You might say that Sanford Winery & Vineyards is as old as the hills… the Santa Rita Hills, that is. It was back in 1971 when Pinot Pioneer Richard Sanford planted the first Pinot Noir grapes in the Sanford & Benedict vineyards, that put Santa Barbara Wine Country and Santa Rita Hills on the map.
Fast forward 30 years…today, the Sanford & Benedict vineyard supports 68 acres of the Mt. Eden Pinot Noir clone, 52 acres of Chardonnay and 15 acres of other estate grapes.
Sanford Winery‘s sister vineyard, Rancho La Rinconada Vineyard, is located in nearby Lompoc. Planted in 1997 on 135 acres, there are now three Pinot Noir Clones: 115, 667, 777 and Mt. Eden as well as Chardonnay.
Much to the determination and efforts of Sanford Winery, the Sta. Rita Hills AVA was officially granted in 2001. From there, it is history. Winemaker Richard Sanford turned over the helm to open Alma Rosa Winery, further up Santa Rosa Road. The Terlato Wine Group later purchased Sanford Winery and continues to produce stellar Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Sanford WInery‘s tasting room is beautifully appointed with a covered veranda that overlooks the vineyards. The 2011 Sanford & Benedict Viognier was clean, crisp and vibrant, with aromas of lemon peel, honeycomb and roasted hazelnut. However, the 2009 La Entrada Chardonnay stole the show with a limited production of only 10 barrels! Bright acidity, citrus notes and minerality make this Chardonnay shine.
Eager to try the famed Pinot Noir wines, I was not disappointed. The 2010 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir, deemed a Double Gold winner in the San Francisco Chronicle competition, was a complex blend of eight different clones from the two estate vineyards. It was velvet in a glass ~ deep red in color bursting with raspberry and bing cherry with hints of spice orange rind, white pepper and sage on the nose.
Sanford Winery‘s crowing jewel, is the 2012 La Rinconada Vineyard Pinot Noir ~ a sumptuous blend of the 114, 115, 667, 777 and Mt. Eden clones. Explosions of spicy black cherry cola, cola, bacon fat and anise meet the palate, framed by bright acidity. Ahhhhhh…. the Sta. Rita Hills at its finest. www.sanfordwinery.com