NEWBIE INTRO – Sandar & Hem Wines

Hello Berserkers!

Sandar & Hem Wines is thrilled to be participating in our first Berserker day. We wanted to tell you a little bit about our winery in preparation for the big day.

Winery Info:

Sandar & Hem is a small winery launched in 2018 focused exclusively on making wines from compelling vineyards sites in the Santa Cruz Mountains with a particular focus on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. We strive to make transparently made wines that reflect such a rugged, diverse, and beautiful place.

Robert and Recha started Sandar and Hem after years of dreaming about launching a winery and being inspired by the deep history, unique vineyards, and profound wines of the Santa Cruz Mountains in their backyard. The name Sandar and Hem references Robert’s Norwegian agricultural origins as the home place (Sandar) and surname (Hem) of his ancestors.

Robert has a Ph.D. in biochemistry and initially came to the San Francisco Bay Area to work as a biomedical researcher at UCSF. There he met his wife Recha, a UCSF-trained radiologist who currently works at Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group. Robert progressed through careers as a management consultant and tech executive and by combining his passions and talents is now a winemaker. Robert has worked harvests at several wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains including Rhys and Mount Eden and earned a UC Davis Winemaking Certificate. Recha manages many day-to-day activities of the winery including finance and logistics.

Sandar & Hem wines are made in a small winery space in San Francisco. The team farms a heritage-clone Chardonnay vineyard planted in the 1970s. They also work with incredible growers and vineyards across the Santa Cruz Mountains with the goal of making delicious wines and bringing awareness to the complexity and heights that wines from this lesser-known wine region can achieve.

We were thrilled to be featured alongside many of our mentors in Antonio Galloni’s recent article on Vinous: “Santa Cruz Mountains: Wines of Breathtaking Pedigree” : Vinous | Explore All Things Wine

We are grateful to Wine Berserkers for creating such a great resource for bringing together folks passionate about wine and we hope you join us on our exploration of the Santa Cruz Mountains by picking up one of the BD12 offerings here on the site.


Rob, I’m so excited to see your wines featured here!

I’ve known Rob since my days as a retailer and he is a stalwart lover of balanced, site-specific wine. Try Sandar & Hem - you won’t be disappointed.

Also, Rob, you’re kind of burying the lede here - Rob did some of his formative work as a harvest and cellar hand for Rhys and Mount Eden, so you know you are getting a pure Santa Cruz Mountain style here.


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Not a lot of notes on Cellartracker; but the comments have me sitting up straight, paying attention. A case of quality over quantity.

If you Enjoy Rhys, Mount Eden, Thomas Fogarty or any of the other classically styled Santa Cruz Mountains wines then you’re going to want to check these out. The tariff is very reasonable considering the quality and is very obvious once you taste them. The vineyards sites they have managed to capture so far is impressive and I know for fact there are more unique sites coming that they haven’t announced yet.


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I met Rob when he joined our local tasting group, already a veteran wine geek with a particular interest in Burgundy and our local Santa Cruz Mountains. It’s been interesting watching a collector with such a developed palate transition into winemaking. Especially someone with such a strong scientific background, drive, networking skills, startup experience and some stints of some very hardcore physical work. He’s able to pick the brains of some of his favorite winemakers, then get down and dirty and earn the respect of vineyard crews. And, well, impress so many of our top growers and vineyard owners to give him access to some of the best sites in our region, some well known, others were all about potential.

2018 is the first vintage, and his wines spend around 18 months in barrel. So, being fairly recently bottled, selling locally through networking, planned key restaurant placements not happening due to the plague are why there aren’t many CT notes. I’ve been really impressed with how well the wines capture the distinct site expressions. And that Rob manages to land new Holy Grail sites each year. My first impression of the '18 Bates Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon is it’s on the level of the couple very best classic examples. There are two SVD Chards, which will give you an idea how transparently he allows these distinct sites to show themselves. One of the things Rob wants to do is highlight the unique subregional expressions of the Santa Cruz Mountains through the lens of Chardonnay, which you’ll really start seeing with the five(?) '19 Chards he’ll bottle later this year.

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Thanks for the nice words Wes. You have introduced us to so many great Santa Cruz Mountains wines over the years and have helped lead us to many incredible vineyard sites. It’s been a pleasure to learn about the deep history of the Santa Cruz Mountains from you.

The label art alone has me interested! Looking forward to your BD offer

Thanks Adam! The label art is done by talented local Santa Cruz Woodcut Artist Lili Arnold. Last spring we brought Lili to the Le Bouef vineyard, a 47 year-old heritage clone Chardonnay site in Ben Lomond above Santa Cruz that we farm ourselves, and she was inspired by the huge burst of native wildflower blooms and the catalogue of natives that we had created from our sites, and she agreed to work with us to create art for the winery.

We continue to marvel in all the native plants we discover in our vineyards including wildflowers, grasses, and shrubs. Many of these natives including the Ben Lomond Spineflower and Santa Cruz Manzanita can only be found in small parcels of the Santa Cruz Mountains. We believe these plants are often a very important part of what gives wines from sites specific characters. Right around harvest their oils and pollen are deposited on grapes and contribute to the wine. For example, at Bates Ranch at harvest time, there are incredible aromas of sage and mint in the native cover crop and this character can be found both in the Cabernet Sauvignon and also echos in the Grenache Rosé we make from the same site.

As we grow, we eventually hope to work with Lili to create labels specific to each vineyard based on plants we find there. Creating this art has definitely been a fun aspect to launching the winery.

The Sandar & Hem wines are top-notch. Even though it’s a fairly new winery, the wines I’ve tasted have been among the best young wines I’ve tried from the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Rob is a friend and I’ve helped do some bottling and sorting work with him, but that doesn’t affect my view of his wines. I highly recommend them to anyone who enjoys wine from Santa Cruz Mountains fruit, and really to everyone who loves high-quality wine. [cheers.gif]

Thanks Ken! That means a lot to us coming from such an experienced winemaker! We always love having your help on bottling days and we have eight wines going to bottle in the next few months including five 2019 single vineyards chardonnays! We hope you can join us again!