Alamedan for Now 

Brentwood's loss is Alameda's gain.

Alamedans rejoice: Rosenblum Cellars is back. Actually, it never went anywhere. As the Express reported on January 19, after seventeen years on the island, the acclaimed winery had been in negotiations to move its main winemaking facility to Brentwood, where developer Blackhawk-Nunn is constructing a five-hundred-acre senior housing community called Vineyards at Marsh Creek. As the name suggests, the theme of the development is wine, and Blackhawk-Nunn and the city of Brentwood were planning to give Rosenblum a 34-acre chunk of land to construct a large winemaking facility connected to an events center and amphitheater.

Last month, after spending $300,000 on the project, Rosenblum announced that it was pulling out. "The conversation changed from five years ago when it was first discussed," says Tim Allen, chief financial officer at Rosenblum. He says Rosenblum already had downscaled the size of the planned facility due to cost concerns, dropped the event center, and asked the city to help out financially. But the city manager who championed the project retired in September 2004, and the mayor and city council changed over. "The newer people are not familiar with what the deal or ideas were," Allen says, "and didn't quite see the same vision."

"They expressed the need for financial participation from the city," says Howard Sword, director of the planning division of the Brentwood Community Development Department. "The city does not believe it is in its best interest to do other than providing the land for them to build on -- which is a pretty big incentive."

Blackhawk-Nunn has not responded to phone calls, but according to Sword, the developer is currently in conversation with two smaller wineries to bring Brentwood a new proposal. The city is taking full responsibility for constructing and running the amphitheater.

What's next for Rosenblum now that it's not moving? "We're reassessing," Allen says. "We still have a facility in Alameda -- that's the short-term plan. If real estate is required, we've enjoyed a good relationship with the city of Alameda."

Rosenblum did manage to expand its current facilities by asking the other winemakers and distillers that once shared its Main Street warehouse to move out, and all are now settled in their new digs. According to Allen, the winery also made several hundred thousand dollars' worth of improvements to the events room and increased production area, allowing Rosenblum to again hold private and public events, which the city had clamped down on due to permitting and safety concerns.

The winery will hold its latest quarterly open house this weekend, where hundreds of Alamedans, as they have for years, will taste more wine than they should, sway to steel drum music, and toast their good fortune for yet another year. Drive safely.


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