The People of Wine Country: Getting to Know….Scott Sandell

"The Pier" by Scott Sandell

It’s been a while since I posted a getting to know you, the last two were with winemakers.  I wanted to take this in a different direction and include some folk that work behind the scenes and may not get to meet .  Today I am sitting down with Scott Sandell, Roanoke Vineyards Media and Creative Director.  Scott is responsible for all the wine labels on Roanoke Vineyards bottles since 2000, the printed tasting notes and tasting menu’s you find in the Tasting Room among other things (check out some of Scott’s artwork on his website, .  He first met Rich Pisacano, the owner of Roanoke Vineyards when Scott rented a studio across from Wolffer Estate Vineyards.  In 2008 Scott was appointed Creative Director.  Here is how Scott explains how he came to be the creative director, “I was working on an artists’ book project with Chris Watkins, who is one of the best poets I’ve ever read, and who was Managing Director at Roanoke. Chris moved to Ridge Vineyards in California in 2008. Next thing I knew I was organizing the first Winemakers’ Smackdown. Careful what you wish for!”  He is part of the team that came up with the idea for the “Samckdowns” along with Adam Ehmer, Roanoke’s Wine Librarian Emeritus.

So now, sit open a bottle and enjoy our little conversation with Scott Sandell.

1)      When was the moment you said to yourself, “I want to part of the wine industry!”?

My cousin graduated from law school about the same time I graduated from art school, and at a graduation party he walked up to me and said “We need to develop an extensive knowledge of fine wine because that’s really going to help us in our careers.” We left the party and headed for the biggest wine store in downtown Minneapolis. Then proceeded to fill a shopping cart with Chateau Lafite, Margaux, Mouton, Haut Brion, and Latour (remember this was 1975, and these were $20 a bottle). The next stop was a corkscrew and a tuna fish sandwich (which we thought paired pretty well with the First Growths, especially when you added Doritos in the mix). We got to the Mouton, and I learned that they commissioned an artist to do the label each year, and the artist was paid in wine; this was my gig! Years went by, and the Baron Phillipe Rothschild died before he had a chance to call me, but luckily Rich Pisacano did, and the Roanoke labels have been a gallery for my work ever since.

2)      Desert Island question – Unlimited case of what wine?

Any Roman Roth wine would be great (Gabby’s Cab Franc!).  Past that, maybe the Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel? If the island is a cool climate I’m gonna need an Orin Swift wine.

3)      What is your favorite varietal?

I’ve been a huge Cabernet Sauvignon fan since my initial introduction to wines from Bordeaux, however we (Roanoke) have such a way with Cab Franc that it would be hard to ignore CF in the decision. That said, I love a great Chardonnay (Long Island, California, Burgundy), and am totally into Grenache of late.

4)      When you are not at Roanoke Vineyards, where can we find you spending your time?

This is easy, I’m in the studio. At this point I don’t know if my secret life is working with Roanoke, or working as an artist. I do both full time (don’t try this at home!). Last year I managed to have three museum shows (one solo), pull off a couple big commissions, and still spend a few days sailing. I just finished a new portfolio of large scale prints (they’re 5′ long, see attached), and an installation at U Penn.  Right now I’m working on a few commissions including a very large piece for the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh (this is for a particularly difficult space, and it’s 40 feet long).

5)      If you are not drinking wine, what’s in your glass?


6)      Favorite Roanoke Vineyard wine?

The 2009 Marco Tulio is pretty incredible, but there are some awesome wines ahead including a 2010 field blend with Gabby’s Cab Franc and Cab Sauvignon from the Hill. We have the 2009 Prime Number (just about to be bottled), and a 2010 barrel Chardonnay that I feel are absolutely unmatched for quality. I’m in the lucky position of knowing the wines from bud break to bottling, and I have to say what we’ve been able to accomplish in the last couple years in the vineyard is amazing.

7)      Favorite Long Island Wine?

Outside of Roanoke, I admire the focus and intensity of the Grapes of Roth Merlot. I think Chris Tracy has assembled a spectacular portfolio. My friend Miguel Martin (Palmer) appears frequently on my dinner table, and the region has many rising stars like Kareem Massoud, Kelly Urbanik, and Jimmy Waters.

8)      IF you are not drinking wine from long Island, where is the bottle from?

Bordeaux, Languedoc, California!

9)      Most Memorable Bottle?

I was at a pretty awful dinner party when a ’97 Lenz Merlot was opened (game changer!).

Then I was at a great dinner party when the host opened The Prisoner, which was brought to mind the slogan from a triple X rated film: “Pleasure so intense . . . .”

10)   Your last meal would consist of what wine and food?

I think a boxed Chablis and a box of White Castle burgers would probably kill me.

About Michael Gorton, Jr.

I am a Licensed Funeral Director who is having a love affair with Long Island Wine and the people that make Long Island wine so special. I am married to my wife Melissa and live in Rocky Point. Our first son Gabriel Noel was born on July 27, 2010. We have three cats and one dog.
This entry was posted in Long Island, Roanoke Vineyards, Tasting Wine With, The People of Wine Country, Wine. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The People of Wine Country: Getting to Know….Scott Sandell

  1. steve says:

    This is great! Scott and the folks at Roanoke not only make good wine, but they are as fun as this interview suggests. Can’t wait for that 2010 field blend!

  2. Pingback: Getting Ready For a Smackdown | Undertaking Wine

  3. Pingback: Roanoke Vineyards Smackdown 4 Recap: The Audience Wins! | Undertaking Wine

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