If you haven’t heard of Samra Morris, take note, this Bosnian-born woman is a winemaker to watch. She is, indeed, the first Bosnian female winemaker in California. Samra has both a Bachelors and Masters degree in Food Sciences from The University of Sarajevo, College of Agricultural and Food Sciences. Post-graduation, Morris interned in the Department of Enology at The University of Sarajevo before deciding to pursue a winemaking career.
Samra came to Napa alongside her military air force husband whose station assignment moved from her home town in Bosnia to Travis Air Force Base just outside of California’s esteemed wine country. “I’m the luckiest Bosnian,” she said during our recent tasting together.
Her career in the wine business started with a tasting room position, then on to a vineyard internship for St. Supery, after which she spent three harvests with winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown and eventually became part of the cellar team for Michael Mondavi Family Estate.
Today, Samra is head winemaker for Alma Rosa in Santa Rita Hills, Calif. , a sub-AVA of Santa Ynez Valley AVA, located in Santa Barbara County, the most southern wine producing region within the state’s Central Coast.
As many know, the Santa Barbara region, in general is noted for its cool climate, brought on by the Transverse Ranges—mountainous ranges that glide east-to-west, funneling the cool maritime air from the Pacific Ocean. The combination of those cooling sea breezes and a range of aspects and altitudes means that the key grapes of the region, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, are able to achieve full phenolic ripeness, but maintain a high enough acidity to balance the structure fruit concentration.
But Samra didn’t come to Santa Rita Hills to do what everyone else is doing. Beyond Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Alma Rosa produces Rhone varieties including Syrah and Grenache; Alsatian varieties such as Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. And that these “alternative” Santa Rita Hills expression is what Samra brought to the table for a recent media tasting.