Santa Barbara County’s pioneering winemaker Richard Sanford has been known for his unexpectedly wonderful wines for many decades. He was recently honored as 2020 vintner of the year, a visionary in planting and producing wines in what is now called the Santa Rita Hills AVA [aka Sta Rita Hills]. His white and red wines have always been abundantly surprising.

This white is plusher than I would have expected after seeing the names of the grapes on the label. Produced from the only pinot blanc vineyards in this area – along with Sanford’s own pinot gris — this wine has rich, tropical flowers in the nose and tropical fruit on the palate, and plenty of mineral acidity. Fermented separately, the varietals were then blended and aged: 75% stainless steel and 25% in new French oak barrels, a process that adds butteriness to the flavor and texture.

Paired with food, the wine’s sweet stone and tropical fruitiness emerges, then dominates.

SUSTAINABILITY STATEMENT: All vineyards are farmed organically and sustainably.

WHO: Alma Rosa Winery

WHAT: 50% pinot blanc, 50% pinot gris

WHERE: Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County, California

HOW MUCH: $35 (media sample)