Nature & Agriculture In Sustainable Harmony

Thekla and Richard Sanford share a deep and long standing commitment to the environment. This commitment is evident in their active participation in multiple conservation groups, and was formally recognized when they were honored by the Environmental Defense Center as Environmental Heroes.

They founded Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards as an expression of their passion for winemaking and with a desire to develop a business that reflected their core values. As a result Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards operates as an enlightened enterprise, with a focus on quality, environmental responsibility, and respect for customers and employees alike.

Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards practices and promotes organic farming, sustainable agriculture, ecologically-responsible packaging and business practices, and green building. In addition it supports related earth-friendly causes such as the reintroduction of peregrine falcons to the Santa Ynez Valley and the international slow food movement.

As Thekla explains; “The future for us is to build on what we’ve learned. Through the years we’ve tried to do everything in a green way and will continue working toward a business which is greener and more sustainable. This new venture is an opportunity for us to become even more committed to the environment and to share what we’ve learned with others.”

Thekla - Roe Ann White Photography Organic Farming

Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards maintains over 100 acres of organic vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. The El Jabalí vineyard, planted in 1983, and the La Encantada vineyard, planted in 2000, have been farmed organically since planted and were the first in Santa Barbara County to be certified organic by the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) (September 21, 1999)

All vineyard-designated wines are produced from the estate organic grapes. Additional grapes are purchased as needed for the primary wines with preference given to vineyards that use similarly responsible farming methods.

Old Vines at El Jabali VineyardAlma Rosa Winery & Vineyards employs only sustainable farming practices, which include mechanical weed control by plowing and hand hoeing, the planting of cover crops for weed abatement, and the use of beneficial insects and sticky tape for insect control. No chemical herbicides or pesticides are used. Operating without conventional pesticides or fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients is not the easiest or least expensive way to farm, but the Sanfords believe it is the right thing to do - to live in a way where nature and agriculture work together in sustainable harmony.

Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable agriculture integrates three main goals--environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. Practical application of these goals was the founding concept for Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards. Richard and Thekla Sanford see this new beginning as an opportunity to honor the unmistakable relationship between the healthiness of the soil, the energy of the vines, and ultimately the soul of the wine.

“My wife Thekla and I are focusing on what’s most important to us. Sustainability is key and we are very much committed to the environment and the soulful connection with our employees and the people who enjoy our wine.” says Richard.

With a vision for a viable agricultural future, and an environment that is safe for our children, Richard and Thekla and the staff at Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards hope to continue to bring people together to share good food, good times and great wine.

Ecologically-Responsible Packaging & Business Practices

At Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards all of the packaging and promotional materials used are selected with careful consideration of their environmental impact.

All bottles, red and white wine alike, are of uniform size and shape to eliminate production waste. Traditional corks have been replaced with twist off closures to eliminate the mustiness imparted by bad corks.

Business stationery and promotional materials are natural and recyclable. We use kraft, natural corrugated (rather than bleached and multi colored) material in our shipping containers. We use only chemical-free cleaning products. Electronic commerce and email communication are promoted as earth-friendly alternatives to excessive reliance on paper processing.

Green Building

The Sanfords’ interest in green building spans decades. While working at his namesake winery in 1999 Richard Sanford realized his dream by designing and overseeing the building of a Mission-style, adobe winery using sustainable building practices and materials. Adobe bricks were made by hand, recycled first growth timber originally harvested in 1912 was transported from an old mill in Washington State, stone was quarried from neighboring ranches, and in 2001 the first harvest crush at the new facility was celebrated.

Wildlife Protection

La Encantada vineyard provides refuge for endangered birds and other wildlife. The Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group maintains a hack box there, where threatened young peregrine falcons are released into the wild after having been recovered from bridges and urban skyscrapers.

Bluebirds and Owls

Bluebird boxes are maintained in the vineyards to fledge bluebirds. This helps with insect control and mitigates the loss of bluebird nesting sites (which were decimated by the introduction of starlings during the last century.) Owl boxes provide a natural means of rodent control, and vineyards are planted with wildlife corridors to allow natural movement of deer and other grazing animals.

Peregrine Falcons in the Vineyard

The Alma Rosa vineyards are pleased to host the annual release of peregrine falcons! The falcons are a combination of aviary-reared and wild young that have been rescued from dangerous nest sites on buildings and bridges. The UC Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group organizes and oversees the releases utilizing a university student workforce. Our organic vineyards provide a safe place for young falcons to acquire flight and hunting skills as they make their transition to wild independence over an eight week period.

The student attendants gain valuable experience with field biology work while observing the falcons and following their movements with the aid of radio telemetry receivers.

Dangerous Falcon Nests

Falcons use ledges on tall cliff faces for nesting. Recently, they have begun to also use ledges on bridges and buildings as well. Young falcons fly quite well but land clumsily after their first flights making some bridges and buildings “lethal fledging environments.” The young from the most dangerous sites are brought to Alma Rosa where they may fledge safely.

UC Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group

Founded in 1975 to lead peregrine falcon population recovery efforts in California, the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group (SCPBRG) has successfully helped to rebuild the California peregrine falcon population from a low of 2 known pairs in 1970 to an estimated 250 pairs today. The Group is a center of expertise at UC Santa Cruz that provides research, wildlife management, and educational services to agencies, corporations, and the public. Please visit the web site to learn more.

The Slow Food Movement

Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.

For additional information on the Slow Food Movement please visit their official website.



Related Resources

For additional information on related topics, please refer to the organizations listed below.

Santa Barbara County Vintners' Association

Sustainable Vine Wine Tours - Organic and biodynamic vineyard and winery tours

Community Environmental Council



Rainforest Action Network

Environmental Defense Center

Monterey Bay Aquarium Sustainable Seafood