Jeff’s Corner 9-7-18

Kent Rosenblum died Wednesday (9-5-18), and with his passing we lost one of the great legends and icons of California winemakers. Kent, aptly nicknamed, “The King of Zin”, founded Rosenblum Cellars in 1978; and, along with Ridge Vineyards (1962) and Ravenswood Winery (1976), formed the Holy Trinity of “R’s” when it comes to the early renaissance of great California Zins.

Kent was a veterinarian from Minnesota living with his wife Kathy in Alameda, California. He started making wine in his basement, and he liked to say that wine was “a hobby that got out of hand”. He loved a rich, ripe, fruity style of Zin, and would sometimes produce 20 or more vineyard designated wines from the same vintage.

Kathy and I are both very fortunate to have had our lives touched by Kent and his lovely daughter Shauna. Together they founded Rock Wall Winery, with Shauna as winemaker, and Dad as consultant, after Kent “retired” and sold Rosenblum Cellars.

So, let’s turn back the clock to January 4, 2016. I was standing on the balcony of the Cloverdale Best Western in northern Sonoma, the night before I was to judge the San Francisco Chronicle Competition for the first time. I was staring across the parking lot through the fog and mist at the mountains, wondering how my love for wine had taken me here.

Then, up the stairs, came an interesting looking man carrying a bottle of wine. We smiled and said hello and I asked him if he was here for the competition, a pretty dumb question. He said yes, pointed at the bottle, and asked if I’d like to share a glass. I suddenly became smart enough to say yes.

We talked for a moment, he smiled again, and said, “I haven’t seen you here before; I’m Kent Rosenblum.” Holy Crap, my hairs stood on end and I felt the quicksand getting thicker. I introduced myself from Grape Creek Vineyards in the Texas Hill Country, and he said, “Texas, huh. Well, okay, welcome to California.”

Well, over the last three years at the SFCWC, Kent Rosenblum became one of my greatest wine mentors. If I was lucky, I’d get to eat lunch with him in the cafeteria. We’d talk about wine some, but he really liked to talk about his love for fishing and animals. He continued to practice veterinary medicine throughout his career. Kent’s family has asked that any donations be given in his name to the Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter (FAAS).

The day after I met Kent, Kathy and Shauna bonded at the first judge’s dinner. Shauna loved Kath’s north-east Texas drawl, and wanted to talk with her all night.

In Shauna’s words, “It is with the greatest sorrow that I say goodbye to my Dad: the best Dad ever, my mentor and the kindest man I’ve ever known. Your wines, your spirit and your Joie de Vivre will live on through all of us who adored you.”

Vaya con Dios, King of Zin…