Nathan L. Chroman, a Beverly Hills attorney and wine enthusiast who wrote an influential weekly column for the Los Angeles Times during the rise of the California wine industry in the 1970s and '80s, has died. He was 83.
Chroman, who contracted polio when he was 18, died Friday of post-polio syndrome at his home in Westwood, said his daughter, Lucie Zimmerman.
A personal injury lawyer who practiced law for more than 50 years, Chroman developed his interest in wine after picking up a book on the subject in a library while studying for the bar exam in 1957.
His avocation led to his teaching UCLA Extension courses on wine history and appreciation, serving as chairman of the wine judging committee for the Los Angeles County Fair, freelancing columns and articles to publications such as Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator, and writing the 1973 book "The Treasury of American Wines."
Chroman also freelanced a weekly wine column for The Times from 1971 to 1987.
"That is very much when California fine wine came of age," said Matt Kramer, a columnist for Wine Spectator magazine, who was wine critic for The Times for two years in the '90s. "Chroman was a market force in the Southland. If he gave a winery a good review, things happened. He occupied a powerful seat because of The Times."
In a 1987 Times story about wine journalism, media critic David Shaw characterized Chroman as a knowledgeable and passionate wine writer but noted that he had been involved in several situations "where there is at least the appearance of a potential conflict of interest — having a financial involvement with at least three California wineries, accepting free meals and free trips abroad for himself and his wife."
Chroman also was a paid consultant to the Scandia restaurant.
Harvey Steiman, executive editor of Wine Spectator, told Shaw, "Nate is the quintessential non-journalist wine writer. "He [is]…very knowledgeable about wine … [but] he doesn't think like a journalist; he thinks like an aficionado and a lawyer."
For his part, Chroman said he had never demanded favors from anyone in the wine industry and denied showing any bias in his wine criticism.
The Times stopped running Chroman's wine column the same month Shaw's two-part article on wine writers was published, with Times editors saying they were seeking a full-time professional journalist to write about wine.
Zimmerman said "people who really knew" her father "were outraged" by the article. "But it didn't stop him. He continued his travels, he continued his writing; his influence continued, and he continued to be involved in so many things for a long time afterward."
Born in Chicago on Feb. 17, 1929, Chroman moved to Los Angeles with his family when he was 3. He grew up in Boyle Heights and graduated from Roosevelt High School. He graduated from Santa Ana College in 1952. After attending UCLA, he received his law degree from Loyola Law School in 1957.
Chroman's various activities included serving on the Los Angeles City Board of Transportation Commissioners.
Besides his daughter Lucie, Chroman is survived by his wife of 57 years, Judie; his two other daughters, Gina Seidel and Stacie MacDonald; and three grandchildren.