I will always have a big love for Pinot Noir's produced in Central Coast California. Especially the Santa Rita Hills. Pinot has become my second favorite varietal behind Cabernet. Elegance and aromas make this thin skinned grape so much fun to pair with different cuisines or at least making the attempt. As my Pinot collection has grown my Cabernet purchases have not. Maybe the economy is a reason for that. As Pinot typically costs less per bottle. Then again, I would rather believe that in my attempts to create in the kitchen, Pinot is the grape that I find most facinating of all.
Over the last month I have gotten to taste quite a few Pinot's and even a few Burgundies. These 2 that I write about now are perfect examples of what the Santa Rita Hills (ava) is producing on a regular basis. Then again Richard Sanford and his long time winemaker Bruno D'Alfonso are a big reason for that ava.
The first wine a tasted was Alma Rosa's 2004 La Encantada Pinot. This was the inaugural bottle produced by Richard Sanford's new venture Alma Rosa Wines. Richard Sanford came to the Santa Ynez Valley 38 years ago and started Sanford Wines. He was one of the first to recognize the potential of the Santa Rita Hills and the first to plant Pinot there. Differences in business philosophy with Terlato Wine Group led to a separation from his namesake winery Sanford in 2005. This also led to the firing of longtime winemaker Brundo D'Alfonso from Sanford as well.
The first vintage of Alma Rosa were released in 2006. I had the pleasure of visiting Alma Rosa's tasting Room 2 days after they had just opened there doors. Of course Chris Burroughs made famous in the movie Sideways was there in a make shift warehouse pouring the Alma Rosa wines. What I remember tasting that day at Alma Rosa was really familiar to the first time I tasted Sanford wines just 2 years before in 2004. The 2004 La Encantada is a bold, smooth, earthy Pinot Noir with great depth and balance. Richard Sanford's continued love for Santa Rita Hills puts him high on my list of favorite wine producers for this area.
Which leads me to another wine producer who happened to be Richard Sanford's winemaker while at Sanford Wines, Bruno D'Alfonso. Bruno tells the story of literally being told to pack your stuff and leave when Terlato Wine Group took over the Sanford Winery back in 2006. Why he didn't follow Richard Sanford to Alma Rosa is unknown to me, but Bruno also has years of experience producing Santa Rita Hills Pinot's under his belt. He also happens to be married to a pretty famous winemaker herself Kris Curran. I am really looking forward to there joint project under there new umbrella D'alfonso-Curran Wine Group. With the mastermind of 2 great Pinot Winemakers, the sky is the limit for the 2 of them. The 2005 Badge Pinot which is Bruno's second release is elegant, and a very delicate wine with plums, cherries and forest floor on the nose. The wine shows very similar characteristics to the Alma Rosa wine I had. Great ripe fruit with very firm tannins.
Santa Rita Hills is my favorite Pinot producing wine region in the United States, but as I have always said Pinot is still a grape that I must continue to educate myself about.
It is never ending hard work!