Richard Sanford, Pinot Paradise Lost

There are few more gentle and artistic souls in the world than Richard Sanford. Over the last decades he devoted his passion to that most difficult of vines, pinot noir. Indeed he scaled the heights of making great pinot noir more than a few times.

That's why I was shocked some years ago when he took one of the "Engulf and Devour" wine companies as a partner in his winery. I knew that Richard's high ideals would not blend well with the build-the-brand and take-no-prisoners, attack dog sales approach of the Terlato family. I knew that before too long their "philosophy" would soon drive him out.

Sure enough, now Richard Sanford is no longer a part of the winery that bears his name. The Terlato concept of fine wine was molded by Santa Margherita, which even with all their millions they still actually drink. A few years of dramatically increasing the yields, winemaking shortcuts and tossing organic agriculture out the window has gutted the quality of the label that Richard created, leaving him no choice but to abandon ship and start all over again.

I am sure Richard's new wines will be up to our expectations, but it is sad that the once revered Sanford label has now become the Rutherford Hill Merlot of pinot noir.