About Sandar & Hem

Our Inspiration

Our journey in wine has led us to the Santa Cruz Mountains, where a deep history of pioneering viticulture and winemaking and a recent wave of growers and wineries with a trajectory of excellence has inspired us to grow grapes and craft wine here.

The name Sandar and Hem references our family’s Norwegian agricultural origins. In the home place (Sandar) and surname (Hem) of our ancestors, we find inspiration in origin stories and the confluence of people and place. In our quest as winegrowers and winemakers, we aspire to make wines which express the breathtaking mountain sites upon which our grapes are grown and honor the dedicated people who take the grapes on their miraculous journey from soil to bottle.

When local winemakers discuss wines of the Santa Cruz Mountains, they talk in detail of the yet-to-be-formalized subregions of the AVA and we have been careful students of this movement as we work to gain a grasp of such a diverse place. These subregions range from the warmer sandy-loam Aptos-Corralitos region in the far south to the white Zyante sands and decomposed granites of Ben Lomond above Santa Cruz to the steep, rocky shale sites of the North Skyline region with its brisk ocean breezes and cool evening fog.

In particular, we believe chardonnay, above all other varieties, is able to capture the wide breadth of expressions and great heights possible from the rugged and geologically diverse sites with wildly varying microclimates of the region.

Who We Are

Robert Bergstrom

Robert has a diverse background and history of life adventures providing many stones on the path to becoming a winemaker. Formative early experiences include exploring winery barns of Napa in the 1970s as a child during a period where his father Donald, a chemistry professor at UC Davis, and Mother Eva would visit the still-modest local wineries on the weekends.

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Holiday banquets at his Grandparents Chinese restaurant taught the importance of thoughtfully sourced and crafted food in tying together family, exploring culture, and invigorating the spirit.

A love for the natural world and a curious mind led Robert to becoming a research academic with an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and a Ph.D. in Biophysics. A postdoctoral fellowship in cancer research at UCSF brought Robert to San Francisco where he reveled in the Bay Area food and wine scene and soon after he met his future wife Recha, a UCSF trained radiologist, at a wine tasting event that she hosted on a high-rise rooftop in SOMA.

After years of research, Robert joined the management consulting firm McKinsey and Company serving clients around the world in the Pharma, Healthcare, and Alternative Energy sectors. Robert then went on to work at Bay Area startup companies including roles as Director of Business Development at both the Vietnamese craft food company Red Boat and the technology flash sales company Touch of Modern.

In 2013, Robert began to further explore his passion for wine, working part-time in local wineries and vineyards before enrolling in the UC Davis Winemaking Certificate Program in 2016. He completed the course two years later while working his first full-time harvest position at Rhys Vineyards, and subsequently worked a year in the vineyard and cellar at legendary Mount Eden winery, learning invaluable philosophy and craft from winemaker Jeffrey Patterson. In 2018, Robert and Recha officially founded the Sandar & Hem label.

Recha Bergstrom

A California native, Recha spent many years living on both U.S. coasts, as well as several years abroad. At every opportunity, she traveled as much as possible, appreciating how food, wine and local culture intersect. Following many years of adventure—and more than a decade of training for her medical degree and radiology specialization—Recha was ready to return to California and now is very happy to be living in the Bay Area with Robert and their three young children. Recha continues to practice radiology and is passionate about contributing to community, both regionally and internationally.

Wines & Winemaking

The Santa Cruz Mountains has a rich history of winemaking dating to the late 19th century and which continues to thrive today. Sandar & Hem looks to the accomplishments of pioneering agricultural figures, as well as the living legends who began their careers in the 60s and 70s, as foundational to their approach and legacy.

Robert and Recha craft Sandar & Hem from grapes cultivated throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay, bridging heritage winemaking with a nimble, modern, detail-oriented, high-touch approach to wine production. Robert and Recha-who both have a background in the medical sciences and academia—love to explore how the deeply analytical, scientific elements of winemaking are complemented by decisions made by instinct and organic insight to create wines which transparently express the distinctive terroirs and epic diversity of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Our Values

At Sandar & Hem, our values are rooted in a deep appreciation for both people and place. We understand that our community and environment are the heart and soul of everything we do. That’s why we are dedicated to giving back locally, supporting schools, food banks, and environmental initiatives that enrich the lives of those around us and preserve the beauty and bounty of our surroundings. As a family-owned winery, we believe in the power of connection and the responsibility to nurture and protect our environment. With every bottle of our handcrafted wine, you’re not just indulging in exceptional quality, but also contributing to the wellbeing of people and protecting this amazing place. Join us in raising a glass to making a difference, one sip at a time.

The Label & Artists

Front label art for Sandar & Hem
Lili Arnold

When imagining the best way to capture the rugged beauty of the Santa Cruz Mountains, and delicate influence of the flora, Rob came across Lili Arnold, a botanical woodcut printmaker in the Santa Cruz mountains. Her style beautifully conveyed these exact combinations of aesthetics we were hoping to capture on our labels. After a spring day in the vineyards together, inspired by the wildflowers growing between the rows of grape vines, we were delighted to work with her to create our label design.

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Front label for 2022 Sandar & Hem Sauvignon Blanc
Erin Gleeson

In a special collaboration with another family business rooted in the Santa Cruz Mountains, we joined with Erin Gleeson, New York Times bestselling author of The Forest Feast Cookbooks. Erin designed and painted the label for our limited production Sauvignon Blanc hailing from the Triolo Vineyard in the Santa Clara Valley at the foot of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Her Forest Feast cookbooks artfully share simple vegetarian recipes that focus on local, seasonal produce. We came together in this project to celebrate and inspire building community around the table.

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