- The Underground Wine Letter - http://www.undergroundwineletter.com -


Christine Graham, a  Contributing Editor to The Underground Wineletter, has just published a book on wine icon Robert Lawrence Balzer, Hollywood and Wine — A Star Studded Life,  The Robert Lawrence Balzer Story.  According to Christine, Balzer had been working on his autobiography for years but had only reached the decade of the 50s in 2010 when he was 98 so he finally agreed to have her complete the book for him.  In order to accomplish that, since Balzer died in December 2011, she had to rely on his copious notes, articles, books and journals.

Photos left to right and top to bottom:  Louis M. Martini, Balzer’s Grocery on Larchmont; Etienne Hugel and Balzer; Henri Krug; Joan Crawford awarding Balzer check for $10,000 for winning entree.

She describes in the book how Hollywood and Wine is just one intersection in Balzer’s life. I remember Balzer from the 70s and 80s when he had a regular wine column in the Los Angeles Times. At that time there were very few people writing about wine. Balzer wrote about all kinds of wines, but I particularly remember his many articles on Gallo wines (especially Hearty Burgundy) and other  mass produced low priced wines sold largely in super markets.  I also remember him personally for his penchant for capes and speedos as well as his exaggerated speech and mannerisms.  A blue-eyed, white Anglo-Saxon Protestant from Iowa, Balzer relished his life as a Hollywood man about town in the society columns to ultimately creating a new American genre of wine journalism.  His first article in 1939, five years after the ending of Prohibition, was the beginning of salvaging the wine industry decimated by its impact.  For the next 60+ years, Balzer continued to legitimize the industry to the world and three years prior to the famous Judgment of Paris in 1976, his 1973 Chardonnay tasting in New York showed California wines besting French wines.  He was a 20th Century Renaissance man: Hollywood celebrity, Buddhist monk, fancy grocer, wine educator, bon vivant, restaurateur, chef, actor, author, pilot, poet, painter, photographer, dancer, world traveler, philanthropist, radio personality, visionary.

Photos left to right and top to bottom: Robert Mondavi, John DeLuca, Balzer; Balzer, Andre Simon, Dr. Maynard Amerine; Jean-Michel Cazes, Balzer; Aubert de Villaine, Lalou Bize-Leroy, Balzer; Dick Smothers, Balzer, Tom Smothers.

Highlights From The Book

Photos left to right and top to bottom: Balzer, Ernest Gallo, Hugh Johnson; Balzer, Gloria Swanson; Balzer; Bernard Trimbach, Balzer, Hubert Trimbach; Claude Taittinger, Balzer; Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, Robert Mondavi; Andre Tchelistcheff, Balzer.

Photos left to right and top to bottom: Ronald Reagan, Balzer; Robert Mondavi, Baron Philippe de Rothschild; Balzer, Zelma Long; Mike Grgich, Balzer; Balzer teaching at Lawry’s; Balzer, Alexandre lur Saluces.



Photos left to right and top to bottom: Balzer and Fred Brander tread grapes in lagares in Portugal; Christian Moueix; Eric Wente with his horse Flash; Piero Antinori, Balzer; Balzer, Barbara Lazaroff, Ursula Hermacinski.

Christine’s book is available on Amazon as an ebook which can be downloaded and read on a Kindle, computer, iphone, android, etc. (click here [1]).

Painting of Balzer by famed neo-impressionist painter, James-Paul Brown

In Vino Veritas,Sig

John Tilson