The End of a Winemaking Era in Alameda at Rosenblum Cellars 

The famed winery is moving its winemaking operation to Napa, but is keeping open its popular tasting room on the Island.

Over the years, the famed zinfandels and Rhone varietals from Rosenblum Cellars in Alameda have come to epitomize East Bay winemaking. But no longer. Officials with Diageo, the global wine, spirit, and beer giant that bought Rosenblum in 2008, announced recently that they're moving production of Rosenblum's wines up to Beaulieu Vineyards in Napa as part of an effort to streamline their US-based wine unit, Diageo Chateau & Estates.

Kent Rosenblum and his winemaking team, however, will continue to produce fine wines from their new Napa home, where Rosenblum said Beaulieu Vineyards is installing some "interesting equipment" that may allow him to expand his winemaking capabilities. As for Rosenblum's popular tasting room, it will remain open at its longtime home on Alameda Point. Its satellite tasting room in Healdsburg, however, will close.

Rosenblum, who originally expressed some disappointment with Diageo's changes, sounded a more positive note about them in an interview last week. He noted that his Alameda space will remain open for events, and now he'll be closer to the places where the grapes he uses to make his wine are grown. "The big family stays mostly intact; we'll still be involved in the community," he said. "They're definitely dedicated to making things work."

A veterinarian by trade and a longtime hobbyist who made wine in his basement, Rosenblum started his winery with his wife, Kathy, and a group of close friends in 1978, and then moved it to their current home at 2900 Main Street in Alameda in 1987. Rosenblum's wines are hand-crafted from dozens of small lots of grapes, with specific yeasts selected for each lot. It's a labor-intensive process that yields a complex, balanced wine. The winery has gained acclaim for its zinfandels in particular. It also attracted the attention of Diageo, which bought Rosenblum Cellars for a reported $105 million.

Over the past few years, Rosenblum also has helped his daughter, Shauna, establish a new winery — the Rock Wall Wine Company — down the road from Rosenblum Cellars. That winery, built into an old airplane hangar at the former Alameda Naval Air Station, boasts a tasting room featuring wines from a host of local producers, and a recently built geodesic dome that has quickly gained currency among locals as an event space. It, too, boasts some highly rated zinfandels and wines made from grapes grown all over California. "We've got a lot of people working with us over there," Rosenblum said of that effort. "Our goal is just to have fun, and to make small quantities of high-quality wine."

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