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Richard Sanford leads 2012 wine hall of fame inductees

October 18, 2011 | 11:40 am

Central Coast wine pioneer Richard Sanford is among the inductees into the 2012 Vintner's Hall of Fame, to be celebrated in February at the Culinary Institute of America's Greystone campus in St. Helena, Calif.

Sanford started one of the first modern wineries south of the Bay Area in 1982; for a couple of decades, his Sanford Winery and Vineyards was the lone outpost in the now-sizzling Santa Rita Hills area of Santa Barbara County.

Among the other inductees are wine legends Joe Heitz, Peter Mondavi Sr., Myron Nightingale, John Parducci, Albert Winkler and Eugene Hilgard. This is the sixth class inducted into the hall.

Heitz was one of the first California winemakers to release a wine under a single-vineyard designation,  and his Heitz Vineyards' "Martha's Vineyard" remains one of the state's iconic Cabernet Sauvignons.

Mondavi, the younger brother of Robert Mondavi (inducted in the first class in 2007), is a pioneer in his own right, being an early proponent of cold fermentation, which preserves fresh, fruity flavors. At 96, he's still active in the Charles Krug Winery.

Nightingale began making wine in the 1940s. He was instrumental in the development of Italian Swiss Colony and Cresta Blanca wineries and led the resurgence of Beringer Vineyards.

Parducci was a pioneer in the now-popular area of Mendocino County, among the first grape-growers there to make wine from his own vineyards, rather than selling the grapes to winemakers in Napa or Sonoma.

Winkler and Hilgard were both academics. Winkler served at UC Davis' renowned Department of Viticulture and Enology from 1921 to 1963 and was chairman from 1933 to 1957, when the school was transformed into a world leader in wine-making studies. Hilgard headed the University of California's Department of Agriculture starting in the 1870s and was instrumental in finding a solution for the vexing problem of phylloxera.

Sanford, who achieved worldwide recognition for his Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, is now owner and winemaker at Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards.

The inductees will be honored at a dinner led by former White House chef Walter Scheib and California congressman Mike Thompson. Tickets are $175.

-- Russ Parsons

Photo: Richard Sanford in 2005. Credit: Los Angeles Times