Jovial LA Times Wine Critic Passes Away

Long before the 1985 debut of Robert M. Parker‘s newsletter, LA Times wine critic Lawrence Robert Balzer launched a similar subscription-based corkage guide in 1970. The guide published for 14 years and is just one of this esteemed journalist’s many accomplishments.

Balzer, age 99, died of natural causes on December 1 in Orange. In addition to reviewing wines for the paper from 1964 to 1995, he authored a dozen books and taught up until a few years ago several annual wine-tasting courses aboard the Queen Mary. Per the LA Times obit, it sounds like the classes were a lot of fun:

In between blind tastings and presentations by well-known winemakers, he regaled students with stories, such as the time his trunks came off while swimming in the Russian River with a number of wine industry leaders, or how he talked Sunset Boulevard leading lady and longtime friend Gloria Swanson out of retirement to play the strangely powerful matriarch of a vineyard with a colony of deadly bees in the 1972 TV movie Killer Bees.

This guy evidently loved to pop the humor cork. Having sailed on the Queen Mary’s maiden 1936 voyage (pictured), he liked to greet students with mention that it was nice to be back on the ship. RIP.

[Photo courtesy The Queen Mary Hotel]