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6 2 | t h e c l e v e r r o o t THE TALE This story begins many hundreds of million years ago, when all of Santa Barbara County was an oceanic environ- ment—literally underwater. And during that Miocene period, sediments built up on the ocean floor and were then compressed into rock (Monterey Shale, in this instance). Then, seven to ten million years ago, with a series of tectonic plate shifts, this portion of the California coast was created, including the Santa Rita Hills. After these upheavals, on the surface, all was calm for a couple of million years. But buried deep in a ridgeline within the Santa Rita Hills was a quiet force at work: underground natural springs, making their way through the cracks and crevices behind the face of the ridgeline and expanding ever so slowly. And it was the expansion of these springs that created fissures within a section of the ridgeline, until finally—several thousand years ago (which, in the grand scheme of geologic events, is very recently)—the face of the ridgeline broke off and tumbled downhill. And there, those large sharp-edged fragments of Monterey Shale—of various sizes and shapes—would rest for the next couple of thousand years. Then, in 1972, a young man named Michael Benedict—with the heart of a pioneer and the mind of a botanist— initiated a search for the perfect confluence of cool climate and soil conditions that would nurture a vineyard planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. And in his search, he would identify this as the perfect location—a site with not another grapevine planted within miles. And so, with the support of his partners, he planted the first vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills. Why? He was so firmly committed to the idea that this shale-laden soil, if planted with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, would yield mineral-rich wines of the highest quality, thanks to the cool marine climate and its accompanying soil composition. His goal: to farm grapes that, when vinified, would yield wines that were balanced, seamless and integrated, but more importantly, would tell the tale of this place. PHOTO: COURTESY OF SANFORD WINERY Grapevines absorb the character of the earth in which they grow. At more than 40 years old, Sanford has some of the oldest vines in all of Santa Barbara County. Pictured: 45-year- old Chardonnay vines.

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