Richard Sanford of Alma Rosa on Pinot Noir, sustainability and wine making in California

By Tobias Webb

In the audio interview below we talked about how Richard got started making wine in the Santa Rita area in the early 1970s and how things have changed since then.

Richard was the first to plant Pinot Noir west of Buellton in 1971. Since then he founded Alma Rosa vineyards and has been added to the winemaker Hall of Fame.

Richard Sanford of Alma Rosa on Pinot Noir, sustainability and wine making  in California - Sustainable Wine
Richard Sanford

We had a fascinating conversation about the history of wine in California since then, sustainability issues, certification and greenwashing, climate change and organics. I learned a huge amount from this interview and I hope other listeners might too. Enjoy.

Amongst other topics we discussed in some detail:

  • The price premium problem for Organic wines.
  • The challenges of different certification schemes for wine.
  • The carbon sink that vineyards represent in the Santa Rita area.
  • So2 challenges with organic wines and certification.
  • The challenges of consumers recognising that organic wine is better quality rather than compromising on taste.
  • How hard it is for large companies, even in wine, to think long term about soil and land health.
  • Climate changes in Santa Rita: Frosts are coming later in the spring and earlier in the fall. “The colds are getting holder and the hots are getting hotter”. More and more vineyards need frost protection today.

In terms of his Alma Rosa wines, I enjoyed his Pinot Noir wines hugely, along with the Chardonnay. A particular stand out also is his Blanc de Blancs sparkling Rose, which I thought was superb. Crisp, clean, packed with complex flavours and a genuine pleasure to taste.

About the author

Tobias Webb

Toby Webb is co-founder of Sustainable Wine. He is also founder of Innovation Forum, a leading platform for change in sustainable supply chains. He has spent 20+ years working in business and sustainability and has spent ten years teaching the subject at various London universities. He advises a number of companies large and small on sustainability. Businesses he has worked with include Patagonia, Interface, Bayer, SOK Group, Boots/Walgreens, Metro, Unilever, Nestle, Reckitt Benckiser, Sainsbury’s, and many others. He co-authored the UK’s national CSR strategy for David Cameron from 2006-10. He has been organising events, advising, teaching writing, blogging and podcasting on sustainable business since 2001. His (non-wine) blog is at