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How Constellation Brands—and a Historic Property—Came to Be

Family is key to everything.


Coming to America

The Sands family first landed on US shores in 1907, when Elias Sandomirsky entered through Ellis Island with his young family. Like many immigrants of the time, their name was shortened, resulting in the Sands name we know today. The family—which included eight children!—set down roots in the bustling borough of Brooklyn. 


Finding Their Way

Mordechai Sands, a.k.a. Mack, showed early promise as a streetwise, business-minded kid. He decamped for Cleveland, where he met his wife, Sally. The entrepreneurial brothers started an ice cream business that flourished into a real estate firm, and Mack and Sally welcomed their son, Marvin, to a prospering first generation household, who at least for a time, were living the epitome of the American dream.


Back to Brooklyn

With the end of the Roaring Twenties came the shattering of the Sands’ brothers Cleveland ascendance as well. Reeling from the onset of the Great Depression and loss of their business, Mack, Sally, and young Marvin moved back to Brooklyn. Mack took the job he could find, working as a delivery driver for a bottle company—but true to his striving spirit, quickly climbed the ranks as a salesperson for local wine mogul Little Joe Applebaum. For a time, though, things didn’t get much easier. The start of Prohibition meant the company had to rely on making sacramental and kosher wines to stay afloat. When alcohol became legal again in 1933, Mack became a full time heavy hitter in Little Joe’s operation. 


Starting Again in the South

Won over by the wine industry, Mack moves the family to Greensboro, North Carolina, to found his first wine business. Called Car-Cal Wintery (a portmanteau of Carolina-California), the company starts bottling a dessert wine labeled as Sands Port, and strikes it big with a fortified dessert wine called Old Maude. Now a North Carolinian, young Marvin attends Chapel Hill University—where he first meets the love of his life, Mickey. 


WWII and New Roots

Marvin is drafted into the Navy in early 1944—but is returned safely home to Mickey and his family in 1945. He fulfills Marvin’s dream and joins the family business. Mack makes a bold choice and purchases a former sauerkraut factory in Canandaigua, New York, beginning the family’s long legacy in the Finger Lakes. Marvin takes over control of the factory in late 1945, marrying Mickey and completing a business degree. Overcoming seemingly endless obstacles, Marvin not only turns the company into a success, but innovates on the family business by growing and harvesting his own grapes, instead of just bottling and labeling bulk wine. Marvin and Mickey also launch their young family with three children—Richard, Robert, and Laurie. Fittingly, their first hit wine is labeled Richard’s Irish Rose. 


The Next Generation

Like all family histories, the next decades are filled with thrilling highs and heartbreaking lows. After a successful career as a physician, Laurie tragically passes away from cancer. Richard receives a PhD in psychology and Robert goes into law. Meanwhile, business is booming—though Marvin steps aside in 1981 after a colon cancer diagnosis. In 1981, Richard takes over control and grows the company into a $175 million distribution company and winemaker, assuming control of companies like Widmer, Manischewitz, and Guild Wineries and Distilleries of California. In 1991, Robert follows the tradition of the family biz and joins his brother to run the company together. In the 1980s, the family also branches out into hospitality with the purchase of a former Sheraton Motor Lodge, which they renovate into the earliest iteration of The Lake House—a cherished place where many family memories are made. 


The Constellation Years

In 2000, the company adopts the name Constellation Brands, to reflect the diversity and newfound focus on premium wines and spirits. By 2007, Constellation had become the largest wine company by volume in the world—an incredible feat beyond family patriarch Mack’s wildest dreams. The family also has deep roots in the Canandaigua community, funding a performing arts center and a culinary training program designed to support the local food and beverage industry with fresh talent. In 2018, the diverse creative minds that now make up a sprawling family tree decided it was time to refresh The Lake House, and re-create it as a luxury destination that could introduce a new generation of guests to the glories of the Finger Lakes. In 2020, after years of hard work, the incredible iteration of The Lake House on Canandaigua you see today opened its doors.