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Welcome to Rock Wall Wine Company, the much-buzzed about and distinctively unique Alameda winery, situated on a converted 40,000 square foot airplane hangar. It is here that I met with Kent Rosenblum, former veterinarian and Minnesota native and current CEO of Rock Wall Wines, to discuss with him this successful wine hot spot in the East Bay.
As I sip the pleasantly crisp “Uncle Roget’s 2012 Grenache Rose”, I am seated at a wooden picnic table overlooking the San Francisco skyline on a warm May afternoon. After biting into my heaping falafel burger (courtesy of resident restaurant Scolari’s), I ask Kent to describe Rock Wall’s business philosophy. Without hesitation, the warm and approachable CEO replies, “When we started, we had three premises: have fun, make great wine, and make money.” That culture is very much prevalent when you visit the winery. Settled near the water’s edge of the old Alameda Naval Air Base, Rock Wall Winery’s wood floored retail room opens up into a spacious and comfortable patio overlooking the Bay, with views of the San Francisco skyline, Bay Bridge, and Oakland’s famous port cranes. This lovely backdrop invites large crowds on busy Friday nights and during their fun events, like the upcoming Food Truck Frenzy which is expected to draw a crowd of 1,500 people. Business is booming, and it would appear that the Rock Wall philosophy is one that works, and well.
Of course, anyone would enjoy the success, but what element of this business brings Kent and his family the greatest sense of pride? To Kent, it is seeing customers enjoying the wines - smiling, happy faces; large crowds; families spending time together and laughing; people savoring the spectacular view and unique location from the urban winery. In comparison to their first winery, Rosenblum Cellars, the view from Rock Wall is truly a conversation starter and sets the stage for a very different spin on wine tasting adventures.
Another source of pride is being able to share the Rosenblum family enthusiasm for creating great wine. Several current staff members of the winery have begun to explore wine making on their own. Several former protÃ©gÃ©s have started up successful wineries all over the San Francisco Bay Area and David, the current tasting room manager, has opened a small winery in Berkeley. Kent has been very happy to assist each of them in developing their wine making craft and share his expertise with no fear of potential competition.
The short term goals for Rock Wall include further developing the wine club and expanding the out-of-state wholesale operations. As for long term goals, they go back to the company’s foundation of being a friendly, functional place that profitably creates fantastic wine. Shauna (Kent and Kathy’s daughter), is head winemaker here and will likely lead the company into the future. Her passion for the business began when she started working in the cellar at age twelve. While she has a Masters in Fine Arts, her time at Rosenblum Cellars essentially equates to a masters of Fine Wine Making.
Longtime Minnesota friends of the Rosenblums, Dell and Gene Nagal, joined our conversation, sharing some inside scoop from the beginning of the Rosenblum winemaking tradition. Apparently, the Rosenblums’ first “crush” was done in Gene and Dell’s garage in San Ramon many years ago. Dell shared that the two couples used to frequent wine tastings back in the pre-Rosenblum Cellars era and, during tastings, Gene and Dell would share their preferences for particular wines while Kent and Kathy took copious notes documenting their preferences. Gene added that it was this dedicated interest in wine making and a concerted work effort that made Rock Wall Wine Co and Rosenblum Cellars such success stories, and enabled them to build this remarkable brand from the ground up. And so you see, this family owned and run business started humbly and was grown in love and fun, to the wildly successful and always enjoyable Alameda treasure that it is today.
If you are interested in visiting or learning more about Rock Wall Wine Company, please visit their website.