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When Shauna Rosenblum was 3 years old she was with her parents on a winery tour, and the toddler said to the guide, “Tank sample, please.”

The precocious winemaker is behind our wine-of-the-week winner — the Rock Wall, 2012 Hendry Vineyard, Napa Valley Zinfandel at $40.

This is an edgy zin with ample fruit and a staccato of spice. It has a great concentration of fruit, and the spice keeps pace with it. The Rock Wall is a full-throttle, big-boy zin and it’s knockout.

Shauna is the daughter of Kent Rosenblum, the founder and former winemaker of Alameda’s Rosenblum Cellars. Rosenblum said he sold the winery in 2008 to begin boutique winemaking with Rock Wall, also in Alameda.

“As a 2-year old, my dad taught me how to read brix on a refractometer so that I could walk with him and help him check sugar levels in our vineyard,” Shauna said. “Growing up, I just assumed everyone had a winery... Until I was 6 or 7, I thought everyone went to school and their parents made wine and that was everyone’s life.”

At age 12, Shauna was working on the bottling line, and by 16 she was asked to sit with winemakers as they fine-tuned blends.“I was the only female out of six people who were tasting,” Shauna said. “I absorbed a lot of information.”

Shauna majored in ceramics at San Francisco’s California College of Arts and Crafts, which seems at first glance an unlikely prerequisite to winemaking.

“Most people don’t realize that in order to major in ceramics, you have to take two semesters of chemistry to understand what can and cannot be heated up to 3,000 degrees,” she said.

Shauna’s winemaking epiphany came when she was a graduate student working on her master’s degree at the San Francisco Art Institute. She was concocting a glaze with precision when she realized it’s just like blending wine.

“In that moment, my perception changed and all of a sudden I saw winemaking as an art,” Shauna said. “Dad’s an artist, I thought to myself, amused and satisfied by my revelation.”

Seeing winemaking as an art is what Shauna said sets her apart from many winemakers.

“As the winemaker of Chateau Pontet-Canet said to me on a tour once: ‘One can make a technically correct wine, but if there’s no passion behind it, what is the point?’” Shauna explained. “Because I view wine as art, I am willing to take risks and go outside the box. I source fruit from 63 different vineyards so that I have every color on my painting palette when it comes time for blending.”

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at 707-521-5310 or peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com.

___

This week’s blind tasting consisted of zinfandels and zinfandel-based blends.

TOP PICK:

Rock Wall, 2012 Hendry Vineyard, Napa Valley Zinfandel, 15.1 percent, $40. ★★★★: This is an edgy zin with ample fruit and a staccato of spice. It has a great concentration of fruit and the spice keeps pace with it. A full-throttle, big boy zin. A knockout.

TASTY ALTERNATIVES

Ridge, 2012 Lytton Springs, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County Zinfandel-based blend, 14.4 percent, $38. ★★★★: This zin’s strength is its structure, its great bones, coupled with its tangy red fruit. Cherry fruit up front, herbs and spice play backup. Good acidity. Round texture. Crisp cherry finish. It’s our wine-of-the-week runner up. The blend is 70 percent zinfandel, 21 percent petite sirah, 6 percent carignane, and 3 percent mourvedre.

Acorn, 2012 Heritage Vines Alegria Vineyards, Russian River Valley Zinfandel, 14.5 percent, $45. ★★★★: This is a full-bodied zin with a great concentration of fruit. Aromas and flavors of blackberry, raspberry and spice. While it leads with rich fruit, it manages to be balanced. Striking.

Beekeeper, 2012 Madrone Spring Vineyard, Rockpile Appellation, Sonoma County Zinfandel, 14.8 percent, $65. ★★★★: This zin has great complexity, with layers of red and black fruit, dried herbs and white pepper. The melding of these flavors works. This is a pricey zin, but well worth the splurge.

Mill Creek, 2012 Dry Creek Valley Sonoma County Zinfandel, 14.5 percent, $28. ★★★1⁄2: This zin’s appeal is that it’s bright and balanced. It begins with black cherry fruit and ends with a cherry-packed finish. Notes of anise and cracked black pepper are in the mix. Impressive.

Gnarly Head, 2013 Old Vine Zin Lodi Zinfandel, 14.5 percent, $12. ★★★: This is an approachable zin and a good quaff. Notes of black fruit, vanilla and spice. Lightly toasted. A solid value.

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