<b>PROPHETIC ARTICLE:</b>  Richard Sanford (pictured) and his former partner Michael Benedict planted Sanford & Benedict Vineyard together in 1971.

Paul Wellman

PROPHETIC ARTICLE: Richard Sanford (pictured) and his former partner Michael Benedict planted Sanford & Benedict Vineyard together in 1971.

Robert Lawrence Balzer Breaks the Sta. Rita Hills

Wine Journalist’s 1978 Article on Sanford & Benedict Vineyard; Plus 1982 Article on Sanford Winery

Forty years ago, American wine lovers turned to one voice to know what was happening: Robert Lawrence Balzer, a Los Angeles retailer-turned-writer whose long-running newsletter was the dominant publication in the emerging domestic market. In 1978, he published a piece in Robert Lawrence Balzer’s Private Guide to Food and Wine called “American Grand Cru in a Lompoc Barn,” extolling the viticultural virtues of Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, which Richard Sanford and Michael Benedict had planted a few years earlier along Santa Rosa Road.

“It was probably one of the most important early boosts for Santa Barbara County as a serious wine region,” said Benedict in an email last week, sent amid the rush of an early 2014 harvest. “He, more than any other writer at the time, launched Sanford & Benedict’s public recognition.”

Sanford’s comments over the phone echoed his former partner. “He was really the bellwether — he told people what was happening,” said Sanford, who believes Balzer did more for California wine than anyone else. “That article caused the phone to ring off the hook. It was pretty easy to sell wine at that point.”

Today, that piece is considered one of the seminal realizations that the area now known as the Sta. Rita Hills would be a great place for wine grapes, and The Santa Barbara Independent was recently given permission to publish it on our website, thanks to Jane Faulkner at the UCSB Library and the Special Collections and University Archives at Cal Poly Pomona. Sanford also provided a copy of a 1982 article that Balzer did on Sanford Winery, as well.


Sanford Benedict Vineyard

Robert Lawrence Balzer’s 1978 Article on Sanford & Benedict Vineyard

Download .PDF

Source: The Wine Press Ltd

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

Thousands of Plaintiffs Added to Refugio Oil Spill Case

Litigation follows footsteps of 1969 Union Oil spill attorneys.

Push Comes to Shove Between Law Enforcement and Mental Health

County supervisors confront too many needs with not enough money.

Helicopter Hits Electrical Wires, Starts Small Fire

A crop duster hit power lines in Ellwood Canyon.

County Accountant Pleads Guilty to Embezzling $2 Million

Forensic audit discovers almost 300 false invoices filed over nine years.

Los Padres ForestWatch Opposes Logging in Condor Country

Timber companies target 2,800 acres of trees near Mt. Pinos along the Tecuya Ridge.