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IPNC 06 #1: Crème de la Crème - Richard Sanford Rises Again

sanfordrichard.jpgIn a clear case of the cream rising to the top, pinot noir legend Richard Sanford has escaped the corporate world of winemaking, where the $ is more important than the pH, and released his first wines under his new label, Alma Rosa Winery and Vineyards. While it is sad he lost control of his namesake winery in the process, the good news is that once again he is producing some of America’s finest pinot noir wines.

Though Richard may have lost his label, he retained control of some of his best vineyards and from those organically farmed vines come his new wines. Emphasizing both Richard’s commitment to quality and the environment, the entire production of Alma Rosa will be bottled under screw caps bearing the recycling arrows symbol that will be familiar to those who have purchased wines in Europe - you can even return the bottles to the winery for reuse.

At this year’s International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC) in Oregon, Richard previewed his two premiere releases under the Alma Rosa label and both give just what you would expect from him: excellence. These two fine pinot noirs, 2004 Santa Rita Hills (2645 cases) and 2004 La Encantada Vineyard (500 cases) are svelte beauties with great complexity and a restrained finesse all wrapped in a rich, but well balanced California package. 

The once revered Sanford label will now be brought to you by the same folks that give you wines like Santa Margarita Pinot Grigio and Rutherford Hill Merlot and should be avoided by anyone seeking a wine that will generate brain waves as it passes across your palate. However, Bacchus be praised, the great pinot noir wines produced by the real Richard Sanford that have given us all such great pleasure over the decades can still be found - they’re just called Alma Rosa now.

To make the picture complete for all of you old Sanford wine aficionados, Chris Burroughs, the long-haired, cowboy-hat-wearing tasting room manager of the old Sanford Winery made famous by his appearance in Sideways has followed Richard and Thekla Sanford to Alma Rosa and will be pouring wines for guests in their new tasting room. So you’ll find all the heart and soul that made the Sanford Winery great at Alma Rosa, which means at the old Sanford Winery you’ll find…