(Santa Barbara County)
(Jackson's Wine & Spirits - Lafayette, $14.99)
Richard Sanford is arguably the patriarch of viticulture and fine winemaking in Santa Barbara County. His roots run deep, back to the original planting of Sanford & Benedict vineyard in 1970 and the founding of Sanford Winery with his wife, Thekla, in 1981. For nearly 25 years under their passionate ownership, Sanford Winery consistently produced award-winning Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Noir-Vin Gris (23 vintages under the dedicated, watchful eye of charismatic winemaker Bruno D'Alfonso).
After selling their winery to Paterno Wines International (recently renamed Terlato Wines International), Team Sanford opened Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards in 2005, with the first releases reaching select retailers and restaurateurs in 2006. The winery and vineyards (over 100 acres of certified organic vineyards in the mega popular Sta. Rita Hills appellation) produce Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, but concentrate primarily on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
With Bruno D'Alfonso deciding to concentrate on his own winemaking projects (DiBruno and Badge), Richard and Thekla are now working with world renowned winemaker Christian Roguenant. A native of Burgundy, graduate of the viticulture/enology program at University of Dijon and long-time winemaking guru, Monsieur Rougenant consults with several other properties on California's Central Coast (Baileyana, Carpe Diem, Rosenthal-The Malibu Estate, Tangent, etc.) and across the globe.
Combine the Sanford's superb care for the vineyard land (and surrounding ecosystem) with Roguenant's two decades of expertise in the cellar and the sky's the limit. Alma Rosa has the potential to be a standard bearer in Sta. Rita Hills.
Fans of aromatic whites will certainly be satisfied by this Pinot Gris. Do yourself a favor, buy a bottle and sip it along with spicy Mediterranean or Asian fare. However, act quickly for only 2,133 cases were produced and there is high demand nationwide for all of Alma Rosa's wines.
The colors are crisp and vibrant. Shades of straw, yellow and gold overlap one another in stunning fashion.
There is a vast, interesting array of aromas. Flint, mineral and pencil shavings make way for lemon peel and orange blossom which lead to ripe apricot and lanolin.
Please, do not to serve the Pinot Gris too cold for it will definitely stunt the aromatics. Wait 15 minutes after removing it from the refrigerator before swirling and tasting.
Your palate will experience some wonderful contradictions: Rich and round, yet angular; lively and energizing, yet refined; delicate, yet heavy. Distinct, focused flavors include litchi nut, lime, mandarin orange and tangerine. Believe it or not, I even detected a couple of my favorite Jelly Belly flavors as well - Buttered Popcorn and Lemon Drop. No kidding!
The finish culminates with essence of orange crème brûlée. Even better, it lasts an eternity.
Let your palate be the judge. Here's to a healthy and prosperous 2008 for all!
Have comments or questions about wine? Gregory Peebles, wine industry professional and East Bay resident, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.