The Sta. Rita Hills AVA, established in 2001, is located on the central coast of California in Santa Barbara County. The Sta. Rita Hills Wine Alliance is preparing to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of the AVA designation with a series of educational events planned for the weekend of August 12th through the 15th . The events will pay tribute to the first planted vineyard, Sanford & Benedict, as well as honor the founding pioneers of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. The annual Wine and Fire celebrations will culminate with a Grand Tasting at the beautiful La Purisima Mission located just outside of Lompoc’s Santa Rita Hills.
Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, 135 acres, was planted in 1971 by Richard Sanford and Michael Benedict. Through research and development, they determined what wine grape varieties were best suited for the area. Earthy soils, containing large deposits of limestone and diatomaceous earth, to sandy loam, coupled with daily ocean winds that tunnel up the transverse valley from Point Conception create the perfect environment to grow Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Lafond Vineyards and Winery followed suit in 1972 but it was not until the early eighties that additional plantings ensued. Over the next 20 years approximately 1,100 acres were planted, predominantly to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In 1999 winegrowers began the pursuit of establishing the Santa Rita Hills as a distinctive growing region, and submitted their application in 2000 to the TTB to be recognized as an American Viticultural Area (AVA). Granted recognition in 2001 the rest is history, the region is currently planted to just under 4,000 acres of vineyards.
The 20 year anniversary weekend celebration will kick off Thursday night with a tasting at the first vineyard planted and winery established in the Sta. Rita Hills, Sanford & Benedict. The iconic vineyard offers stunning vistas of Fiddlestix and Sea Smoke vineyards. Ten producers will pour Sanford & Benedict vineyard wines ranging from current to library offerings.
Production of sparkling wine is on the rise in the region and Friday morning’s event will be an opportunity to meet some of those producers and sample the wines. Moderator Adam Lee will lead the discussion followed by a walk around tasting.
Friday evening the celebration continues at the beautiful Alma Rosa Vineyard as the Pioneers of the Sta. Rita Hills are honored La Paulee style. Richard Sanford was inducted into the California Vintner’s Hall of Fame in 2012 and was honored as Vintner of The Year for 2020 by the Sta. Rita Hills Wine Alliance will be one of 6 honorees.
Saturday morning’s event “Time in a Bottle” will delve into the aging potential of Sta. Rita Hills wines. Gregory Brewer, Wine Enthusiast’s Winemaker of the Year, will join 5 other long-time producers for this intimate event that will take place at Spear Vineyards and Winery.
The Saturday evening Grand Tasting at the stunning La Purisima Mission will be the finale of the Alliance events and will showcase 40 wineries, local farmers, caterers, and BBQ chefs for a taste of the Sta. Rita Hills.
Tasting Rooms will be welcoming Passport holders for a weekend of specials and wines.