University Library


Robert Lawrence Balzer is certainly one of the most knowledgeable and articulate observers of the wine scene in America. He treats the wines of the world, each on its own merit, with an unprejudiced palate and pen. - Harry G. Serlis


June 25, 1912 in Des Moines, Iowa


Stanford University, B.A. in English (with distinction), 1935

Military service

U.S. Army Air Force, pilot and flight instructor, 1941-42


Since the early 1950’s, Robert Lawrence Balzer has studied Buddhism, at one time at a temple in Cambodia where he was ordained as a teaching monk.


Owner of Balzer’s (wine and food retail store) Los Angeles, Calif., and The Tirol (restaurant), Idyllwild, Calif.

1964-1996 - Wine columnist for the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine

1967-70 - Consultant to Paul Masson Vineyards

1991 – Food and Beverage Editor for Les Amis Du Vin Magazine

Photographer for United Press International (UPI), New York Mirror, Flighttime, Wine and Travel/Holiday (Food and Beverage Editor and sole arbiter of the prestigious Distinctive Dining Awards for restaurants in North America)


Balzer wrote his first wine column for the Beverly Hills Citizen newspaper in 1937. He has also contributed articles toSunset magazineTravel/Holiday, Flightime, Les Amis Du Vin MagazineWine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator, as well as writing his own newsletterRobert Lawrence Balzer’s Private Guide to Food & Wine (1970-1984).

Robert Lawrence Balzer has written or contributed to over a dozen books, including California’s Best Wines (1948), Chefs of the West Cook Book (1951), Beyond Conflict (1963), The Pleasures of Wine (1964), Adventures in Wine: Legends, History, Recipes (1969), This Uncommon Heritage: The Paul Masson Story (1970), Discovering Italian Wines (1971), Balzer’s Book of Wines and Spirits (1973), Wines of California (1978), and The Los Angeles Times Book of California Wines (1984). His forthcoming autobiography will be published under the title Face the Tiger.


Teaching about wine, whether in the classroom or on tour, has been one of Robert Lawrence Balzer’s greatest passions. Over the years, winemakers have made regular pilgrimages to speak to his classes, which developed almost cult-like followings among his students. Balzer taught through the following venues:

  • 1967 - University of California, Irvine
  • 1969-72  - University of California, Los Angeles
  • 1972 - Lawry’s California Center
  • 1978 – 2008 – Queen Mary, Long Beach, CA
  • Leader of wine tours and cruises with Carnival, Princess, and Crystal Harmony’s Wine Enrichment Program.


  • 1939 – Cordon Bleu Certificate of Award from the Wine and Food Society of Los Angeles
  • 1960 – First Prize Recipe - $10,000 –Kaiser’s Men’s Cookout
  • 1965 – Distinctive Dining Award from Holiday magazine for The Tirol restaurant
  • 1982 – Recognition and Appreciation by the City of Los Angeles as an "ASA Connoisseur, Journalist and Dean of American Wine Experts"
  • 1986 – Wine Writer of the Year – Wines & Vines magazine
  • 1991 – World of Wines Lifetime Achievement Award - at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel
  • 1997 – Academy of Wine Communications Award
  • 2000 – Lifetime Achievement Award – Los Angeles County Fair “Wines of the Americas”
  • 2001 – declared “Wine Educator of the Millennium” – American Institute of Wine and Food - Orange County Chapter
  • 2002 –named “Dean of American Wine Writers” – The Wine Spectator magazine
  • 2004 –Wine Literary Award - Wine Appreciation Guild
  • Decorated in Cambodia, France and Italy.

Food & Wine Advisor to Presidents

Balzer was Chairman of Food & Wine for the “Taste of America” invitational feature of the Presidential Inaugurations of Ronald Reagan in 1981 and 1985, and for George H. W. Bush in 1989. He claims a connection to an earlier G.A. Balzer who in 1865 provided the food at Abraham Lincoln’s second inauguration.

Wine Judging

  • 1946 -2007 –Los Angeles County Fair Wine Competition at Pomona
  • Jerry Mead New World International Wine Competition
  • Long Beach Grand Cru Wine Competition

Stage - Radio – Television - Film

  • 1936-37 – Attended Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
  • 1940-1941 – KMPC-Radio “What Shall I Have for Dinner?”
  • Guest on various television programs
  • KFI-Radio “Robert Lawrence Balzer on Wine”
  • 1996-2005  -  K-Mozart 105.1 FM “Robert Lawrence Balzer with a Word on Wine”
  • 2005-2007 – CRN Digital Talk Radio -“What’s Cookin’ on Wine”
  • “Killer Bees” (1974) (movie for television with Gloria Swanson; played the Episcopal priest)
  • Movie – “The Day of the Locust” (1975) (played the minister)


  • Chaine de Rotisseurs
  • Society of Bacchus
  • Guild of Sommeliers
  • Southern California Wine Writers
  • Cordon Bleu Wine and Food Society
  • Pi Delta Phi Honor Society