|Pinot noir romance
Vintner explains his love of a Burgundy-style red
By Susan Ware firstname.lastname@example.org
More than 40 years ago Richard Sanford drove around California with a thermometer in his car so that he could source the perfect California climate to grow delicate, little pinot grapes as they’re grown in Burgundy.
He settled on a spot in the Santa Rita hills and quickly garnered the reputation as an innovator in the world of wine.
Today, wines from his new Alma Rosa label — anoffshoot of his Sanford Vineyards — is being sold in New Hampshire. Currently, Alma Rosa is being poured in restaurants such as CR Sparks in Bedford, Hanover Street Chop House in Manchester, Michael Timothy’s in Nashua and Z in Manchester.
Two Alma Rosa labels are available in the state liquor stores — the Sta. Rita Pinot Noir 2005 and Sta. Rita Chardonnay 2005. Look for several more labels to be added to wine lists and store shelves in the very near future. (“Sta.” is short for Santa. Sanford had to change the labels because there is a Santa Rita vineyard in Chile.)
The pinots put Sanford’s Santa Barbara vineyard on the map and got Hollywood’s attention. Sanford Vineyard, where he lives and works played a key role in the move Sideways.
In the movie, Miles, a devout follower of pinot noirs played by Paul Giamatti, takes his friend Jack to the Sanford Vineyard tasting room and attempts to educate him on the finer points of pinot noir. Less interested in a lecture and more interested in catching a buzz, Jack is impatient to swill the wine and when he does, Miles notices that Jack is chewing gum.
Sanford liked the film, and not just because of his plug.
“Virgina Madsen’s soliloquy on pinot noir was moving. She was dead on about the beauty of pinot,” Sanford said.
Sanford visited New Hampshire recently to promote his Alma Rosa label. The name Alma Rosa, he explained, truly signifies the wines. “Alma,” in Spanish is the word for soul, and “Rosa” is the name of the land where his vineyard is.
Alma Rosa wines are produced from grapes grown at an organic vineyard. (While Sanford grows grapes without herbicides and has careful environmental practices in place, his vineyard is not officially certified as organic and he says he’s fine with that.)
Alma Rosa bottles have a Georgia O’Keefe-style rose on the labels, an antique green bottle with a twist cap and a punt. Yes, a twist cap. Alma Rosa wines are all screw cap and Sanford wouldn’t have it any other way. The wine industry believes that between five and seven percent of all bottles with a natural cork are corked, meaning they have the unpleasant smell of wet cardboard and just don’t taste good.
“If I were in food service and packaging ruined five percent of my product, I would change it right away,” he said. “Also, think about airlines. A five percent failure rate, is that acceptable?”
Sanford saidd out that the West coast has been quicker to catch on to all the benefits of a screw cap wine.
“Once people have a bad experience with a wine, it is tough to overcome it because there are too many options in the market. People need to remember that it is the wine in the bottle, not the cap. The closure does not define the wine,” he said.
With Alma Rosa, Sanford’s goal is to offer a fantastic, entry-level pinot noir that people will reach for time and time again.
“So many people in this business are just trying to sell a bill of goods and it is so annoying. The brands are all homogenized and then there are all the fighting varietals. I believe there is a better way,” he said.
Alma Rosa wines
• Alma Rosa Pinot Noir Sta. Rita 2005 A very bright wine, fruity at first without being sweet, finishes with classic, spicy pinot noir undertones. This is a versatile wine that can be paired with casual food, grilled meats, vegetables and fishes and salmon. Alma Rosa Pinot Noir Santa Rita (750ml) sells for $29.99, currently on sale for $27.99.
• Alma Rosa Chardonnay Sta. Rita 2005 Called the new generation because it is not oaky or buttery. As California chardonnays got bigger and more manipulated, Sanford went for a pared-down wine. There is no malolactic fermentation and aging is only for a limited time in seasoned barrels. This chardonnay is crisp, fresh and with a taste of minerals. Pairs well with grilled seafood, curry dishes, Chinese, Thai and Indian food. Rosa Chardonnay Santa Rita (750ml) sells for $19.99, on sale for $17.99 until June 24.
Find Alma Rosa wines in state liquor stores at 27 Coliseum Ave., Nashua (882-4670), I-93 North, Hooksett (485-5663), I-93 South, Hooksett (485-5816), North Side Plaza, 31 Hamel Rd., Manchester (622-5044) and 55 Colby Court, Bedford (627-5878).