It is internationally agreed that one of the best areas for growing Pinot Noir in the US is the Santa Rita Hills near Santa Ynez Valley. This is an east-west-running valley spreading from Buellton towards the coast, and not too surprisingly, one of the less-crowded spots around for wine tasting.
The owner – shhh! don’t tell anyone – is credited with being the father of Pinot Noir in this area and has given his name (and brand) to Sanford Winery down the road. But it’s here in a tin-roofed ramshackle hut that Richard Sanford is busy crafting his beloved wines like they were his own children.
You’ll find the charming Alma Rosa Winery hut down a dirt road entrance after passing through a small cactus forest. His organic and sustainable approach to grape growing pays off in the many Pinot Noirs offered on the Alma Rosa tasting list at any one time. Also on the list are a Vin Gris (rosé of Pinot Noir) Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and several (Pinot) Chardonnays. This guy loves his pinot.
And we do too. The last time I tasted, there were two tastings: an overall tasting (all the white varietals plus several pinots) or an entire Pinot Noir tasting. This list offers various pinot clones from various vineyards with prices ranging from $20 to $49 per bottle, about 5 at any one time. You’re pretty much guaranteed to find one you like. And one your mom will like, your dog-sitter, even your ex the wine snob. Another bonus is seeing Chris, the tasting room manager and mini-star of the film Sideways, pouring wine and manning the cash register.
Whether you’re just staring to become pinot-obsessed or have full-fledged pinot envy, Alma Rosa is the best place in California to satisfy the craving.