End of an Era at Rosenblum

One winery opens its doors while another is closing the door on an era in Bay Area winemaking.

I wrote a recent blog about the new Urban Legend Cellars winery that opened in Oakland this spring. I didn’t know at the time that another urban legend, Alameda’s Rosenblum Cellars, will be closing its doors.

According to news reports, Rosenblum will move to Napa. No timetable has been disclosed.

I anticipated something like this happening after Diageo, a wine/beer/spirits conglomerate, purchased Rosenblum for $105 million in 2008. Once the new owners looked over the physical property — the winery is housed in a leased ship repair facility just across the estuary from Jack London Square and the port of Oakland — they probably figured consolidation with winemaking facilities in Napa made economic sense.

It’s part of an overall cost-cutting move by Diageo, which announced last month that it will trim close to 100 jobs — mostly in hospitality and tasting room operations. Rosenblum’s satellite tasting room in Healdsburg will be shuttered, but the main tasting room in Alameda will survive — for now.

Napa’s gain, maybe, but it’s definitely a big downer for Alameda. The Island City lost the Navy base in 1997 when the admirals relocated the facility’s nuclear aircraft carrier to another port in Washington state, but Alameda was still home to one of the leading zinfandel producers in the world.

Kent Rosenblum, Alameda winemaker and zinfandel specialist

Kent Rosenblum

Kent Rosenblum, a veterinarian by training, gets a lot of credit for the whole urban winery concept. Today, there is an association of 21 urban wineries, the East Bay Vintner’s Alliance, that traces its lineage directly through Rosenblum. Several of the urban winemakers worked with and for Rosenblum. Another family member, Kent’s daughter Shauna, is an urban winemaker herself. With some help from her famous father, she heads Rockwall Wines, which opened in 2008 in an old airplane painting hangar at the Alameda Navy base.

The elder Rosenblum started making wine with friends in Berkeley in the 1970s. In the next decade, he moved the operation to Alameda, where the list of wines grew by leaps and bounds with special emphasis on zinfandel and Rhone-style red wines.

The plan was to bring in good grapes from selected growers in different areas to Alameda where the transformation into wine was completed. The result was a truckload of gold medals and high ratings from the critics over the decades.

Now, the production is likely to shift to Diaego’s facilities at Beaulieu Vineyards (BV) in Rutherford, where the emphasis is on cabernet sauvignon like the 2005 Georges de Latour Private Reserve, a $90 bottle that earned a 95 rating from Wine Enthusiast.

Racetrack Wine

The East Bay Vintners Alliance is helping celebrate the Belmont Stakes at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday (June 5) with a winetasting event next to the winner’s circle. Tickets are $20 for five tastes of wine that’s made by the 21 member wineries. Fine food sampling plus live music and an art exhibit round out the infield celebration.

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One Response to “End of an Era at Rosenblum”

  1. Summertime is Wine Time « Wine Country Insider Says:

    […] operation is headed by Shauna Rosenblum, daughter of zinfandel champion Kent Rosenblum, who’s also involved in the new winery. If you take the ferry from San Francisco or Oakland, […]

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