"Don't give up your day job." That's how Kent Rosenblum, veterinarian, explained his venture into the wine world.
While working as a veterinarian in Montana, Kent took a trip to California and was bitten by the wine bug or, as he says, "I fell in love." He started buying grapes and making wines, for the most part, in his basement.
It was a big deal in 1978 when Kent turned out 400 cases. He sold his wines to family and friends. Lots of them. But as is turns out, it was actually All of them. "The wine made a profit so I thought I would make more," Kent says, "but I ran out of friends!"
One step forward, as they say, and two steps back. But Kent kept at it and won a gold medal in 1979 at a California fair. "Of course, you must remember" Kent says humbly, "there were only 130 winemakers at the time in California!"
I asked Kent if there was a "special bottle" in his life. "Yes," he says. "One that changed my life."
Until 1987, Kent was still working as a veterinarian seeing small exotics, birds and reptiles as clients. When he could, Kent had been experimenting with refining techniques, that would later become legend! including "cold soaking grapes before fermentation."
That same year, a small winery in Emeryville, California calls Kent saying they heard he was the "Zin Guy" and they needed help. The fermentation process had come to a STOP.
Kent goes to the rescue. He found the wine to be "still sweet." Realizing this would take some work to resolve and wine remedies outside the walls of this winery, Kent offers $2 per gallon. Kent's new passion was costly and even at that rock bottom price of $2 per, Kent says "I needed a loan to make it happen!"
But the stars were aligned and Kent worked his "Zin Guy" magic. To kickstart the fermentation process, Kent needed to heat the wine so that the yeast in the grape juice would get active. He did. The yeast did. It worked. Kent also pumped in another Zin of his making and the blend "took off," Kent says "the wine turned dry."
The $2 per purchase resulted in Kent having a LOT of wine in his basement which was, at the time, his winery. He decides to send a few bottles, one might speculate just to have a few less bottles in the basement!, to the San Francisco Wine Competition.
You guessed it. Kent wins. Within a day, he has 300 orders for his wines. But Kent didn't even have a label for his winning wine. "One day I was a veterinarian managing my office," Kent says, "and the next day I was a winemaker. This was the defining moment."
Within a year, Kent went from $75,000 to $750,000 in sales and became known for his expertise in making wine. He was popularly promoted from "The Zin Guy" to "The King of Zin," a title he retains!
These days, Kent's daughter, Shauna, is the winemaker. The winery called Rock Wall, homed in an old hanger next to a bird sanctuary in Alameda, California has become a California wine landmark. "Rock Wall is the original urban winery," Kent says.
While his veterinary days are in the past, animals are still front and center. Take a look at the Rock Wall Rock Hound label. That guy playing the guitar sporting the Ray Charles Sunglasses is Sunny, Shauna's blind pitbull.
Everything turned out great, actually beyond great, for Kent Rosenblum leaving his profession and turning winemaker. But, bottom line, winemaking is a tough business. And as Kent says: "Don't quit your day job."
About Rock Wall Winery:
About UsThe etymology of our name: Rock Wall Wine Company is located on the former Alameda Naval Air Base which was decommissioned in 1997 and turned over to the community and is slowly being converted to civilian use. The name Rock Wall refers to the defensive perimeter wall built during WWII in the San Francisco Bay to protect the base from Japanese air to sea torpedoes. All military installations on the west coast created similar protective barriers. This wall is visible from our facility as well as elsewhere on the base. The wall has also been a popular fishing location for local anglers looking for striped bass.
The Rock Wall Wine Company represents a new chapter in the East Bay winemaking scene. The winery offers wine lovers one of the most unique experiences in the wine world. Shauna Rosenblum is the winemaker for Rock Wall Wine Company. She learned everything she knows about winemaking from her father Kent Rosenblum who is CEO.
The Rock Wall Wine Company is founded on the philosophy of the right grape in the right place and are the result of many long-term relationships with acclaimed vineyards. Grapes are sourced from all over California which creates a diverse winemaking environment, complete with different grape varieties, styles and regional flavor profiles.
Ideally situated in Alameda, California, the winery boasts spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline, and more importantly its locale allows the winemaking team to be regionally centralized - ensuring that whether Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, Zinfandel from Sonoma County, Petite Sirah from Contra Costa County or Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands, the winemaking team is able to handle the fruit soon after it is picked.
Housed in a converted 40,000 square-foot airplane hangar the winery is located on what was once a Naval Air Base. Also known as Building 24, the hangar is due north of a defensive rock wall which made up the perimeter of the base. Taking their name from this protective wall, the Rock Wall winery building has been retrofitted with state-of-the-art winemaking equipment.
A unique concept, Rock Wall Wine Company is, in essence, an urban winery that services the East Bay. Through the wine center, the Rock Wall owners look forward to continuing the legacy of urban winemaking as well as providing an environment whereby making, tasting and learning about wine is fun!