Sanford Winery: Cultivating Excellence in Santa Barbara Wine Country


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Sanford Winery: Cultivating Excellence in Santa Barbara Wine Country

January 11, 2024
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Sanford Winery: Cultivating Excellence in Santa Barbara Wine Country

Sanford Winery: Cultivating Excellence in Santa Barbara Wine Country

To get to know Sanford Winery is to understand Santa Barbara wine country. Bold statement, we know, but it’s not just a winery but an important part of Santa Barbara wine history. Nestled in the picturesque western Sta. Rita Hills, Sanford Winery was among the first on the Santa Barbara wine scene. This iconic establishment is known for its commitment to producing exceptional wines. If you want to delve into the world of Santa Barbara wine, Sanford Winery is an essential stop.

Get To Know Santa Barbara Wine Country

Santa Barbara County nicknamed the “American Riviera,” is thought of for its majestic coastline but is also home to world-class wine.

Sanford Winery's Benedict Vineyard

Wine grapes were first planted in the area during California’s Mission Era, but the commercial wine scene took off just over 50 years ago. With its diverse microclimates and terroirs, seven distinct American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) contribute to the tapestry of Santa Barbara wine.

The Santa Barbara County AVAs are Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez Valley, Sta.Rita Hills, Ballard Canyon, Los Olivos District, Alisos Canyon, and Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara. However, Sanford Winery calls the Sta. Rita Hills AVA home.

Sta. Rita Hills AVA: A Cool Climate Oasis

Nestled between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, the Sta. Rita Hills AVA has a cool, ocean-influenced climate perfect for Burgundian varietals. This corner of Santa Ynez Valley is close to the Pacific Ocean, so mornings are foggy, but the sun pops in before you finish your second cup of coffee. This “refrigerated sunshine” allows for the Burgundian varietals of Pinot Noir and
Chardonnay to ripen fully.

view looking out at Sanford Winery's vineyards and the surrounding area

This AVA has a unique mix of soils — ancient sea beds turned into this powdery diatomaceous earth, plus some limestone — which contribute to the complex and distinctive wine for which Sta. Rita Hills is famous. Starting just a quick drive from Highway 101 in Buellton and stretching to Highway 1 in Lompoc, the Sta. Rita Hills AVA is home to over 59 vineyards on 2,700 acres.

This is where celebrated wineries such as Alma Rosa, Babcock, Dragonette, Fess Parker, Foxen, and Sandhi grow their wine grapes.

Sanford Winery: A California Wine Legacy

The Sta. Rita Hills appellation was officially created in 2001. Still, its history began with Sanford vines in 1971, when this now-legendary site was the first vineyard planted to Pinot Noir in what would become a world-class, cool climate wine-growing region.

Over fifty years ago, Michael Benedict and Richard Sanford were committed to finding a cool climate region and location with optimal conditions and soils for cultivating exceptional Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Michael found those attributes at the Sanford & Benedict site, which has an ideal mix of sunlight, soil, and climate. These two became the first to grow Pinot Noir in the region and craft iconic high-quality wines.

Map of the vineyard blocks at Sanford Winery

A Team With a Passion

John Terlato of Sanford Winery surrounded by grapevines

The estate is owned, farmed, and cared for by the Terlato family and comprises the Sanford & Benedict and La Rinconada Ranches and their vineyards. Michael became a mentor to John Terlato and helped the team grasp the vineyard’s true potential. The Terlato family’s commitment to preserving the legacy of Sanford Winery has ensured the continuation of its tradition of excellence.

Sanford Winery commits to preserving tradition while pushing the boundaries of winemaking excellence. The team has a hyper-focus and extreme diligence about every detail, from farming to bottling. John summed up their vision by stating that there are 1,000 details along the way, and paying attention to them separates the good from the extraordinary.

Laura Hughes, Associate Winemaker at Sanford Winery
John and and Trey in the vineyards

Trey Fletcher leads the winemaking team and aims to capture the riches of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA in the bottle. The region’s unique climate, soil composition, and Sanford’s idiosyncratic vineyard sites make every wine distinctive. Trey’s talented team includes associate winemaker Laura Hughes, cellar master Auggie Rodriguez, and Erik Mallea, director of viticulture.

A Journey Through Sanford’s Wines

Notable wines from Sanford Winery include the Sanford & Benedict Pinot Noir, a tribute to the historic vineyard that has played a pivotal role in the winery’s legacy. This wine captures the essence of the Sta. Rita Hills, showcasing the AVA’s characteristic flavors with every sip. One of the standout features of Sanford & Benedict Winery is Block 13, home to some of the oldest Pinot Noir vines in Santa Barbara County. The Pinot Noir grapes from Block 13 benefit from the unique terroir of the Sta. Rita Hills, resulting in wines that showcase the AVA’s signature flavors.

Visit Sanford Winery In Real Life

View of the vineyards at Sanford Winery in Santa Ynez

From its historic ties to Sanford & Benedict Vineyard to its commitment to tradition and innovation, Sanford Winery is a true gem in the crown of California Grown wines. If you can’t make it to the winery, you can taste in downtown Santa Barbara, but visiting the Sta. Rita Hills vineyard should be on your bucket list.

A few of the on-site experiences include:

Tasting Room

Sanford’s tasting room provides a warm and inviting atmosphere where guests can sample their acclaimed wines. Knowledgeable staff guides you through the tasting, sharing insights about the wines, the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, and the winery’s history. The three main tastings offered are the Estate Tasting, Single Block Tasting, and the Founders Tasting. The 1-hour Estate Tasting includes six estate winery offerings; the Single Block Tasting is a 2-hour experience that allows you to dive into the winery’s single Pinot Noir block selections; and the 2-hour Founders Tasting includes a selection from the Founders Vines portfolio of wines.

bottles of Sanford Wines

ATV Experience

Head into the vineyards on an ATV with a wine educator. As you traverse the vineyards, you’ll learn about the winery’s most coveted blocks and taste wine.

Aida Mollenkamp enjoying a glass of wine on the patio at Sanford Winery

Have a Santa Barbara Agritourism Adventure

Couple a visit to Sanford Winery with a weekend trip to the Santa Ynez Valley or as a stop as you drive up California Highway 101. Be sure also to check out these ten things to do for food lovers in the Santa Ynez Valley so that you can round out your Central Coast agritourism experience!

Sanford Winery

5010 Santa Rosa Rd, Lompoc, CA 93436
Open Daily 10 AM – 4 PM

view looking out at Sanford Winery's vineyards and the surrounding area

Article by Aida Mollenkamp. Photography by Salt and Wind.

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