Our Team

 

Bob and Barb Zorich
Owners

 

The Zorich’s both graduated from UCSB in 1971 and eventually ended up raising their family in Houston, Texas where Bob helped found and build a successful private equity company, EnCap Investments L.P.  Never losing their love of Santa Barbara they eventually returned and bought a second residence in the city.  In 2013 they met Richard and Thekla Sanford who were seeking some financial support to move Alma Rosa to another level.  A fondness for the region and the wines produced from it led them to acquire the Rancho El Jabalí property and the associated Alma Rosa Winery.  With the foundation in place, the Zorich’s and Sanford’s began an expansion of planting on the El Jabalí Ranch with the goal of having one of the finest estate vineyards in the region.  All efforts are targeted at excellence in outcome for all wines.  Compromising quality will not be acceptable as Alma Rosa moves forward to control and use best practices for all aspects of our winemaking and wines.

Richard Sanford
Founder

Richard Sanford graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Geography in 1965 and served as a naval officer in Vietnam from 1965 to 1968.

Richard dreamed 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 identified a remarkable geographic anomaly: the transverse mountain range of California where the valleys open to the west, allowing cool maritime air to 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, establishing Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in 1971.

In 1976 Richard met his future wife, Thekla Brumder, just in time for the first vintage at Sanford & Benedict Vineyard.  They were married in 1978, and in 1981 they founded Sanford Winery together, and for the next 25 years the winery produced award-winning wines sold nationwide and exported to sixteen countries.

In 1983 the Sanfords planted their first 100% organic vineyard at Rancho El Jabalí.  El Jabalí and La Encantada vineyards were the first in Santa Barbara County to be certified organic.

The Sandfords are comitted to sustainability and the El Jabali estate vineyards continue to be certified organic.

Differences in business philosophy led to a separation from their namesake winery in 2005.  Richard and Thekla started in a new direction to found Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards, continuing their personal commitment to organic farming and sustainable business practices.

Alex Neal
Director of Guest Experience

A native of Paso Robles California, Alex joined the team at Alma Rosa after managing the tasting room team at JUSTIN Vineyard and Winery, 2015’s Wine Star Award Winner - American Winery of the Year.  Alex has studied Biology at the University of Maryland and is a Veteran of the U.S. Army where he studied medicine. A jack of all trades, Alex has had the chance to travel the globe developing his skills in marketing, training, operational management and hospitality. 

During his career he has served proudly as goodwill ambassador while enlisted in the Army, representing his country both in the United States and abroad. He has also had the opportunity to work for both nonprofit companies as well as those listed in the fortune 500. He looks forward to sharing his passion for wine and customer service with you through our experiences at Alma Rosa.  

Nick de Luca
Winemaker

Nick de Luca studied International Law at the Universite de Poitiers in France and later graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz, he joined Alma Rosa in 2014. Previously, de Luca held successful posts at Byington Vineyard & Winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Williams Selyem Winery in Healdsburg, CA, Fisher Vineyards in Santa Rosa, CA, Highfield Estate in Marlborough, New Zealand, and Cline Cellars in Sonoma, CA. Most recently, de Luca spent seven vintages as Director of Vineyards and Winemaking at Dierberg & Star Lane Vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley. de Luca is also a viticulturist, and maintains a strong commitment to sustainable vineyard and cellar practices.

Martin Hernandez
Vineyard Manager

Martin arrived from his native Mexico in 196X? He told his parents he was coming to the US to purchase a saddle for his horse, but the trip took new directions. After a few years trying to make it in Los Angeles, he travelled North to meet a cousin, who told him there was work in farming.

He got his first vineyard job at Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in 1975 and worked and lived on that vineyard for over 30 years. In 2014, Richard hired Martin once again, this time to run Alma Rosa’s small vineyard crew. Richard and Martin’s working relationship has yielded fantastic wines for over 38 years.