New Sebastopol Wine Tasting Room Is a Family Affair Decades in the Making

Sonoma County's newest wine tasting room, at the Kanzler Family Vineyards estate in Sebastopol, opens July 1.

In 1992, Stephen and Lynda Kanzler purchased 20 acres in Sebastopol covered with abandoned apple trees and blackberry brambles. They had a dream, but it had nothing to do with wine.

“My parents were accidental farmers,” says Alex Kanzler. “They liked the community, they liked the schools and they built the house.”

As Alex and his sister grew up, his parents debated what might take root in the fields surrounding the family home. After a short stint growing raspberries, and with some advice from a friendly neighbor, Perry Kozlowski of Kozlowski Farms, the family set their sights on wine grapes.

The first of what would grow to nearly 15 acres of Pinot Noir was planted in 1996. There was never a plan to make wine. But when the popularity of Pinot exploded in the early 2000 (remember the movie Sideways?) and local vintners began commanding high scores for wines made from the Kanzler vineyard it was hard not to consider making wines.

Kanzler family of Sebastopol's Kanzler wines
The Kanzler family, from left to right: Lynda, Alex, Breauna and Stephen Kanzler. (Courtesy of Andrew Jess)

The moment that made the family finally decide to pursue winemaking was when Stephen Kanzler made a half-barrel of Pinot Noir for his daughter’s wedding, with the vineyards as a backdrop. When the festivities concluded, there wasn’t a drop left.

2004 marked Stephen Kanzler’s first commercial vintage. Not long after, Alex also found his way into the industry, earning his stripes in cellars and tasting rooms near and far. He took over the family winemaking responsibilities in 2011, moving back into the family home, first with roommates, and then with his wife, Breauna, who is from Petaluma.

In the beginning, the couple held tastings on the fly in their kitchen, dining room and eventually beneath a rustic pergola built with the help of some friends. Over time, they moved out of the two-story, four-bedroom family home and into an apartment they constructed over the garage, so they could host farm stays. It was a hustle and, in the middle of it all, they grew a wine club 400 members strong.

“We knew people resonated with the property and we enjoyed hosting people here,” says Alex Kanzler.

Kanzler tasting room in Sebastopol
The new Kanzler Estate Tasting Room in Sebastopol opens on July 1. (Courtesy of Andrew Jess)

Seven years ago, in December 2017, the couple started the lengthy permitting and legal process to build a tasting room. On July 1, the new modern tasting space, filled with earthy furnishings and California-centric art, will open its doors to the public on the same scenic spot that once boasted a pergola.

“We filled the space with things that really resonate with us and the land,” says Breauna Kanzler. “We want people to feel comfortable and we want this space and the wines to feel approachable.”

Private wine tastings will be offered twice a day by appointment and, at least for now, the plan is for Breauna Kanzler to host all visitors. In addition to a flight of five wines — one rosé of Pinot Noir, one Chardonnay, and a trio of Pinot Noirs — time will be dedicated to walking in the vineyards to help guests connect with the relatively unknown wine growing region.

Private wine tasting at Kanzler in Sebastopol
Private wine tastings will be offered twice a day, Thursday through Monday, at the new Kanzler Estate Tasting Room in Sebastopol. (Courtesy of Yoni Goldberg)

Alex Kanzler is a founding member of the nonprofit Sebastopol Hills Winegrowers Association, along with Ted Lemon of Littorai Wines, John Balletto and Anthony Beckman of Balletto Vineyards, and Joe Rogoway of Rogoway Law Group (a Kanzler wine club member). The group has petitioned to establish a new Sebastopol Hills American Viticultural Area, or AVA.

“We’re kind of stewards of this place,” says Alex Kanzler. “We’re not working up and down the state and we’re not working across a bunch of different varietals. We try to stay at what we’re good at.”

Wine tastings cost $75 at the new Kanzler Estate Tasting Room; appointments are available Thursday through Monday. No kids or dogs are allowed. Enter the code KANZLERVIP in the comment section of the website’s booking request to reserve two wine tastings for the price of one. The offer is valid through 2024.

Farm stays at Kanzler are available for up to eight people. The nightly rate is $1,395, November through February, and $1,905, March through October. A two-night minimum stay is required.

2109 Sanders Road, Sebastopol. 707-827-3874,