Lynda Kanzler attended the Fashion Institute of Technology and worked in Manhattan’s famed garment district during the early part of her career, but she found her true calling as proprietor of Kanzler Vineyards. “I always asked myself what I wanted to be when I grew up,” she says. In establishing a vineyard and boutique winery while parenting two children, “I finally found out what I wanted to do.”
After trading Manhattan for Berkeley in the late 1960s — “it was the Summer of Love, it’s what everyone did” — Lynda worked at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as an administrative assistant for astrophysicist Dr. George Smoot. Smoot, who later won a Nobel Prize in Physics for work that validated the big bang theory, credits Lynda in his book “Wrinkles in Time.” And it was there, in the copy room of Building 50 at LBL, that Lynda met Stephen Kanzler. The couple married in 1979.
Lynda and Stephen spent several happy years and started a family. Weekends often involved trips to the coast, and an interest in wine — at first cheap Italian reds and whites but eventually French Burgundy — was stoked by frequent visits to Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant. When Stephen’s career took the family to Seattle, Lynda took on the role of homemaker with principal responsibility for raising the children as Stephen was consumed with work. But after five years, she longed to return to California. “We wanted nicer weather and for Stephen to be able to spend more time with the family,” she says.
Upon their return, they looked at properties in the East Bay and Marin, but as soon as Lynda and Stephen saw a certain 20-acre site west of Sebastopol, they knew they’d found their new home. At the time, planting a vineyard was the furthest thing from their minds. “We were very naïve about country property at first,” says Lynda. Eventually, however, a plan took shape and the vineyard was planted. After eight years of growing Pinot Noir the couple decided to try their hand at making it.
“It all happened very quickly in the beginning and we all participated. A friend designed our first label, and we did everything at home, as a family.”
As Kanzler Vineyards grew and became an LLC, Lynda took over the business administration, bookkeeping, event management and customer care. And when their son Alex had racked up enough experience to take on the winemaker role at Kanzler, no one could have been more thrilled than Lynda. “I’m so proud of what he’s accomplished.”
Today, Lynda embodies everything Kanzler Vineyards strives to be as a family-owned winery. Generous, kind, a setter of high standards, and a self-described people person, she is a beloved face of Kanzler. Lynda has passed many of her duties on to her daughter-in-law Breauna and small team, but can be found strategizing at meetings, mingling at events, going over the books, and even delivering wine. “I do love this industry,” she says. “It’s full of nice people who are usually in a good mood! It’s happy and festive.”