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s p r i n g 2 0 1 7 | 6 1 hink about your all-time favorite bottle of wine. Why do you love it? Chances are, it's not because of the label art, its 98-point score or the great price you paid when you purchased it. No, the best wines leave an indelible impression because of the way they taste, their character and the memories created when we drink them. And sometimes, we might be inclined to search for the story behind the wine: Where is this wine from, where are the vineyards located and what is their composition, who owns the vineyards and how are they farmed, who is the wine- maker and how is he or she interpreting the vineyards? These are some of the components that make up the stories behind a wine. But each wine's story begins long before we pull the cork—and in the case of truly great wines, those stories begin long before the first vine was planted. A wine can begin its journey rooted in history: in the vineyard, where nature has been at work for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of years. Alternatively, it can be precariously perched on a fiction—a precon- ceived notion of what a wine should taste like, regard- less of what the vineyard might have had in store. Vines and grapes absorb the character of the earth they're grown in. And the great and important wines of the world are truly spectacular because they tell the story of where they were grown. A wonderful example of this is the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard at Sanford Winery, in Santa Barbara County's Sta. Rita Hills AVA. (The official American Viticultural Area, or AVA, for the Santa Rita Hills is spelled Sta. Rita Hills to avoid confusion with a Chilean wine brand.—Ed.) If one were standing on a hillside, looking at this vineyard from a distance of 1,000 yards and fac- ing south, the soil variations I am about to describe are clearly visible—different from those of the neighboring vineyards and unique to this vineyard. Here's why. Left to right: Vintner John Terlato, Sanford Winemaker Steve Fennell and Michael Benedict, who first planted the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in 1972. PHOTO: COURTESY OF SANFORD WINERY The early wines from this vineyard were extraordinary: earthy, mineral driven, balanced. Intense, yet subtle. Sublime. I'm still astounded at their beauty, balance and longevity. — John Terlato

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