Winemaker Steve Fennell

Steve Fennell, Winemaker - General Manager
Sanford Winery and Vineyards

Meet Steve Fennell, Winemaker - General Manager at Sanford Winery, the pioneering California producer that helped establish the Sta. Rita Hills of Santa Barbara County as one of the world's great regions for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

For Fennell, who joined Sanford in February 2006, the position marks a return to his wine roots. As an undergraduate at the University of California Santa Barbara, Steve pedaled his bicycle through the area’s vineyards, taking in the sights, smells, and the famous cooling breezes. It was on those rides that Fennell found his calling.

After studying enology at the University of California Davis, he began his career as an assistant winemaker at Trefethen Vineyards, where he honed his skills helping to improve fruit quality, managing the cellar and making blends. From 1999 to the present, Steve was at Voss vineyards as head winemaker. His attention in the vineyards produced a range of innovative and highly acclaimed wines, from an Australian-styled Syrah to a distinctive and bold Sauvignon Blanc that earned raves for four consecutive vintages.

“I bring an integrated approach that draws on my expertise in the vineyard as well as in winemaking,” said Fennell. “For me, it’s about treating the soil with respect, achieving consistent and high-quality grapes and crafting elegant, fruit-forward wines that are the finest expression of the Sta. Rita Hills."

Fennell works under Doug Fletcher, Vice President of Winemaking of Terlato Wine Group, who oversees the family-owned Chimney Rock, Rutherford Hill, and Sanford wineries. Fletcher believes Fennell brings an indispensable gift to crafting the wines that made Sanford famous.

“Everyone wants to make Pinot Noir, but to make a great one you have to have an impeccable palate,” said Fletcher. “Steve has one of the best in the industry, and I enjoy collaborating with him on making the most challenging of varietals.”