Robert Balzer has been called the first serious wine journalist in the United States. He was born in Des Moines, Iowa. At the age of 24, he was put in charge of the wine department of his family’s grocery/gourmet market in Los Angeles, California. Because he knew nothing about wine, he quickly educated himself on the subject. Balzer soon championed quality California wines and stocked his shelves with the best American wines available. He promoted wine in his customer newsletter and was asked by Will Rodgers Jr. to write a regular wine column in his local newspaper in 1937.


Balzer died December 2nd at his home in Orange, California, reports Wine Spectator. He was 99.


“He was clearly California’s first truly great wine writer and a pioneer,” said Marvin R. Shanken, editor and publisher of Wine Spectator. Along with being an early contributor to Wine Spectator, Balzer was also one of the founders of the California Wine Experience. “He was the first real wine educator for California wine. I owe a lot of my knowledge about California wine to him.”


Balzer, who also wrote an influential column for the Los Angeles Times magazine, published 11 books on wine during his lifetime, the first, California’s Best Wines, in 1948. He continued teaching wine classes, taking students to Napa and Europe, into his 90s.