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Sta. Rita Hills Wine Alliance Honors Alma Rosa’s Richard Sanford as 2020 Vintner of the Year


A live online tribute and tasting on August 11 will honor the living legend

(August 3, 2020; Buellton, Calif.) Bob and Barb Zorich, proprietors of Alma Rosa Winery, are pleased to announce that winery founder Richard Sanford has been named 2020 Vintner of the Year by the Sta. Rita Hills Wine Alliance. On August 11 at 5:15 pm PST, wine author, expert and critic Matt Kettman will lead a live online tribute and tasting featuring conversations with Richard and several surprise guests who will pay tribute to Richard’s lifetime dedication to the Sta. Rita Hills.

Live Online Event:

August 11, 2020 at 5:15 pm

The online tribute will be hosted online, via Facebook Live.

The link to this event will be available on August 4th on the Sta. Rita Hills Facebook page, YouTube, and on Alma Rosa’s website. The public is invited to join, and may purchase Alma Rosa’s 2018 El Jabali Pinot Noir and La Entada Blanc to taste along with Richard online. To purchase wines please visit: https://shop.almarosawinery.com/product/Lifetime-Achievement-Pack

A living legend in the world of California wine, commonly referred to as the “Godfather of Central Coast Pinot Noir,” Richard Sanford planted the first Pinot Noir vineyard on the Central Coast in 1971 at the Sanford & Benedict vineyard, and has lived and worked in the Sta. Rita Hills, a region he helped create, for nearly five decades.

A geographer by trade, Richard identified the unique transverse mountain range near Santa Barbara, where the valleys run east to west and open to the sea, as an optimal area to plant grapes. With the knowledge that the climate of coastal California is largely determined by proximity to the ocean, he surveyed these unique valleys very carefully. “When you drive to Santa Barbara from Los Angeles, you are actually driving west,” says Richard. “Even though Santa Barbara sits on a similar latitude to Tunisia, it is the fog and ocean air that tempers the heat of the sun’s rays. It is ‘refrigerated sunlight.’ This, along with complex and well-drained soils, has proven the Sta. Rita Hills to be one of the greatest places to plant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the world.”

Richard made estate-grown Pinot Noirs at the Sanford & Benedict vineyard from 1976 through 1980. In 1981, he launched Sanford Winery with his wife Thekla, where they produced category-defining wines of local and international acclaim for over 25 years. During this time, Richard established and planted many of the Sta. Rita Hills’ most revered sites, including La Rinconada, La Encantada and Alma Rosa’s current estate, El Jabali, which was originally planted in 1983.  Sanford Winery became one of Santa Barbara County’s most iconic wineries, helping to establish the region as a wine country travel destination.

In 2005 Richard and Thekla founded Alma Rosa, which they sold to Bob and Barb Zorich in 2014. Richard continues to live at the Alma Rosa estate, where he serves as a winery ambassador and continues to be active as one of the leading advocates for the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. 


The Sta. Rita Hills American Viticulture Appellation is located on California’s Central Coast in Santa Barbara County. The Pacific Ocean’s marine layer and afternoon ocean breezes traverse the coastal valley corridors between the Purisima Hills and the Santa Rosa Hills, creating the perfect environment for growing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and other cool climate wine grape varieties. 


The Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance was formed in 1997 to unify growers and winemakers in the Western Santa Ynez Valley for the purpose of developing their own American Viticulture Area and to promote this unique wine growing region.

The Sta. Rita Hills AVA status was granted in 2001 by the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Regulation Division. The mission of the Alliance is to support the viticulture and enological business interests of its 47 Members, as they relate to grapes and wine from our AVA.


Alma Rosa Winery is dedicated to making Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines that express the terroir of its unique appellation, the Sta. Rita Hills. Alma Rosa’s wines are layered, vibrant and balanced, reflecting the cool climate impact of the Pacific Ocean breezes which funnel through the unique east-west transverse mountain range of the region. The winery was founded in 2005 by Richard Sanford, who was the first to plant Pinot Noir in the Sta. Rita Hills in 1971. Today the winery is owned by Bob and Barb Zorich, who purchased the winery in 2014. Samra Morris is winemaker.

For more information about Alma Rosa Winery, please visit www.almarosawinery.com.

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