The Sta. Rita Hills is a small appellation in the Western portion of the Santa Ynez Valley, closest to the ocean and its cooling influence. Cool-weather varieties dominate: 78% of Sta. Rita Hills vineyards are planted to Pinot Noir and 20% to Chardonnay. The scale is small, only 6% compared to the planted acerage of Napa Valley.
45 Years ago, when bean fields and flower farms dominated the local landscape, Richard Sanford arrived in the Santa Rita Hills in search for a very special place where Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the exalted grapes of Burgundy, might thrive. And he found it.
In 1971, after locating acreage with well drained soils, Richard organized a partnership with a sailing buddy and a small group of investors to establish a pioneering vineyard (Sanford & Benedict.) Five years later, Richard released his first wine to great acclaim. In 1981 he started Sanford Winery with wife Thekla.
In 1983, the Sanfords planted their first 100% organic vineyard at Rancho El Jabalí.
Richard was instrumental in ushering the Sta. Rita Hills into becoming an official AVA.
After separating from their eponymous winery, in 2005 the Sanfords founded Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards.
In 2013, Bob Zorich purchased Alma Rosa, keeping Richard on board to take the winery and its wines to new levels.