People

Respect and appreciation for its employees is one of the founding principles of Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards. Most staff members are longtime residents of the Santa Ynez Valley with deep connections to the community and the wine industry.

Let us introduce you…

Richard Sanford – Founder and Production ManagerRichard Sanford – Founder and Production Manager

Growing up in the early 1940’s along the southern California coast Richard developed a love for the ocean, nature, and wide open spaces. His first job driving a tractor through the Palos Verdes bean fields provided an early introduction to agriculture and established a firm connection to the cycles of nature and the responsibility associated with being a good steward of the land.

During his college years at UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley Richard developed a passion for flying, sailing and yacht racing. Upon graduation he was drafted into the military and became a naval officer serving in Viet Nam from 1965 to 1968. The Viet Nam tours introduced him to the study of eastern philosophy and left him with a desire to work in a peaceful, natural environment when he returned home.

Winegrowing is the natural extension of Richard’s lifelong interest in agriculture and the environment. In 1970 he planted the first Pinot Noir vineyard in the region at Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, and as others followed he helped to establish the area now known as the Sta. Rita Hills American Viticultural Area.

In 1976 Richard met his future wife Thekla Brumder, and in 1981 the two of them started Sanford Winery. Differences in business philosophy led to a separation from their namesake winery in 2005, and a decision to found the Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards. As Richard explains, “My wife Thekla and I are focusing on what’s most important to us; organic grape growing and sustainable business practices.”

Richard was founding chairman of the Sta. Rita Hills Wine Growers Alliance, the group responsible for obtaining formal designation of the Sta. Rita Hills appellation. He is co-founder of the American Institute of Wine and Food and is active with the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

Richard and his wife Thekla live in the Santa Ynez Valley at Rancho El Jabalí. Their daughter Blakeney was born in 1979.

Thekla Sanford - Founder

Being integrated with nature's rhythms has been a part of Thekla Sanford since she was raised on a lake in the "Kettle Moraine" area, west of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As a young girl she spent most of her time outside in nature, taking advantage of nature's seasonal offerings. In winter she would enjoy snow's beauty while ice skating and skiing; in spring she would explore the woods while watching mayflowers and trillums pop up from under winter's leafy blanket; in summer she would wander the barnyard (even before she knew about the barnyard "bouquet " of Pinot Noirs) of her grandparents' dairy farm finding newly laid warm chicken eggs and picking the fresh vegetables of their organic garden; and in fall she would find her favorite maple tree with its fiery orange autumn look and do her homework under its branches in the Indian summer warmth.

Thekla's teen years took her to the east coast to The Westover School in Connecticut, then on to the University of Arizona in Tucson where she graduated with a BFA in Art History while minoring in Spanish and Italian. Those years gave her the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the Sonoran desert environment.

In her twenties Thekla's love of being in nature was satisfied by her many backpacking/flyfishing treks into the Colorado Rockies where she lived for 10 years.

In 1976 Thekla moved to Santa Barbara, California where she met Richard while sailing. Richard was preparing for his first vintage of Sanford & Benedict wines. Their mutual interest in the land, agriculture, and the interconnection of all natural systems brought them together. They were married in 1978 in Cholula, Puebla,Mexico. Their daughter, Blakeney, was born in 1979.

Thekla and Richard's love for Mexico has taken the family to the major folk art areas of the country where they began collecting art in the early 80's. They have also traveled extensively to the spiritual centers of the Mayan and Zapotec Indians.

Thekla believes in being integrated with nature and attuned to its natural rhythms, as evidenced by her deep commitment to organic farming of the estate vineyards that she and Richard have maintained for the past 23 years. Their El Jabalí vineyard was the first CCOF certified vineyard in Santa Barbara County 8 years ago. Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards is the culmination of all the wisdom they have accumulated over the past 30 years in the wine agriculture of Santa Barbara County, California (the Sta. Rita Hills AVA).

Their commitment to sustainable/organic grape growing and sustainable business practices is deeper than it has ever been. "I feel that the essential interconnection between we humans and our god-given natural environment is the only way we can find personal peace and thus, world peace."

Vineyard Staff

Managed by Jeff Newton and supervised by Martin Hernandez (the ranch foreman who has worked with Richard Sanford for more than 30 years), the staff responsible for maintaining the El Jabalí and La Encantada vineyards are an integral part of the Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards family. The quality of our grapes and the character of our wines directly reflect the passion and care they devote to their work.

Winery Staff

Visit our tasting room to meet the winery staff. They work hard behind the counter and behind the scenes to ensure your every experience with Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards reflects our philosophy of fine wine enjoyed in a casual, comfortable environment.

And if you’re lucky Chris Burroughs will be pouring and you can inquire about his experience guest starring in Sideways, the Fox Searchlight movie about the adventures of two old friends on a wine-tasting road trip.