The story of Ammunition is a simple one — two ordinary guys who wanted to make extraordinary wine, wines “of the highest caliber.” Their goal: to tell a different story, one that speaks of the average American who wants to enjoy wine that’s anything but average. Founded on friendship and a mutual agreement that quality grapes are the ammunition to great wines, Ammunition brings together the winemaking talent of Andy Wahl and the artistic expression of Bill Kerr — a collaboration that itself tells the story of the American entrepreneurial spirit.
Kerr and Wahl may have only met recently, but it seems the winemaking seed was planted in both of them early on in their lives. Kerr grew up in Nebraska, “far from the wine business,” he says. But his was a family of farmers, instilling in him an innate appreciation for natural agricultural produce. An artist at heart, Kerr entered the wine industry as a design and branding consultant — a career that found him in the heart of California’s wine country. He continues to work his day job running Vertical.
Wahl, on the other hand, grew up surrounded by the winemaking world in Santa Rosa, though his first career out of college was as an accountant, which taught him “how to navigate the private business world.” Indeed, it’s a skill that would come in handy just a few years down the line. Wahl equates his entrepreneurial spirit to his relationship with his father, who he says simultaneously ran a construction company while working as a fireman and opening his own private party car lot.
“Even though we were raised in completely different parts of the country, we met here in Sonoma and quickly realized that we shared an appreciation of the outdoors, storytelling, patriotism & great wine […] We decided to pay tribute to our country the best way we knew how: We’d make wines of the highest caliber.”
The two men eventually met through a mutual acquaintance twho knew they each had an interest in making wine. “He recognized a similar energy and passion for both wine and storytelling,” remembers Kerr, who says his “aha” moment for wanting to create his own wine label was when he witnessed hiw wine-loving father struggling to choose a drink amongst a list of “amazing brands.” “It made me realize that there might be an opportunity to do something truly different by making amazing wine and telling a different sort of American story,” he says.
Wahl was on the same page. As a long time wine appreciator, he was looking for the opportunity to create a wine label that educated people on common varietals. “And,” he says, “hell, I need to learn to make wine!” So he did just that. “I was fortunate enough to grow up in such a great community in Santa Rosa,” says Wahl, “I took the ‘learn by doing’ approach, working under three different winemakers, taking copious note. From the middle of 2013 to our first vintage release fall of 2014 — it was quite a time.”
And so it is that the creative, artistic mind of Kerr and the creative, scientific mind of Wahl melded togther to create the Ammunition label and wine.
With Wahl working as head winemaker, crafting what’s inside the bottle, and Kerr working as the branding and design director, crafting what’s outside the bottle, Ammunition’s portfolio is now complete with 5 staple wine varietals — Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and the comedically named “Badgerhound” Zinfandel (last bottle on the left) — and one red blend “The Equalizer” (second to the last on left).
The last piece of the puzzle came in May of 2017, when David Dees jumped on board the Ammunition team as Director of Sales. Because of Dees’ efforts, the small-batch winery (producing just around 5,000 cases annually) is now distributed both state (California) and nation-wide in select boutique and specialty retail shops as well as restaurants. And while there may not be a tasting room yet, Dees is currently in the throws of setting up a brick and mortar establishment in the center of Sonoma.
Wondering where all this shoot-em’-up gun theme stems from? Well, besides the fact that Bill has always been — and still is — a recreational shooter, the boys at Ammunition are firm believers that quality grapes are the firm foundation — the ammunition — to great wine. They’re able to maintain their boutique business crafting high-end wines at consumer-friendly prices because of the relationships they’ve formed in and around wine country. “Most, if not all, of our vineyard sources are handshake agreements between myself and fellow growers,” says Wahl, explaining that it’s for that reason he does not disclose vineyard designates on the bottle. “We want the wine to be more about the quality of the juice rather than name dropping […] that may turn off wine drinkers.”
So that’s Ammunition – quality grapes turned into quality wines that the everyday American bloke can enjoy. But I had to ask the boys — vines and grapes aside, what’s their ammunition, what drives them during their everyday.
Kerr: “My ammunition is making things I care about, and getting them into the hands of people who will love them like I do. Wine is the perfect vehicle, as it allows me to create in two mediums I am passionate about: Design and Wine.”
Dees: “I’m driven by all the amazing people that I have met in the past and all the amazing people that I will meet as I build the brand. Introducing people to a new wine creates new experiences and memories for everyone. Amazing food, wine and people make the perfect pairing.”
Wahl: “My ammunition is my wife. Sarah has been supportive since day one. As with any small business, for the first few yers we didn’t pay ourselves a dime, kept reinvesting the income to more inventory. And if it wasn’t for Sarah and her steady support via mental and cash flow, then this never would have happened. She truly is the real reason Ammunition even exists today. Now I drive harder and harder to not let her down but build something — so we can retire together and have our risks pay off.”
Now all this week we dare to ask you: What’s your ammunition? What drives your everyday? Answer in the comments below or on one of the Ammunition wine reviews this week and enter for a chance to wine…I mean win…an Ammunition Huntsman Tier level Wine Club Membership for one year. [Competition Ends Monday, September 25 at 9am PST]
For more information about Ammunition and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Ammunition Wine website.
What drives us is our love for life, after two time cancer, we live for today, we are also raising three kids and a grandchild. For us we do everything with a full leap into it.
As for wine, we love listing to the story the wine is trying to tell us, and full enjoy the journey.
love the concept of my ammunition! My ammunition is my boys. Both Mike and Vegas (and Draco before him) Make me want to be the best person I can be. I can’t sit down and let life pass me by! I have to be the main character in the play of my life!
My ammunition is my son. His special needs have taught me so much about myself. I have found reserves of strength and determination I never knew existed within myself. And I’m so proud that I was chosen to be his mom.
Great article as usual Stacy
Enjoyed reading the story after seeing all the tweets during your visit!
I’m driven by the way my life in the wine industry connects me to the world. It’s a way to meet other people, to explore the world, to learn about history, to appreciate other cultures, and to have endless learning opportunities.
Great article, Stacy! I plan to hop on a plane to visit you all on the left coast sooner than later. My ammunition is to put other’s needs before my own in order to be a source of support & inspiration to the world, every single day. It took me a long time to realize that. 2017 has been a year of growth. Cheers!
My Ammunition is the thirst for knowledge. Then taking what I have learned and sharing it with others… Like now I have thirst for Ammunition wine so I can share what it tastes like to everyone I know and who reads my blog… 🙂