I started the Sandler Wine Company in 2003 both by design and by happenstance. After working 9 years as a cellar hand, enologist, assistant winemaker and winemaker for Bernardus, Chalone and Testarossa, in early 2003 I became a consulting winemaker. This is kind of a roving free agent in the winemaking world. My two grower partners and I had already started August West in the fall of 2002, but I didn’t have my own label yet. After the harvest of 2003, an old friend of mine contacted me looking for some bulk Zinfandel for his own label, Markey Family. It didn’t take me long to locate 230 cases worth of Zin from Mill Creek Winery in Dry Creek. Ken Markey from Markey Family wanted no more than 200 cases, but it was a take it or leave it lot of 230 cases. Rather than leave it, I bottled the extra 30 cases as a 2003 Dry Creek Zinfandel, and the Sandler label was born.
Without any vineyard sources for the next vintage, I made one wine for Sandler, a 2004 Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir with bulk wine I had bought. I found an excellent Syrah vineyard in 2005, the Connell Vineyard in Bennett Valley, which became Sandler’s first single vineyard wine. The next long-term source I found was Buck Hill Zinfandel in the Rincon Valley/Fountain Grove area of Santa Rosa. The first Buck Hill vintage was 2007. Vineyard-designate Pinots for Sandler began in 2009 with Keefer Ranch and Clos Pepe. I added my old friends from Bien Nacido in 2010, Boer Vineyard in 2011 and Peterson in 2012. My one and only Grenache vineyard is the Boer Vineyard which I started working with in 2010, the year before I got Pinot there. Chardonnay production began in 2014 with some excellent old vine Chard from Heintz Ranch in the Russian River Valley. Cabernet started in 2015 with Lazare Vineyard in Napa Valley.
Each year on BerserkerDay, January 27, Sandler usually offers 4 packs and 6 packs of newly released Pinots, and sometimes mixes in a few of the other grape varieties, like Grenache, Chardonnay and Cabernet. The BerserkerDay 10 offers are not finalized yet, but will be by this weekend. Happy 10th Anniversary Wine Berserkers!!!
I found out about Ed when he was working for Fort Ross, which was my ‘new hotness’ Pinot Noir at the time (Squires forum) - getting a chance to meet this brilliant, soft-spoken man at Frank Murray’s Falltacular just makes you want to like his wines even more!
I’ve seen a lot of questions from relative newcomers about B-Day, asking what to get or how to proceed. Sandler is the easiest no-brainer, every time. Search the forum for posts, and I’m guessing most folks will agree.
As others have said, it’s relatively easy to support a guy like Ed - super nice, super personable, loves sharing information, and his wines generally over-achieve for their pricing. Purchase with confidence indeed!
I will add my voice (or words) to the chorus of fans of Sandler Wines and Ed Kurtzman. Never met the man and all interactions have been either through third party proxies or over the interwebs but he has impressed me as a kind, generous, and good person who happens to make delicious wine.
Add in the value proposition of the Sandler label plus the BD discount and you hit the trifecta.