STA. RITA HILLS (Santa Rita Hills)
Recognized as an official AVA in 2001, the tiny Sta. Rita Hills appellation is located in western Santa Ynez Valley between the towns of Buellton and Lompoc. Cool temperatures, coastal breezes and marine fog make it ideal for premium Pinot Noir. The soils are low-fertility, well-drained clay loam, rich in calcareous matter, which promotes firm structure and pure fruit expression in the grapes. The wines are concentrated with a dark wild blackberry character, their rich tannins suggesting excellent aging potential and development in the bottle.
One of the most fascinating qualities of Pinot Noir is its dynamic character and how genuinely reflective it is of a specific site. While the wines of Sta. Rita Hills all share a common theme, each vineyard has a unique, further refined expression. Ken works very closely with vineyard owners and managers to optimize each vineyard's unique signature.
La Encantada Vineyard
Located just west of the legendary Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, La Encantada is in the heart of Sta. Rita Hills’ quintessential Pinot Noir zone. The estate was planted by Richard Sanford in 2001 and was one of the first vineyards in Santa Barbara County to be certified organic. Comprised of 100 acres of mostly Pinot Noir, this north-facing vineyard is planted on a ridge straddling the Santa Ynez River Valley and is open to the cooling marine breezes, which sweep in from the Pacific Ocean. Soils are a combination of clay, loam, shale and sand.
Peake Ranch Vineyard
The Peake Ranch Vineyard is one of the newer vineyards planted at the eastern end of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. This beautiful 50-acre estate is situated along a hill that gives the vines a unique combination of exposures to the cool breezes coming off the Pacific. Varietals planted include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah and Grenache. This vineyard is known for its lushly textured red wines as well as for smooth and aromatic Chardonnays.
One of the appellation’s most picturesque and coldest vineyards, this estate is located in the southwest corner of Sta. Rita Hills, unsheltered from direct exposure to cold wines and marine fog from the Pacific. Vines wrap around the undulating hillsides in an almost 360 degree pattern. Planted in 2007, Radian has quickly become one of the new superstars of the AVA. Soils are very rocky with clay loam with generous amounts of diatomaceous earth. The austere soils combined with persistent coastal winds result in small clusters and tiny berries, leading to deep, concentrated wines.
Rancho La Viña Vineyard
Rancho La Viña Vineyard is located at the far western edge on the south side of the Sta. Rita Hills appellation. Planted in 2005 on a gently sloped mesa several hundred feet above the valley floor, the site is fully exposed to the cool winds coming off the Pacific Ocean, making it one of the coldest Pinot Noir plantings in California. The marine influence and windy location along with low fertility sandy loam soils result in very small berries, which in turn give the wine its remarkably deep, dark color and intense flavors.
Rita’s Crown Vineyard
Planted in 2007, Rita’s Crown has quickly become one of the most highly regarded vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills appellation. The estate, located at an elevation of 600 to 950 feet on a dramatic southwest facing slope at the “crown” of the Santa Rita Hills, is one of the highest planted vineyards in the AVA. Its elevation makes this site particularly exposed to coastal fog and cool marine breezes from the nearby Pacific Ocean, ideal for the production of premium quality Pinot Noir. The soils are sandy loam with ancient seashell deposits.
Sanford & Benedict Vineyard
This vineyard is the birthplace of the Sta. Rita Hills appellation and played a significant role in bringing recognition to the great potential of the region. Planted by Richard Sanford and Michael Benedict in 1971, wines produced from this vineyard continue to set the highest quality standards. The soil type is the Botella Series, a composition of both clay and loam with a high calcareous content, which drains well and helps keep yields low. While about 50 acres of original plantings on their own rootstock are still farmed, other blocks have been replanted to top Pinot Noir clones, including 943 and 2A.