by Fred McMillin
for April 27, 1999


Sanford! All Aboard!


A decade ago: U.S. efforts to duplicate Burgundy Pinot Noir wines have met with years of failure. However, the Sanford 1984 Pinot is a world-class example of U.S. success.

...Vinifera Wine Growers Journal, 1986

The legendary 1989 Sanford Pinot Noir is arguably the first truly great wine to come from the Santa Ynez Valley. (Santa Barbara Magazine) Critic James Laube commented on its "wonderful depth and complexity." He gave it a rousing 93, close to a "classic" rating.

When asked to name his best vintage, Richard Sanford says with a twinkle, "The next one."

The Rest of the Story

My panel just tasted "the next one," the 1996 Santa Barbara County Sanford Pinot Noir, $22. A remarkable 15 out of 17 gave it an EXCELLENT. "Velvety but strong in the mouth, as well as compelling aromas" was the International Wine Cellar's opinion.

The Wine

Sanford Winery 1996 Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County
Sanford Winery, Buellton, Santa Barbara County, CA.
Founded—By U.C.-Berkeley geography grad Richard Sanford in 1981. Previously, he was half of the nearby Sanford & Benedict Winery, which was not exactly all thumbs. Their 1976 Pinot Noir had "all the buttery-rich softness and elegance of the greatest of Burgandies," according to Robert Balzer in his 1978 tasting notes.
Vineyards for the 1996—Partly from the original, now-renowned, 110-acre Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, planted in 1971. This year Sanford harvests its first grapes from their new Santa Rita Vineyard with seven Pinot Noir clones (pictured).
Winemaker—Bruno D'Alfonso became the winemaker soon after the winery began operations, and has played a crucial role in the Pinot success ever since.
Production—The first vintage made 2,000 cases. Richard figured he must be doing something right when it soon sold out. It's been kept small and controllable, about 30,000 cases, chiefly the Pinot plus award-winning Chardonnays.
Phone—(805) 688-3300, FAX—(805) 688-7381.
Price—$22 range (There's also a Barrel Select $38 model.)


How fitting. The black Labrador that kept Richard company in his first vineyards was named?? BACCHUS!

Note: For more Sanford lore, see the January 9, 1998 WineDay, "From Pirates to Pinot."

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


WineDay Annex

More articles by
Fred McMillin


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