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Meet Sam Lando of Lando Wines in Sonoma County

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sam Lando.

Sam Lando started his career in wine working for some of the large global wine producers in the early 1990s. Within a year of being in the industry, he soon identified his true love of working with and enjoying Pinot Noir. The first half of his journey on the corporate side was engrossed in learning all aspects of the business, from production, marketing, sales, operations and finance…and growing into ever evolving senior management/executive roles. After aiding in the transaction of a large corporate wine group, he realized the need to gain hands-on knowledge of working with developing, luxury-focused wine brands. This led him to a rocket ride experience with Kosta Browne winery.

After working for five years with Kosta Browne Winery as their director of marketing & sales, he departed at the end of 2012. His work with dear friends was a deeply rewarding experience…personally and professionally. They worked (and played) so well together because of a love and passion for what they did. In addition to their shared affliction for Pinot, they enjoyed the company of great people and food. In the middle of the 2012 vintage, Sam and his wife Jennifer decided to make the leap and take the winemaking hobby to the next level. They borrowed against their savings and began building the foundation to develop a small Pinot Noir focused winery.

Today, as in 2020, Lando Wines quietly celebrates eight years of producing delicious Pinot Noirs. It wasn’t made any easier with the experience of losing the 2016 vintage of wines in the October 2017 Fires in Sonoma County. However, no one was hurt, and the 2017 vintage thankfully was safely resting at our new production facility. While this hasn’t been an easy journey thus far, we couldn’t be prouder of where we are and what we are doing. We have much more to come and are thrilled to be on this path!

From the beginning, our goal has been and continues to be – make intense, yet elegant and balanced Pinot Noirs from the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast appellations. We push ourselves to make great wines that we enjoy drinking and take great pride in sharing with our dear friends. To date, we couldn’t be more thrilled with the wines we have produced and are currently working on at the winery!

Has it been a smooth road?
What road? We’ve been off road for half of the existence of our business. Mother Nature has been constantly beating on us for the past four years. We lost a vintage of our wines in the Tubbs fire in 2017 in Sonoma County. We were renting space at a small winery to produce our wines…and that facility happened to be the only winery that burned to the ground between Napa and Sonoma County.

As we only offer our wines for sale twice a year and we do not have a tasting room, we meet and acquire new folks to our mailing list through participation in charity wine auctions and similar events across the country. Without having wine to offer, it becomes pretty difficult to maintain, let alone grow a customer base.

The toughest part has been dealing with the insurance companies, attorneys, and utility group. It has been an uphill battle for the past 2.3 years. Hopefully, we have some agreeable resolution soon. In the meantime, we have had to put on a smile and do our best to keep pushing forward. When an event significantly disrupts your livelihood, it’s traumatic & very emotional.

Aside from that first rough patch, we have had to deal with the repercussion of two additional years of fires. Thankfully, we had no structures or inventory damaged for the past two years, but the visitation side has been down significantly. Most folks outside of CA think that all of CA was burned into the ocean in the fall of 2019.

And now, year four – COVID-19…the unfinished story. This has already caused major disruption and costs to our business. That said, we’ve gotten very good at looking adversity directly in the eye and pushing it to the side. While these are challenging times, I truly believe there is great opportunity for brands and people to be their true self, authentic and real. This alone in a time where I feel our society has gotten so disconnected from the human side of life will hopefully bring us all closer together and create a new level of appreciation for one another. We shall see.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
We are known for producing intense and elegant pinot noir from the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast wine appellations in Sonoma County. We only offer our wines twice a year, mostly to a mailing list of friends and customers. I hold back a small percentage of the wines we produce to share with restaurants in nine states. Our wines are not incredible expensive, but I allocate every bottle that I produce…so most folks aren’t allowed to purchase cases upon cases each time we release the wines. They’re allowed a few bottles of each. In doing so, it keeps the playing field level for everyone who wants to acquire some of our wines.

I think what sets us apart is that we are real, genuine, and down to earth. Nothing is artificial or manufactured from a marketing or image prospective. There’s an old adage, “how do you make a small fortune in the wine business? Start out with a large one.” Well, we came about it from the opposite direction. This is not a wealthy person or family vanity/ego project. We liquidated my 401k to start our first vintage in 2012 and have been on the hunt/pursuit to produce the wines we enjoy drinking and sharing with friends/family. My wife and children are very much involved in all aspects – it’s our livelihood and what we enjoy doing. It’s a family business and we hope to grow it over time and continue the hard work and enjoyment for many years to come.

If you want to acquire our wines, please visit our website to join the mailing list. We email invitations to our mailing list friends twice a year (spring and fall) to purchase our wines. Otherwise, they may be found in a handful of fine dining restaurants in SoCal.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Without a doubt! It’s vibrant and passionate. There are plenty of folks willing to roll up their selves and get to work. Additionally, there are plenty of successful folks who seek and want the enjoyment of luxurious items…from homes, cars, food, and wine. I feel our story hit home for many folks who have been entrepreneurs and have lived/felt the struggle.

I believe Southern CA as a whole is a great place to start a business. Having an actionable plan to offer a good or service to an identified audience – mixed with a healthy dose of grit and determination usually leads to successful results. What most cities can benefit from is having low cost office and or commercial space for new businesses. And of course, access to capital and mentoring is always a huge plus for any community wanting to foster new business.

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