Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards
2008 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
California: Santa Barbara County: Sta. Rita Hills
What We Say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
Today’s wine deserves special recognition – as a Superior Wine. We always bring you the finest wines that we can sleuth, and when one rises above, we issue these special alerts.
WORLDWIDE EXCLUSIVE ALERT:
The Wine Spies are honored, today, to be the only wine merchant to make this tremendous Pinot Noir available to our Operatives around the world. Want to buy some from the winery? You can’t! Buy it here, first, and be the envy of your friends, coworkers and neighbors!
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Mission Codename: Transcendent
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Send Agent Red to the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, in Santa Barbara County, to retrieve a stellar Pinot Noir for our exacting Operatives
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Alma Rosa
Wine Subject: 2008 Alma Rosa Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
Winemaker: Christian Roguenant
Backgrounder: The Sta. Rita Hills AVA, located within Santa Barbara County and almost entirely in the Santa Ynez Valley was established in 2001 and is considered one of California’s best regions for growing the Burgundian varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay due to its cooler climate. The AVA’s weather is heavily influenced by cool coastal breezes and persistent Pacific fog. Just less than 200 acres in the AVA are under vine. Interestingly, the name of the appellation was changed from Santa Rita Hills to Sta. Rita Hills so as to not conflict with Chilean powerhouse winery Vina Santa Rita.
Alma Rosa has the distinction of being the first winery to be featured in the Merlot-killing and Pinot-promoting feature film, Sideways. More important than all that, though, is the fact that this fantastic winery is headed by Richard Sanford, the undisputed father of Pinot Noir in the region. Richard was the first to plant Pinot in the Sta. Rita Hills (then, the Santa Ynez Valley), more than 40 years ago. His mission was simple: Make Pinot Noir that rivals the best French Burgundies. We say, Mission Accomplished, Richard! Your Pinot Noir is, quite simply, amazing.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Gorgeous ruby hued, with perfect clarity through its slightly darker core – and out to the fine pink edge. After a good swirl, tall columns of thin legs saunter slowly down the glass. The color of the legs closely mirrors the pink color at the edge of the glass.
Smell – Bold, warm aromatics leap from the glass. The wine leads with sweet fresh raspberry, young strawberry and dark cherry. These sit atop fleshy, under-ripe green fig, mushroom, violets and supple brown leather. After some swirling, earth and a hint of soft brown spice are subtle and welcome additions.
Feel – Plush, soft, round and voluptuous on entry. Slowly, fine grained tannins cause a softly spreading dryness that moves outward from the center of the palate, eventually drying the lips and cheeks. As the dryness encroaches, bright acidity emerges, making the mouth water – and long for another sip.
Taste – Delicious red fruit of Bing cherry, raspberry, cranberry, young strawberry and red plum lead the way. Just below these, additional flavors of flinty earth, subtle tobacco leaf, crushed pink rose petals and a hint of soft spice emerge.
Finish – Long and flavor-filled, with a dynamic evolution that changes, leading with red fruit and then going slightly darker. Then, as a soft dryness spreads, minerals and spice emerge – just before a bright acidity takes over, making the mouth water.
Conclusion – One sip of this wine affirms that Richard Sanford deserves his reputation as the Pinot King of Santa Barbara County. Today’s 2008 Alma Rosa Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir is a delicious and exciting wine that was born of two of Richard’s organically farmed Pinot Noir vineyards, the La Encantada and El Jabalí vineyards. These two vineyard sources provide grapes for Alma Rosa’s more expensive single vineyard Pinots, but we marvel at the amazing combination that bore today’s expressive and delicious wine. Pair this flexible food-lover with nearly anything you care to throw its way. Drinking exceptionally well for a young wine, we see great promise still to come. enjoy some now, cellar some away – if you can restrain yourself!
WINERY OWNER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Richard Sanford, founder
WINE EDUCATION: Experience, founder of 1970 Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, 1981 Sanford Winery, 1983 El Jabalí Vineyard, 2000 La Encantada Vineyard, 2005 Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Winegrowing for 40 years, planted first grapes in Sta. Rita Hills Appellation.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Balance and elegance more important than impact. Traditional Burgundian methods.
QUOTE: “We all need to be sensitive toward our impact on the environment.”
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 1976
AGENT RED: Greetings, Mister Sanford. It is a true honor to be interviewing you, today. We are thrilled to be showing your 2008 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
RICHARD SANFORD: You are welcome, it is my pleasure.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
RICHARD: 1966 introduced to a beautiful Volnay from Burgundy
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
RICHARD: Vincent Leflaive (Chardonnay), Jacques Seysses (Pinot Noir)
RED: Who do you make wine for?
RICHARD: My own palate.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
RICHARD: 2008 Pinot Noir, all grapes from La Encantada Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills Appellation. Entirely from certified organic grapes. Bright acid, raspberry nose, full middle body and long finish.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
RICHARD: Duck, turkey, lamb, mushroom dishes.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Sta. Rita Hills AVA so special?
RICHARD: Transverse mountain range of California trends east to west, open to the ocean in the west. The region enjoys cool maritime growing climate perfect for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
RICHARD: Preparing 2009 Pinot Noir for bottling, always focusing on wine sales.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
RICHARD: With no intimidation and preconception. Bright acids of our cool growing climate create wines excellent with food.
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
RICHARD: Please come visit us at the winery. Our tasting room is five miles west of Highway 101, in the Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara County. Open 11am to 4:30pm daily.
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
RICHARD: Thank you.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The approximate location of the Alma Rosa Winery can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Awards & Accolades:
Gold Medal Winner – 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
About This Wine:
Textbook old-world varietal character, showing the brilliant, fresh, flashy side of Pinot Noir. Bright raspberry and bing cherry notes are enhanced by a sassy, spicy element and refreshing acidity. Both of our organically-farmed vineyards, El Jabalí and La Encantada, are blended together to create this, our primary bottling of Pinot Noir. We’d serve it with poultry dishes, lighter pastas, and steak-y fish preparations. Chris Burroughs
About The Winery:
40 Years of Sustainable Winegrowing History: Richard Sanford came to the Santa Ynez Valley 40 years ago with the desire to create wines that would rival the best of France. First to recognize the potential of the Santa Rita Hills (now an officially accredited American Viticultural Area as Sta. Rita Hills), and first to plant Pinot Noir vines there, Richard is a pioneer with a well established reputation for excellence in winemaking.
Working in partnership for more than 30 years, Thekla and Richard Sanford founded multiple, successful winegrowing enterprises. Their latest venture, Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards, represents the culmination of a lifetime’s experience – an enterprise dedicated to creating high quality wines and setting a benchmark for organic farming, sustainable agriculture methods, and environment-friendly commerce.
The Sanford Story: Richard Sanford graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in Geography in 1965. He was immediately drafted into the military and served as a naval officer in the Vietnam war until 1968.
Returning from the war and wanting to pursue a more earth-connected occupation, Richard dreamt of discovering a local climate zone similar to the Burgundy region of France, growing Pinot Noir in California, and producing wine that would rival the best in the world. Using his background in Geography and studying the climates of California since 1900, Richard discovered a remarkable geographic anomaly – the transverse mountain range of California. These mountains run east and west, and the valleys open to the west allowing cool maritime air to blow in and moderate the growing climate.
After locating acreage with well drained soils in the chosen climate zone Richard organized a partnership to purchase a ranch, and there he planted the first Pinot Noir vineyard in the region (at Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in 1970).
At that time, growing grapes of any kind in this region was unheard of, but as it turns out, Richard’s hunch about the area was correct. The climate allows for a long, cool growing season which results in high acid grapes at harvest – perfect conditions for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Since their first bottling, the wines from this region have been known for their extraordinary balance and depth, winning praise and accolades from wine writers and wine aficionados alike.
In 1976 Richard met his future wife Thekla Brumder. They married in 1978, and in 1981 they started Sanford Winery together and for the next 27 years produced award-winning wines sold in 50 states and 16 countries.
In 1983 the Sanfords planted their first 100% organic vineyard at Rancho El Jabalí. The La Rinconada and La Encantada vineyards followed, and in the year 2000 all Sanford estate vineyards were the first in Santa Barbara County to be certified organic by the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF).
Differences in business philosophy led to a separation from their namesake winery in 2005. Richard and Thekla started in a new direction, leaving Sanford Winery to found Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards, a new venture dedicated to organic farming and sustainable agriculture. The vineyards of Alma Rosa are located on an original Mexican land grant, Rancho Santa Rosa. In Spanish alma means soul; so the name Alma Rosa reflects the Sanfords’ view that their wines are a reflection of the soul of the rancho. Alma also expresses the soulful connection they enjoy with one another, their employees, and the land where they first became winegrowers more than 35 years ago.
With over 100 acres of certified organic vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills, Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards focuses on continued excellence in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Noir – Vin Gris (a dry rosé). All wines are food friendly and display the high acid, and extraordinary balance for which Richard Sanford’s wines have been known since 1976.
With new energy and a positive focus, Richard and Thekla Sanford are excited about Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards and hope you will continue to enjoy their efforts in bringing you and your family together to share good food, good wine, and a sustainable future.
Total Acidity: 6.98g/liter
Brix at Harvest: 25.7
Residual Sugar: 0.120 g/L
Months in Barrel: 11
Release Date: October 2009
Case Production: 4651