I’m crazy excited that I can add Lando to my list of wineries! The story begins like so many others – I discovered Lando at PinotFest last fall. I’d never heard of them. And they weren’t on my list of wineries to taste at that event (I didn’t visit every winery at the event – 40 is a lot in 3 hours). However, Sam Lando’s table was set up directly next to Kosta Browne. They were arranged alphabetically at the event. So Kosta Browne then Lando made sense. Kosta Browne was definitely at the top of my list of wineries to visit then felt obligated to try Sam’s wine because he was standing like a foot away. And I’m SO GLAD I did!
Ironically, Sam Lando worked at Kosta Browne up until he started his own winery in 2012! I remember chatting with Sam and I enjoyed his wine. But, I don’t recall how much of my five-week adventure I’d shared with him or if we’d even discussed me tasting his wines while I was visiting California. But, when I went back to reach out to the wineries his website clearly states “Due to our limited production, we are not presently open to the public for tasting.” I can respect that and did at the time.
Then I happened to realize that he produces his wine at Grand Cru Custom Crush. I know that facility has tasting rooms available to their wineries. But, Sam doesn’t do tastings. I even remember chatting about that when I was tasting with Flambeaux. Oh well. I was on Sam’s allocation list – I hoped. And then I sort of forgot about Lando. It just wasn’t happening and I moved on.
The next night I found myself seated at the bar in Valette (yes, that happens a lot). I happened to be seated next to winery owners that night, too! I’d ordered my usual scallops – because you HAVE to if you dine at Valette. And I paired them with a Chardonnay that Dustin Valette explained to me he added to the list specifically for his scallops. Yay me for getting that pairing right! (You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this – patience.) I next ordered their ahi tuna appetizer as my “entree”. I asked the bartender for a suggested pairing and he gave me something – I don’t remember what. It was then that I glanced up behind the bar and noticed the bottle of Lando Pinot Noir. Had I spent even a few minutes looking over the entire “by the glass” section of their menu, I would have spotted the Lando Pinot Noir. But, it took me a few more weeks to figure it out.
A week later I took 10 of my friends to Valette for their tasting menu. We opted for six courses. And out came the bottle of Lando. My friends absolutely loved the Lando Pinot Noir that we were served. And they were all pretty desperate to get their hands on it – even talking about it the next day. I explained that I’d met Sam in San Francisco in the fall and wanted to do a tasting but that he just doesn’t do them. They gave me all sorts of ideas on how I might wiggle my way through with some of our wine industry connections back home. I knew I didn’t need to pull strings. I’m pretty good on my own. But, I explained that I was on his allocation list and I would try to get them some wine.
About a week later Sam’s pre-allocation email came out. Buried in a link to a 5-page PDF that included some FAQs on Page 5 I saw the first question “can we drop by and taste your wines?”. I giggled to myself thinking I knew the answer. But then I read his answer: “Technically, we do not have a tasting room and we are not open to the public. However, feel free to drop me an email and we’ll see what we can do. Since we are still a one man operation, it’s pretty tough to pull off…but we’ll try. It’s best to plan out three to four weeks ahead of time. We have a business office off the square in Healdsburg and an outstanding custom crush winery in Windsor. Both of which are ideal if time allows!”
WHAT?!?! There were only 2 weeks left in my trip. I only had 3 days that could possibly work for me. If I had known, I would have reached out back in November and made him a priority. But, I took a chance. I immediately emailed Sam. He responded a few hours later that one of the dates magically worked for both of us! He even said he remembered me from San Francisco. But we never officially confirmed the location so I started to get nervous as the date approached. However, he reached back out the day before our scheduled tasting – and we were ON!
Funny enough – a couple of days earlier my Kosta Browne post went live on my blog and Instagram. The next morning I woke up, looked at who had started following me and was alerted that Sam Lando was now following me on Instagram. And I wondered – does he know that’s me? The answer is – no, it was purely coincidence.
I tried SO hard not to be too early. But, I fail miserably every time. As usual, I pulled up in front of his office about 10 minutes early when someone who really looked like Sam Lando walked by my Jeep and smiled. I didn’t wave or anything – what if I was wrong? I didn’t want to look any more foolish than I usually do.
After confirming I’d parallel parked adequate enough, I took the elevator up to the second floor and his office. And, it was Sam. He’d explained that he’d just gotten back from urgent care – his son had broken his thumb goofing off. He’s a one-man show, a husband, a parent, and probably so much more. He’d made it to my tasting with 10 minutes to spare. Even if he was rushing around, he didn’t let it show and made me feel relaxed and wonderful.
He asked me what I’d like to try – um, everything! I usually just say – whatever you’d like to share. But I was pretty excited when he pulled out the 2018 Chardonnay, 2018 Russian River Pinot Noir, and the 2018 Sauves La Vie Pinot Noir. Those were the three wines in his current release. Since I’m new to his allocation list and have purchased nothing, I was only lucky enough to be allocated four bottles of the 2018 Russian River Pinot Noir. Both the other Pinot Noir and Chardonnay were only available to me via “wait list”. He explained that for the Suaves La Vie he had planned to produce 300 cases. But, when it came down to sampling the barrels and making decisions a couple of weeks ago, he only produced 165 cases of which 150 would be available to customers. The rest held back for tastings and such. I recalled reading the pre-allocation email that said he would try to allocate one of each of those to everyone on his list. But, some of us weren’t lucky enough.
They’re young. Very young. Bottling happened a week and a half ago. But I really enjoyed his Chardonnay and hoped I’d get a couple off of the wish list. It’s only the second vintage of a Chardonnay that he’s produced. My favorite may have been his 2018 Appellation Blend Russian River Pinot Noir. This is what I’ve been enjoying over at Valette – but the 2017 vintage. I was in love. And thrilled that four of those are guaranteed to be mine – and hopefully more!
I also enjoyed the 2018 Sauves La Vie. This is his single vineyard pinot. And he explained that the name translates to “life saver” and told me the story. Back in 2007 when his wife gave birth to their second child there were some complications that weren’t immediately obvious to everyone. When they realized what had happened, she’d lost like 80% of her blood. She was raced to emergency surgery where they called in an older “war vet” doctor who is their go to when they have a particularly scary/difficult case. Due to his experience as a military doctor, I guess he’s known for coming up with creative solutions. And on that day, he saved her life.
Fast forward a few years when Sam was looking at vineyard sites. He was chatting with the vineyard owner who recognized his last name. The vineyard owner asked if his wife’s name was Jennifer. It was. Sam was curious. The vineyard owner says he remembers his wife – she was the only person he saved in 2007. And now we’re both getting misty-eyed.
I noticed Sam checking his watch and tried to ignore it. But wanted to respect his time. I could have stood there listening to his stories all afternoon. He politely explained that he had an important call in a few minutes. He shared with me some of what the call was about. I’m not comfortable sharing those details. It’s not my story to share. But I’m REALLY excited for what it could mean for him. And I now wanted to race out of his office so that he could prepare. We hugged and said we hoped to bump into each other in a month at World of Pinot Noir in Santa Barbara.
I cannot wait to watch Sam Lando’s winery grow. I’m going to be standing over here on the sidelines cheering him on and enjoying his wine – however much he’ll allocate to little old me.