliforniaWineFan.com staff imbibed a Lemoravo single-vineyard pinot noir that was new to us. It’s been around for a couple of years, but with a couple score of wines in the Siduri line-up, it can be hard to keep up. Lemoravo 2017 – from the Santa Lucia highland area – is full-bodied and smooth with the recognizable characteristic flavors of pinots from the region. We took some home from the event to Silicon Valley and plan on acquiring more. This year the new winemaker – Matt Revelette – hosted the proceedings. Founder Adam Lee is now the “pinot noir ambassador” for the Jackson Family Collection global wineries.

Before getting into the details, here’s an overview video for your enjoyment.

The Event

Lemoravo Dinner at the Siduri Warehouse

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On December 14, 2019 we made the trek to Santa Rosa for the annual Siduri holiday dinner. Great food, friendly crowd, terrific wine and – bonus – an excellent duo creating music. We’ll review this event in more or less chronological order. Tasting notes will be interspersed with a description of the goings-on.

The first wine was the 2016 Van der Kamp Sonoma Mountain. Aromas of bright bing cherries with a hint of red raspberry. The palate is somewhat astringent with nice acid balance. Hold on to this one for another year. (Confession: in March we bought out the last of the 2015 vintage. Absolutely terrific.)

Moving right along, the 2016 Soberanes Santa Lucia Highlands is the real deal. Aromas of spice, cranberries, and not-quite-ripe strawberries lead to sage and dark fruit on the palate. The finish is extraordinary with flavors of baking spices and oak.

An Elf Pays a Visit

The tasting was delightfully interrupted by one of Santa’s elves. Nora Linville does a bit of everything at Siduri. Kathy and Mark Williams helped with the lively ensuing conversation. Nora was (and likely is) a real character!

 Dinner at the Siduri Warehouse

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The previously mentioned 2016 Lemoravo Santa Lucia Highlands opens with earthy, leathery, complex aromas. On the palate bing cherries with cranberry undertones. This one is great with steak.

Conversations From Wildfires to Kentucky Bourbon

We ran into some local residents and spent quite a bit of time talking about the wildfires that have plagued Sonoma and Napa counties for the past few years. We agreed that the situation needs to be improved, hopefully with the help of the U.S. Forest Service and various California agencies. As things stand now there have been decades of virtually no forest management. That means dead trees and lots of dry brush, creating a tinderbox. (If you’re not familiar with California there is virtually no rain from April through October. Late in the dry season moisture levels in the vegetation are very low. Which is why September through November is fire season.)

One surprising topic of agreement was Williamson Wines. We all agreed that the Williamson business model was terrific. Don’t bother with retail, just use a wine club and create a terrific tasting room experience.

The Sierra del Mar 2016 was earthier with aromas of dark fruit. More dark fruit on the palate with a nice spice overlay.

At dinner we were fortunate to be seated next to Sherrie, the wine club coordinator. She and her husband Chris are immigrants from Georgia (the state, not the country). Their daughter Sara attended the University of Kentucky on a full scholarship. When she graduated, the family did the full bourbon trail. “Oh my God we had so much fun.”

Which seems an apt summary of our evening at Siduri.

 




Belden Barns Hosting Virtual Wine Tasting

Belden Barns is hosting a series of virtual wine tastings starting at the end of March.  Here’s the idea.  You order wine from them.  Then you participate in the virtual tasting via Zoom.  But you have to move fast if you want the 11 bottle package with one bottle of each wine.  Orders must be placed by MARCH 19 (tomorrow as I type this). Added bonus: a 35 percent discount on those 11 bottle near-cases. Click here for the order page.  Also a pdf version of the complete e-mail is at the end of this article.

Here’s what Nate and Lauren say:

In other, more exciting news, beginning on Sunday, March 29th, Nate and I will be hosting free virtual wine tastings every Sunday evening at 5 to 6pm PST.  Each week, we’ll explore a new varietal/bottling from our portfolio, inviting participants to weigh in on attributes like taste, appearance, and perfect pairing ideas.  On the agenda will be fun experiments to explore how the taste of wine changes when paired with different random items from your stockpile (think: beans, marshmallows, rice, peanut butter, popcorn, mac & cheese, etc).  We’ll also include fun questions like “Which song would go best with this wine?” and “If this wine were to come to life as a celebrity, who might it be?”

And here’s the schedule.
Sunday, March 29th      Sauvignon Blanc
Sunday, April 5th           Pinot Noir (a comparison between our Estate and Serendipity bottlings)
Sunday, April 12th         Gruner Veltliner
Sunday, April 19th         Rosé
Sunday, April 26th         Grenache
Sunday, May 3rd           Blanc de Noirs (sparkling!)
Sunday, May 10th         Syrah (a comparison between our Estate and Cadabra bottlings)
Sunday, May 17th         Chardonnay
Sunday, May 24th         Late-Harvest Viognier

Here’s the pdf of the e-mail.

Belden Barns virtual tasting




Dinner at Siduri Preview

On December 14, 2019 we made the trek to Santa Rosa for the annual Siduri holiday dinner.  Great food, friendly crowd, terrific wine and – bonus – an excellent duo creating music.

We’ll get into the details in a future post. For now, here’s an overview video for your enjoyment.




Two WALT Bargains at Artisan

WALT La Brisa Two WALT Bargains at Artisan

Artisan Wine Depot is currently featuring two WALT pinot noirs at bargain prices. We’ve written about WALT several times before. When we read about this we rushed over to pick up a couple of bottles of each. And they could not be more different. One is from the Sonoma Coast, the other from Anderson Valley. Each is an excellent reflection of the terroir of its respective AVA. (Prices quoted are in effect at Artisan as of February 14, 2020.)

WALT Blue Jay Two WALT Bargains at ArtisanWALT’s 2017 La Brisa ($36.97) is a blend of three Sonoma Coast vineyards: Bob’s Ranch, Gap’s Crown, and Calesa. Gaps Crown is up in the hills. In our experience, the grapes most closely resemble Anderson Valley. That explains why this Sonoma Coast is lighter than we’d expect.

The wine is on the red side of-purple with aromas of rose petal, tangerine peel red raspberries. Medium-bodied with flavors of crushed raspberry, cola, freshly turned soil, and tobacco linger on the palate. The texture is rich and leads into a long finish with balanced oak and minerality.

The 2017 Blue Jay ($39.99) is from hillside vineyards in the Anderson Valley. The color is lighter than La Brisa, tending away from purple and toward ruby. Aromas of blood orange, strawberries with hints of forest floor. Complexity on the palate shows flavors of wild blueberries, baking spice and red raspberries. The long finish is smooth tannins, oak, and balanced acidity.

 




The End of an Era at Siduri

On November 16, 2019, we received an e-mail with news that marks the end of an era at Siduri.  Adam Lee is stepping down as winemaker.  The 2019 vintage will be his last.  I’ve included a pdf of the e-mail below.

Matt Revelette and Adam Lee The End of an Era at Siduri

Matt Revelette and Adam Lee

The good news is that he’s found a replacement.  Say hello to Matt Revelette who will take over winemaking duties starting in a few months.  Matt worked with Adam on the 2019 vintage.  The two traveled together visiting vineyards and generally having a good time.  Adam conducted an extensive search and has found a good one.  From the Wine Industry Advisor,

Revelette came to Siduri from Sojourn Cellars, where he spent three years managing all aspects of the winery, from grower relations to wine production. Prior to Sojourn, Revelette held winemaking roles with venerable Pinot Noir producers, such as Williams Selyem and Kosta Browne.

Adam and Dianna Lee produced their first vintage in 1994.  They were pioneers in many ways.  Siduri was one of the first warehouse wineries, owning no vineyards at all.  Instead, the pair worked closely with selected vineyard owners to help achieve the grape quality Siduri wanted.  They also were among the first to implement small-lot single-vineyard production. But after 25 years it was time to move on. Two kids from Texas did good. From the Siduri website:

Buoyed by that dream, Adam Lee and Dianna Novy left their native Texas and moved to the Sonoma County wine country. They spent years working at small, family-owned wineries and using any and all free time learning everything they could about growing grapes and making wine.

And it paid off—the first Siduri Wines release, in 1994, was met with great critical success. About that same time, perhaps not coincidentally, Adam and Dianna married.

Two Stories From History

One memory stands out.  After the Tubbs Fire destroyed much of northeastern Santa Rosa in October, 2017, the winery was left without power. Adam didn’t even know if he still had a winery.  He walked three miles to the location and was relieved to see that Siduri was still standing.  He asked Ryan Zapaltas to join him at the winery because they had a big problem.

In October, the crush is over and fermentation is well underway.  That process generates heat.  The tanks have cooling jackets.  But no power means no pumps which means no cooling. Adam and Ryan bought dry ice (solid carbon dioxide) and wrapped it around the tanks.  The 2017 vintage was saved because the two were persistent and creative.  Ryan took over winemaking duties at Copain.  We hope he will bring his style to that winery, making Copain a destination winery for us.

Second was a special event. Adam was kind enough to invite us to a tasting of Virginia wines on June 23, 2014.  That was our first exposure to that state’s winemaking.  We were so impressed we started VirginiaWineFan.

The Future

Adam is not retiring to a life of leisure.  He is still heavily involved with his baby, the Clarice Wine Company.

The End of an Era at Siduri

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Adam will also serve as Pinot Noir Advocate for the Jackson Family Wine conglomerate.  That company owns many excellent pinot noir producers including Maggy Hawk, Hartford, and (of course) Siduri.

Conclusion

Thanks to Adam for years and years of terrific wine.  We wish him nothing but the best.  And we’re looking forward to tasting Matt’s first vintage, 2020.

Adam closed his letter with this:

Making Siduri Pinot Noirs was great. Sharing them with you all was far better.

We are happy that we were able to share with Adam.

Adam Lee Leaving Siiduri

 




Just in Time for Christmas.

Shark Wine Glass

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The gift for every wine lover you know.  Available through Amazon.com in many varieties.

Just in time for Christmas.




Sonoma Mountain versus Westside Paso Robles 2016 Vintage

Last night we cracked open two bottles of pinot noir, both 2016 vintage.  One was the Belden Barns Serendipity block.  The second was Jack Creek Cellars Estate Reserve.  The former is in the Sonoma Mountain AVA just east of Santa Rosa.  Jack Creek is in the Westside district of the Paso Robles AVA.  We are long-time club members of both these fine wineries.  This is our Sonoma Mountain versus Westside Paso Robles 2016 vintage tasting competition.

At the outset, we’ll confirm your suspicions.  Both these wines are terrific right now.  The Belden Barns entry will probably improve a bit with one more year in the cellar.  We’re old and impatient.

Both of these need time to breathe. Immediately after opening the bottles, each wine had excessive earthy notes both aromatically and on the palate.  The Jack Creek developed in about 15 minutes.  We decanted the Belden Barns to encourage it.  To put it mildly, a little air was just what they needed.

The Jack Creek offering opened with aromas of cherries and spice.  The palate is cherries and huckleberries with a solid underpinning of earthiness.  The finish is long and exquisite with silky tannins and a nice acid balance.

Belden Barns opened with rose petals and cherries with a hint of brambleberry on the nose.  The palate was more cherries with a solid spice base and a nice acid balance.  You could easily cellar this for another year, but we suspect anything longer than that would be excessive.

Comparing the two led to an unusual result.  We are accustomed to the idea that the further north the vineyard, the lighter the pinot (palate, not color).  In this case, the Jack Creek was lighter.  Once again the importance of microclimates shows itselfNorma preferred the Jack Creek while I liked the Belden Barns.  Which makes for both a good tasting experience and a good marriage!




New European Union Planting Rights

Via the American Association of Wine Economists, the new European Union planting rights are available.  As you may have guessed, winegrapes are being planted.  This is yet another illustration of EU overregulation and interference with the market.

EU planting rights

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The note below the table is important.  Each country may expand plantings by one percent of the current total.  This, of course, gives an advantage to countries with large areas planted since they will be allowed to plant more acreage than those with smaller planted areas.

And there seems to be a certain absence of logic in the allocations, most likely reflecting the political negotiations within the EU commmission.  France was entitled to 8,101 hectares of new planting, asked for 11,744 and was gtranted only 5,755.  Meanwhile ltaly received the rights to 6.685 hectares, 163 more than they were entitled to.

This decision is clearly political so I won’t bother worrying about the economics.  But I will add that the U.S. also restricts new plantings.  Our saving grace is that these decisions are usually made at the local government level by zoning and other land use regulations.  For example, a developer who wants to build a new housing tract in the Livermore Valley must purchase an equal acreage and declare it to be used only for agriculture in perpetuity.  The result, naturally, is houses and condominiums crammed together with developments separated by large parcels of land that are often not used for much of anything.




Kent Rosenblum, an Appreciation

Kent Rosenblum

Kent Rosenblum (Click for larger image)

I just heard that Kent Rosenblum passed away on September 5, 2018. Mr. Rosenblum, founder of the eponymous Rosenblum Cellars, became famous for zinfandels, sourcing grapes from all over Northern California. But his real fame should be starting the warehouse winery movement.

In 1978, Kent opened his winery on the north end of the island of Alameda, just across an estuary from Oakland. The main feature of that area is the Alameda Naval Air Station. It was an industrial area and, clearly, no grapes were grown there. Instead, he expanded the practice of sourcing grapes from various growers.

Today we take warehouse wineries almost for granted. One of our favorites, Siduri, was started in 1994. Carol Shelton opened her winery in 2000. William and Jack Salerno started Manzanita Creek in 1996. Interestingly both Ms. Shelton and Manzanita Creek have a fondness for zinfandel. Siduri, of course, produces some of the finest pinot noirs anywhere.

[pullquote]California has lost yet another pioneer of our industry. Robert Mondavi brought science to winemaking. Ernest Gallo understood marketing and showed us the way in that field. Kent Rosenblum gets all the credit for rediscovering Zinfandel and bringing it to its current popularity.[/pullquote]

I was fortunate to be part of a group that had lunch with Kent about 15 years ago. He was delightful, sharing with us tales of his experience in the wine industry. In his earlier life, he was a veterinarian. He was famous for producing Chateau La Paws, proceeds of which were donated to animal related causes.

In 2008 Diageo made the Rosenblums an offer they couldn’t refuse. With some trepidation, they sold the winery. Today Diageo has turned Chateau La Paws into its own label, producing three different wines.  The winery supports the North Shore Animal League of America (NSALA), the largest no-kill animal rescue group in the country.

NSALA LOGO

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Over lunch, Kent also told a story relevant to wine economics. He said that you could take a tanker full of grape juice from Australia, bring it to the U.S., ferment the grape juice, and ship it back to Australia at a total cost of about five cents a gallon. And remember, this was quite a few years ago. Shipping costs are even lower today.

Chateau La Paws

Chateau La Paws bottles

Chateau La Paws bottles (click for larger image)

Writing at IHeartDogs.com, Kristina Lotz describes the relationship between Chateau La Paws and NSALA.

“NSALA’s no-kill efforts and emphasis on education and advocacy align seamlessly with our passion points at Chateau La Paws Wines – we love our furry friends just as much as we love our wine,” says Chateau La Paws.

As a testament to this, their wine labels feature rescue dogs from NSALA.

“We worked closely with NSALA to identify the 28 rescue dogs featured on the label of each varietal,” says Chateau La Paws. “Our goal was to assemble a varied mix of breeds and ages to showcase the expansive selection of loveable pets that may be available in shelters across the country.”

But Chateau La Paws has a much longer history. The Wine Spectator took note of the Rosenblum’s charitable activities in 2007:

Yet another reason to like Rosenblum. The winery’s proprietors, Kent and Kathy Rosenblum, have joined the trend of vintners using their wines to benefit their favorite charity for those on four legs. Starting this year, $6 from the sale of each case of Rosenblum’s Chateau La Paws wines benefits Paws with a Cause, a national organization that provides assistance dogs to people with disabilities. Sales of Chateau La Paws Côte Du Bone Roan California ($14), a Syrah blend, and Chateau La Paws Côte Du Bone Blanc California, a Viognier blend ($14), have thus far generated $21,378 for Paws with a Cause. Although the wine’s name seems tailor-made for the charity, the Chateau La Paws name was in existence long before any charity connection was made. Rosenblum began making the wine in the ’90s after Kent and Kathy took a trip to La Paz (pronounced “la paws”), Mexico. “We were joking around about putting paws on a [wine] label and calling it La Paws as a fun tie-in to [my veterinary background]” said Kent. That “paws” pun morphed into two wines, which now have a combined production of about 11,000 cases.

In my time I drank several bottles of these wines. They were exactly what you would expect: quaffable and very tasty. Notably, the 2002 Côte du Bone Roan San Francisco Bay scored a respectable 85 points and made Wine Spectator’s list of 50 of California’s new red wine values in 2004. The 2002 Amador County zinfandel also made this list, scoring slightly better at 86 points. And the Rosenblum zinfandel also made the list giving Kent three of the 50 best values in California rents for that year.

Wine spectator Chateau La Paws
Wine spectator Chateau La Paws Zinfandel
Wine spectator zinfandel

Exploring the Wine Spectator archives, the earliest release of Château La Paws that I could find was 1997:

Other Rhône reds include the silky-textured Mourvèdre (pronounced mohr VED dra and formerly known in California by its Spanish name, Mataro) and Counoise (pronounced coon-WAHZ), a lesser-known grape whose wine is soft and fruity. Mourvèdre was planted throughout Northern California in the late-1800s, and some of the old vineyards survive, producing intensely flavored, supple wines such as Rosenblum Contra Costa County Chateau La Paws Côte du Bone 1997 (88, $10). Dark-colored and somewhat tannic Petite Sirah has also been grown in California since before Prohibition. This cross between Syrah and Peloursin grapes was created in France in the late 19th century, but is hardly seen there today.

I suspect the label goes back even further, but my time for this project is limited.

History

The San Francisco Chronicle in their appreciation of Kent ‘s life recounted the families early history and their migration into winemaking:

Kent Martin Rosenblum was born in Iowa in 1944 and grew up in Minnesota. “He always loved animals,” said Shauna Rosenblum. “He grew up reading ‘Dr. Dolittle.’ He communicated with animals like Dr. Dolittle did.” Kent Rosenblum met his wife, Kathy, at the University of Minnesota, where he was earning his veterinary degree and she was studying history. They married in 1969 and moved to Alameda two years later.

A passionate skier, Rosenblum joined the Berkeley Ski Club. In 1972, just for fun, the group bought a ton of grapes and divvied them up. Everyone made a small amount of wine, but “my dad’s was the only one that was remotely palatable,” Shauna Rosenblum said. The next year, the club tasked him with making all of the wine.

The Rosenblums, who had never had wine before moving to California, quickly fell in love with their new hobby. They made wine in their garage, drilling holes in the ceiling so that the tanks could fit inside. In 1978, they decided to launch a business, initially using the Dead End Bar in West Oakland as their winery.

“Things kept chugging along, but they weren’t making a profit,” Shauna Rosenblum said. Rosenblum was still working as a full-time veterinarian at Providence Veterinary Hospital in Alameda, where he continued to work through the late 1990s. After Shauna Rosenblum’s birth in 1983, Kathy told her husband that if they weren’t making a profit by the next year, they would have to abandon the winery.

But then something unexpected happened. Rosenblum purchased some Zinfandel grapes from George Hendry, a Napa Valley grower, in 1984, and it turned out to be the wine that changed their course forever. It won Best of Show at wine competitions and earned outstanding scores from critics.

“That launched them into stardom,” Shauna Rosenblum said. That year, she said, they made a $250,000 profit.

There was no intention of selling the brand. But when Diageo approached the Rosenblum family in 2008, “they offered them too much money to say no,” Shauna Rosenblum said. It was a bitter loss for her father, but Shauna Rosenblum said he was also excited by the prospect of starting over. “By that point, he’d been doing much less winemaking than he wanted to,” she said.

That year, father and daughter started Rock Wall Wine Co. Although Shauna Rosenblum runs the business and the winemaking, Rosenblum remained active in the winery until his death. He had recently taken on a new vineyard site in Sonoma County, Maggie’s Vineyard, and was excited to sell fruit from its 130-year-old Zinfandel vines to winemaker friends this year — including Jeff Cohn, his longtime winemaking partner at Rosenblum Cellars.

“All we want now is to do him proud,” said Shauna Rosenblum, who spoke on the phone from the Rock Wall winery, where harvest was under way. “I know that he would want me to be here making the best wine possible today.”

Rosenblum is survived by his wife, Kathy; daughters, Shauna and Kristen; brother, Roger; sister, Pamela; and granddaughter, Skylar.

Rock Wall Wine Company

Shauna immediately took over the presidency of Rock Wall. She continues her dad’s heritage of making zinfandel but also produces 41 other wines. And you could do no better than the view from the deck above her winery. Looking north toward the Bay Bridge you can see parts of the skylines of San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley.

Rock Wall view

Rock Wall view (Click for larger image)

In a recent feature in the San Francisco chronicle, Shauna describes the transition:

“I thought I was an adult before,” she says. But suddenly, she had to take up tasks that were completely new to her, all at once: dealing with the city of Alameda for permitting issues (she’s trying to get permission to put up a walkway of murals), negotiating with insurance agents, managing the farming of vineyards that her father had owned or leased. She even became the de facto facilities manager and learned how to patch a roof leak by herself.

She’s embraced this new era with some new, and even unorthodox, business decisions. She started by cutting off her wine distribution in all but three states. “I was losing $19 a case on distributed wine,” she explains, since distributors take a cut of the final price. But she suspected that Rock Wall might be able to sell everything itself, without the help of wholesale, through its tasting room and its 4,000-person wine club. (She sends every wine club member a 50 percent discount coupon on their birthday.) Her suspicion proved correct. “I was able to trim over $500,000 in expenses over the last 10 months,” the new president says proudly.

Shauna Rosenblum

Shauna Rosenblum

Conclusion

California has lost yet another pioneer of our industry. Robert Mondavi brought science to winemaking. Ernest Gallo understood marketing and showed us the way in that field. Kent Rosenblum gets all the credit for rediscovering Zinfandel and bringing it to its current popularity.