Appointed Winemaker at Thomas Fogarty Wine Estate in 2013, Nathan Kandler embraces the founders’ original goal — to make wines that express the property’s unique terroir, hallmark elegance and definitive character. “Our coastal climate, high elevation and rocky soils are unique and define our authentic site-expressive wines. I find the Santa Cruz Mountains the most compelling region in California to grow Pinot Noir and Chardonnay,” he says.
Nathan spends a great deal of time in the vineyards, micro-managing row by row and relying heavily on cover crops and compost tea applications to build soil health. “We are fostering a living soil that will preserve and revitalize our vines. After just one season of intensive cover cropping, we saw dramatic improvements in our older vineyards.”
Growing up in Lansing, Michigan, Nathan discovered wine during a family trip to Europe. “My first memorable experience occurred at a Paris bistro, right across the Seine River from the Louvre. I ate steak frites and we drank Cru Beaujolais. I was young and it was years before I developed an interest in fine wine, but it all began with this fantastic, yet simple meal.”
Taking a hiatus from college studies, Nathan worked in upscale restaurants, and wine captured his attention in a big way. “I packed my car and moved from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Santa Rosa, California, where I began viticulture studies at the Junior College.” In 2003 he completed his B.S. in Enology at California State University, Fresno, a program known for hands-on and practical experience.
Nathan enriched his education with jobs in the cellars of Sonoma and Napa County wineries, as well as a full time harvest stint at Testarossa in Los Gatos. In 2004, before joining Fogarty, he headed to Australia to work a harvest at Tobreck winery in Barossa Valley. “Torbreck is fascinating. Traditional methods abound in the cellar, and winemakers place the vineyard above winemaking.”
Michael Martella hired Nathan in summer, 2004. “Michael’s openness to experimentation in the cellar allowed me to practice whole cluster fermentation, using native yeasts and uninhibited, natural malolactic fermentation.” Nathan remains a proponent of minimal intervention in the cellar, preferring to capture and preserve flavors born of soil and climate. He says, “As the California wine industry matures and becomes less insular, we are recognizing the beauty in celebrating divergent terroir. People look for wines that strut their differences, especially those derived from the soil and climate.”
Nathan, with his wife, Marta, and daughters, Olivia and Brynn, live on the Thomas Fogarty Estate. He stays in tune with the vineyards, surrounding woodlands and wildlife during regular, early morning walks with Lewis, his dog. An sporting enthusiast, Nathan enjoys an active lifestyle: cycling, snowboarding, traveling and coaching his daughters basketball and softball teams