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Pinot Noir pioneer files for bankruptcy

Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards, owned by Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir pioneer Richard Sanford, has filed for bankruptcy protection as the company fights off creditors.

Sanford, whose previous business Sanford Winery featured in the 2004 hit film Sideways, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy – giving temporary protection from creditors – while reportedly trying to restructure the ailing Alma Rosa business.

A filing with California’s Central Bankruptcy Court on 27 July gave little information, reporting up to US$10m in both assets and liabilities, and naming several creditors.

A former naval officer in the Vietnam War, Sanford established the first Pinot Noir vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills in 1970, setting up Sanford Winery with wife Thekla 11 years later.

But Sanford was ousted from the business in 2005 after a dispute with its new owners, setting up Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards shortly afterwards and continuing his focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc.

He was the first Central Coast winemaker to be inducted into the California Wine Hall of Fame in February this year.

Sanford Winery was the first stop for Jack and Miles in the 2004 film Sideways, featuring a cameo appearance from Chris Burroughs, now tasting room manager at Alma Rosa.

Sanford is reported to have blamed his current difficulties on the economic downturn, but nobody at Alma Rosa was available to comment directly on the situation.

Written by Richard Woodard

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