Wine: Will Rosenblum still be Rosenblum?
Wine may seem like a drink, but it's really all about mythology. Oenogeeks love the story of the scrappy winemaker defying all odds to make hand-crafted, artisan wine with character and personality that shows up the big corporations and their non-descriptor plonk. The problem is, those big corporations tend to buy out the smaller winemakers, and then the once-revered labels become mere brands.
Rosenblum Cellars is the latest example. The revered, even iconic zinfandel producer was sold two years ago to the Diageo drinks conglomerate, a sale that gained founder Kent Rosenblum and his investors a reported $105 million. Rosenblum himself, along with winemaker John Kane, remained with the operation, and consumers saw little if any change.
Last month, however, Diageo announced it was moving Rosenblum's production operation from its winery at the northern end of Alameda island on the east side of San Francisco Bay - hardly marketing friendly wine country. Rosenblum Cellars wines will now be made at Beaulieu Vineyards in Napa Valley, another once-revered winery now owned by Diageo.
Rosenblum himself reacted bitterly. "I think this is what happens when you let bean-counters run a company," he told WineSpectator.com. The Alameda tasting room will remain open, though another in Healdsburg, in Sonoma County, will close.
He shouldn't be surprised, though. Many of California's most venerable wine names are no longer owned by the people who made them famous: Mondavi, Farrell, and Sanford, to name a few.
Consumers shouldn't abandon Rosenblum wines just yet, unless they are concerned about the mythology -- in this case, the story of a veterinarian wine lover who scoured California for patches of old Zinfandel vines. Kane will make the move to Beaulieu and continue making the wines for now. But the consolidation of Rosenblum Cellars with other properties owned by Diageo is a major step toward reducing this once-beloved winery to just another brand.
-- Dave McIntyre
(Follow me on Twitter.)
The Food Section
June 10, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Wine | Tags: Dave McIntyre, wine
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