Monday, December 04, 2006

Sanford Estate Winery

We went Sideways for the final stop for our day out in the Santa Barbara wine country. After Rhone Rangering through both Bridlewood and Andrew Murray, we headed out to the Santa Rita Hills AVA and to the lovely Sanford Winery.

The car inched up the gravel roads between vineyards with the traces of pinot and chardonnay vines, forded a stream (no biggy--I have a 10-year-old Saturn sedan and it was just fine), and deposited us here outside the converted dairy barn with the tin roof and the prickly-pear cacti.

The Santa Rita Hills AVA is known for its Burgundian plantings of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, although other varietals are now being grown there, as well. It has a strong marine influence from the nearby Pacific. and is much more westerly than the Santa Ynez Hills AVA where we began tasting wines. It is also a small appellation, with only a handful of wineries, so it is still relatively hard to find wine from this appellation in your local store.

I love pinot, so visiting Sanford was the high point of the trip for me. The first Sanford Pinot Noir I had was the 2001 Santa Rita Hills, and I'm a big fan of their careful management of this very difficult grape. the Terlato Family now has majority ownership in the winery, and I have to admit I was a little bit worried about what corporate ownership was going to do to these wines. I was happy to discover that everything at Sanford is still like their Pinot Noir--low key, thoughtful, and excellent. The tasting room is the size of most living rooms, with bookcases full of books (yes, autographed copies of the novel Sideways are for sale...and a signed poster from the movie is hung in the back corner), tables with lots of information about Sanford and the area on them, and a single, small tasting bar. The cost of the tasting was $5 for 6 pours--and no wine glass to take home! Hurray! (Plus, the cost of the tasting is refunded if you buy wine. Wouldn't you rather save $5 on wine than take home a glass you won't use? I would.)

Here's what we had:

2005 Pinot Grigio Santa Barbara County ($17): From vineyards outside Los Alamos, it was a wine with abundant nectarine and citrus aromas and flavors. Nice acidity, no bitterness, and no oak--aged in stainless steel. Very good QPR.

2005 Sauvignon Blanc California ($14):
This barrel-aged sauvignon blanc, made from fruit from Sisquoc and Trubody, was round and rich with grapefruit and herbal aromas and flavors. In the fume style, this sauvignon blanc would be good with roasted chicken or seafood. Very good QPR.

2004 Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County ($17.50):
Made from grapes from La Rinconada, Sanford and Benedict, and Bien Nacido vineyards. Aromas and flavors of tropical fruit, with a definite mineral undernote. Fermented in both stainless steel and oak barrels, it was a nicely balanced wine. Very Good QPR.

2005 Pinot Noir-Vin Gris, Santa Rita Hills ($14):
Made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes from the La Rinconada vineyard, it underwent both tank and barrel fermentation. Peachy-berry in color, with aromas and flavors of strawberry. Dry, Tavel-style rose. Excellent QPR.

2005 Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills ($26):
Made from grapes grown at La Rinconada and the Sanford and Benedict Vineyards, this was a bright and clear young Pinot Noir with cherry, raspberry and a lovely note of clove that is distinctive of Sanford wines that I've had. Aged in French oak (20% new) for 10 months, this wine was my favorite of the tasting. Will benefit from some cellaring, and should develop into a very interesting wine. Very good QPR.

2004 Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills ($26):
What a difference a year can make! Made from all three of the Sanford vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills AVA, this wine was much more plummy than its younger sibling, but with the same clove note. More oak on the palate, perhaps because it was aged in French oak (30% new) for 14 months. Another year in the cellar should soften that oak a bit, and result in a round and rich Pinot Noir. Very good QPR.

I knew I liked Sanford wines before I went, but I left even more impressed. Winemaker Steve Fennell and his colleagues are clearly people who love wine, and love making wine that is good to drink with family and friends over a nice meal (see their website for a special food and wine section that includes recipes developed to go especially well with Sanford wines). Sanford also has a wine club with a variety of membership levels, and this is one of the few wine clubs I would consider joining apart from Navarro Vineyards' excellent pre-release tasting program (more about that later).

1 comment:

Credit Score Online said...

Thank you for the information. I never like Pinot Noir but I guess I can try these:)