With elements evaluated from the perspective of feng shui, native material such as handwrought adobe bricks, stone from a local quarry and first growth Douglas fir from an abandoned early 20th-century sawmill are the materials that helped forge Sanford Winerys new construction. Surrounded by images of the construction at left, Richard Sanford (left), his wife Thekla and winemaker Bruno DAlfonso look over building plans.
the industry trend toward sustainable viticultural practices, environmentally
The Mission-style facility architect Robert Mehl calls a winemaking campus, features hand-made adobe construction, extensive use of recycled timber, Mexican tile roofing, an elevator system for gravity-flow winemaking, recycling of both waste water and solid waste, and temperature and humidity control courtesy of Mother Nature. By no means a museum, the winery design emphasizes functionality, efficiency and simplicity, avoiding wasted motion wherever possible. And underneath it all is a strong set of convictions, both about the environment and the art of winemaking.
The new winery has been a long time coming. Richard Sanford has been making wine in Santa Barbara for a quarter century, always in temporary or otherwise jerry-built locations. The original Sanford and Benedict winery, an old barn utilizing wooden fermenters, was at least romantic and picturesque. For the last two decades, wine has been made in a converted warehouse in Buellton, short on both charm and basic winemaking functionality. It will be nice to have floors that drain, says winemaker Bruno DAlfonso.
Over the years, building blocks of the winery design came together in Sanfords imagination. He developed an interest in alternative building materials, including earthen construction, and took classes in adobe making in Arizona. A concern with architecture appropriate to its areausing native materials, echoing local traditionevolved into the basic California Mission motif. By the time Sanford decided on Robert Mehl of RPM Architects in Santa Ynez as the overall design consultant, a lot of the pieces were already in place.
and his associates had a track record in local winery projects, including
facilities for Fess Parker, Sunstone and Beckman. Perhaps more important
to Sanford, Mehl had good credentials in the world of green design,
making for a philosophically harmonious fit. Broad concepts were transformed
into practical reality in brainstorming sessions between the two of them;
Mehl likens the collaboration to being in a firm with two principals.
input on winemaking particulars also came from DAlfonso. Mehl stresses
that winery architects have to get into the head of the winemaker,
since every winemaking team has its own idiosyncratic approach to common
processes. Design elements were evaluated from the perspective of feng
shui, the Chinese science of spatial relations and orientation. In addition,
Mehl credits everyone with listening to the adobe, letting
design decisions flow from the actual material and not forcing it into
served as its own general contractor. As foreman and project supervisor,
Sanford hired Mike Chase, a local environmental affairs writer with a
substantial construction background. Deciding to look for side jobs to
supplement his income, Chase placed an ad offering his services doing
environmental permit clearance work, and his first call was Sanford. During
the construction, Chase is living in a farmhouse built on the property
in the 1920s, a stones throw from the winery site.
The permit process was in fact one of the hardest parts of the project. Because of past public stands on environmental issues, including a raging controversy about cutting down old oaks to clear land for agriculture, Sanford has drawn his share of fire. For the first time, a local economic development lobbying group, COLAB (Coalition of Labor and Business), intervened to oppose the winery construction when application was made in 1997. One by one the objections were overcome, and ground was broken in January, 2000.
multi-phase project will take between five and eight years to complete.
(Fortunately, a time pulse camera is recording the entire effort, taking
shots every three seconds.) The entire facility will contain 87,000 square
feet of buildings spread across an eight-acre building envelope. Construction
is being phased in the order of the winemaking cycle, starting with the
basic crush and fermentation facilities, timed to the 2001 harvest (just
barely, as it turned out), followed by barrel rooms, a bottling area,
case storage, shipping and receiving, administrative offices, equipment
workshops, parking structures, housing for several employees and finally,
several years from now, a tasting room. The Buellton warehouse will continue
to be used for barrel aging and case storage during the transition.
site lies within the 425-acre Rancho Rinconada vineyard parcel Sanford
acquired and planted in 1997. Rinconada lies next to the Sanford and Benedict
vineyard on Santa Rosa Road, west of Buellton, within the proposed Santa
Rita Hills AVA. The particular spot was chosen for its excellent view,
but also because it had always been the location for buildings over the
propertys history, and it was possible to intersperse the winery
buildings among a stand of cypresses. Three small barns were taken down
and the wood recycled.
the property had been used for agriculture, not much heavy ripping was
required, but something more like smoothing. Topsoil from one particular
hillock was raked off and reserved for the adobe brickmaking program.
A substantial pile of dirt is still in evidence; whatever does not get
graded into the landscape will likely end up spread over a neighboring
lima bean farm.
winery building, roughly 25,000 square feet, has the classic Mission layout:
a slightly taller, central area (for the gravity tank system and white
wine fermentation) and two wings, with slightly lower rooflines, devoted
to barrel rooms. A few feet away is an elliptical red wine fermentation
area, in the form of a 36' X 140' wall-less pole barn providing a roof
over the heads of the open top fermenters.
began with the gravity tank area, since it involved the deepest excavation.
A concrete vault in the form of a cross has chambers for four 3600-gallon
Westec tanks. Because the cavity extended 50 feet below ground, it went
past the water table. Metal tubes were sunk into the holes and pushed
all the way down by filling them with water. The water was then pumped
out, gravel added, and the rams that move the tanks dropped into place.
Republic Elevator of Goleta did the hydraulic sub-contracting.
The tanks are independently controlled, and can be lowered so that the top is three feet below grade or raised so the bottom is fifteen feet above grade by an electric-powered elevator system. This set of movable tanks is used in all phases of both red and white winemaking, from collecting press juice and wine to filling and draining barrels. The entire integrated design tries to maximize the use of gravity and all but eliminate pumps. Transfer from tank to tank or tank to barrel is accomplished with 1 1/2" hoses and the gravity tanks. The longest transport, from the furthest red fermenter, is under 300 feet; barrels are generally within 100 feet.
complexs most conspicuous feature is the extensive use of adobe
blocks, roughly 150,000 of which have been used so far. The bricks are
not on scaffolding, but are the heart of the structure; I wanted
the material to speak for itself, not just be a veneer, says Sanford.
When its done, the winery will be the largest adobe structure built
since the original California Missions two centuries ago.
adobe challenge, Sanford retained Fred Webster, a structural engineer
based in Menlo Park. Webster brought 20 years of experience in earthen
and the understanding that there is no single recipe for adobe,
it all depends on the soil that is employed. For strength and durability,
an adobe conglomerate needs the proper mix of particles of different sizes
and textures, from fine clay to small gravel. The Sanford formula turned
out to be 50% Rinconada soil, 40% rock dust from a local quarry, and 10%
concrete sand. The angularity of the rock dust provided the essential
binding capacity. An asphalt emulsion was added for waterproofing. The
bricks are made in batches by a five-person team and air-dried on the
properties and insulation capacity of adobe are evident, but since Santa
Barbara County is earthquake country, strength was a prime concern. Random
samples of each batch of bricks were tested and shown to be capable of
withstanding 350 psi of pressure. But the strength of the entire wall
needed another solution.
some variation between buildings, the 24- or 32-inch thick walls follow
a pattern. A poured concrete foundation is followed by 18" of cinder
block, faced with broken sandstone in mortar. (Mike Chase refers to the
chain gang that labored to break up 70 semi-truckloads of
stone from a nearby quarry.) Next comes the adobe: the 3.4"x7.5"x15"
bricks, each weighing about 20 pounds, are arranged in a log cabin
pattern, with a rotating series of configurations for added strength.
The bricks are held together with a mud slurry made from the same materials.
Every fourth layer of mud is laced with horizontal ladder wire. On top
of the adobe are board-formed 8-inch concrete bond beams, topped with
a wooden plate.
holds it all together, besides standard rebar, are 1/2" or 5/8"
galvanized all-thread rods, anchored in the foundation and poking through
the top wooden plates. Because adobe shrinks at a different rate from
concrete, the adobe section of the rods is sheathed in plastic (essentially
irrigation line), so the bricks do not catch on the threads over time.
The top end of the rod gets a pair of washers, one shaped like an inverted
cup, and a nut that can be tightened to compensate for shrinkage. This
system of support, worked out in the process of design, goes way beyond
anything the Mission Fathers had at their disposal.
Neither the adobe nor much of anything else in the winery will be painted, since that would just require more periodic maintenance. A light wash of a liquefied adobe mix may be applied, once only, when things are farther along. But the bluish sandstone and the earthy, grayish-brown adobe will provide a timeless color scheme.
as visible but just as eco-friendly is the timbering for the winery. Sanford
arranged to buy an abandoned sawmill in Klickitat, Washington, constructed
early in the 20th century from first-growth Douglas fir. The dismantled
lumber, 500,000 board feet, was hauled south by truck, with the longest
80-foot timbers creating some interesting highway navigation issues. In
the end, preserving the length of the original timbers led to changes
in the dimensions of the winery design.
arrival, the wood was fumigated and graded, and an outdoors sawmill was
created near the construction site. With a 90-foot bed to accommodate
the longest timbers, the setup re-milled the 12"x14" and 14"x14"
lumber into beams, siding, stairs, handrails and doors. Overall, 90% of
the construction wood came from the original mill.
roofing is Mexican tile, obtained through the Santa Barbara operator of
a tile factory in Tecate, Mexico. Because of a custom order for a previous
Sanford structure, the company now produces a Sanford tile,
used for the new winery as well. The barrel room ceilings include nine
inches of R45 insulation. In the red fermentation structure, where open
walls make insulation irrelevant, the underside of the tiles is visible
between the rafters and the perpendicular 2"x6" skip sheeting.
Ceiling brackets were left as raw metal and allowed to rust, encouraging
what Chase calls instant aging.
With the help of the adobe and insulation, ambient temperature and humidity control is all-natural. (Individual tanks, of course, have glycol refrigeration.) This area of Santa Barbara has a large diurnal temperature drop, even in summertime, and a good deal of nighttime fog. Large fans high on the barrel room walls pump air in and out as needed. Humidity is enhanced by water constantly running through channels in the barrel room floor (see more on water below).
was scheduled to handle the 2001 crush. Once the fermentation tanks had
been moved from Buellton and installed at Rinconada, the die was cast.
Because the new crush pad was not yet complete, the winery applied to
the county for conditional permits, and held the crush in the section
of the red fermentation structure designed for off-season storage of crush
Sanford and DAlfonso decided there was no reason to make a huge investment in new equipment. The existing crush equipment and tanks, currently producing 50,000 cases of wine a year, should be able to handle the projected increase to 80,000. DAlfonso also says they purposely avoided new layers of automated technology, a screw conveyer, for example, that would only mean more things to clean.
(all hand-picked) arrive in half-ton bins, and are loaded into a homemade
hopper. Whole clusters of white grapes (chardonnay and sauvignon blanc)
are moved by a Kiesel progressive cavity pump directly into a Europress
EHP 8000 press. Free run and press juice is collected in 3600-gallon Westec
tanks, chilled overnight, and moved the next day to either barrels or
3600-gallon static fermenters. Tank whites are fermented at 60F. Racking
from tanks to barrels for fermentation makes use of the York Machine Works
bent-tube racking arm system, which removes juice from the top, not through
the settled sediment.
(pinot noir) go through an Amos crusher/destemmer, with the rollers open
all the way, basically just performing destemming. Half ton bins collect
the grapes from beneath the elevated crusher, and they are dropped into
one of 21 open top Westec fermenters. Some are 8' wide by 5' tall, some
10x5'; both styles provide a high surface to volume ratio. Must
is chilled down to 50F for two days, treated with Color Pro but no SO2,
and inoculated. Red fermentations, as well as white, are done with commercial
yeast inoculations; DAlfonso refers to wild or natural yeasts as
feral, suggesting their origins as previously domesticated
temperatures are kept at no more than 90F. Using boards placed on top
of the fermenters as walkways, manual punch- down occurs twice a day.
Ten days from crush, with the wine not quite fully dry, the liquid is
screened and drained through hoses into one of the gravity tanks. DAlfonso
says his crew often hooks up a drain hose at the end of the day and just
lets it run overnight, leaving behind a very dry pomace. The pomace is
collected and pressed in a smaller Europress 5000. The first pressure
switch on this press has been modified to a setting at only .08 atmospheres,
and the remaining switches defeated. Pomace goes through this ultra-light
press five times, aiming for maximum extraction with minimal seed flavors.
Sanford uses a wide range of coopers for its Burgundy-style barrels, all French, mostly from Alliers oak. Barrels are pyramid stacked, three high, without metal barrel racks. For final blending, a 13,000 gallon tank is available. Barrel racking and re-filling again makes use of the gravity tank setup. Whites (except the reserve levels) receive filtration, including polish filtration with a Zeitz crossover plate and sterile filtration with a Pall membrane column filter at bottling time. Reds get only fining, if necessary. The bottling line is a 1983 model French Gaston (Stone), doing 40 bottles a minute.
the winerys water is supplied from a horizontal well drilled into
a spring in the nearby hills. Water comes into a dome-shaped stone aeration
chamber, through a decorative head of Bacchus, and flows on to fill three
30,000-gallon cisterns. One is reserved for irrigation; the rest is available
through an 8" line to the winery. The local water is quite hard,
and nearly destroyed the water heater in Chases on-site house. Water
for the glycol cooling system is distilled, and experiments are underway
for ways to treat the rest. Hot water is provided by a large EPA-approved
clean-burning wood stove; the boiler can heat up to 10,000 gallons of
water a day, for both domestic and winery/washdown use. Wood for now comes
from the purchase of 50 cords from a nearby walnut orchard that was recently
flooring is built with a double slope: a 6" drop from end to end,
and a 6" drop from the center to the edges of the rooms. Water flows
through the entire winery in a central trough, aiding humidification and
providing a pleasant background gurgle. Washdown water runs through swales
to the side of the winery and then out an exit channel. Open swales cannot
get clogged like trench drains, and some of the heavier solids settle
and can simply be swept up.
winery is full of simple but creative design details. One of Richard Sanfords
favorites is the series of resource modules, cement and stone kiosks that
offer all the essential hookups in one convenient place, electricity at
various voltages, water and air. Sanfords personal involvement is
evident throughout; He likes the process as much as the product,
says Mike Chase.
whether hell miss the original rustic winery structure just down
the road, now used only for atmospheric dinners, Sanford shows a touch
of nostalgia. I made a lot of it with my own hands, he says.
But its time to move on.
©2001 Vineyard & Winery Management. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.