Dierberg & Star Lane Winery

It appears that Santa Barbara County's Happy Canyon AVA has a new first growth producer; Dierberg.  During a recent visit to the winery and some of their vineyards we got a glimpse of the beautiful estate and the wines as well.  Formidable on all fronts, this producer has entered into the wine business with previous experience in the wine industry, albeit a winery in a different state, and financial backing that is deployed with 'the goal of producing the best wine in California.'  While that is a bit of an audacious goal, they have come farther in a shorter amount of time than many would expect.

The Property: Dierberg estate and the Dierberg & Star Lane winery are located in southeast Santa Ynez at the foot of the Los Olivos National forest and constitute a formidable chunk of the new Happy Canyon AVA.  The Star Lane Vineyard is where the winery is located and ranges from about 900 feet to 1500 feet elevation, and are the farthest vineyards away from the oceanic influence in the Santa Ynez Valley.  This means that the temperatures are warmer in these vineyards, enabling the Bordeaux varietals to obtain complete ripeness.  It shows in the wines; there are no hints of greenness in any of the wines.  There are about 235 acres in Happy Canyon, planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc.  They have two other vineyard locations which they own, operate and get estate fruit from; 90 acres in Santa Rita hills planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and 160 acres in Santa Maria that are planted to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Viogner, and Syrah.  They have put significant energy into the vineyards, replanting twice in some instances, in an effort to get the right combination of varietal, rootstock and clonal selection.  Some of the Cabernet vineyards are rumored to be propagated from first growth vineyards in France.

The Winery: The winery sits towards the top of the valley that the Dierberg family owns and sits perched in a tributary valley off of the main road.  This is where they make both the Star Lane and Dierberg labeled wines.  It has a commanding presence that is part modern castle and part winery.  Apparently, they had to employ five cement trucks for eight hours a day for a year and a half--just to make the winery!  The facility is beautiful, functional and vast.  We got to see some of it, including circular stair cases that go up three stories as well as classic barrel rooms, caves, a vast tank room with upwards of 45 shining new tanks, chardonnay fermentation rooms, special Pinot production areas... and we are just getting started.  Everything that has been done at the winery was designed to have a functional advantage to making their wines which include cave aging, and gravity induced wine movements instead of pumps.

The Wines: They have all the elements necessary to produce great wines; top notch vineyard land and vines, and winemaking facilities that enable the highest degree of oenological complexity.  However, none of it matters unless you have it in the bottle.  As we were to discover, they have it in the bottle as well.  On the whole, the wines are structurally sound in a classic sense and each showed varietal correctness and purity.  One after another, the wines showed great individually and represented the vineyards they came from nicely.  This is not an easy task.  (See the individual notes for detailed tasting notes.)

In conclusion, Dierberg has done a very good job of starting a world class winery.  They may be able to reach their goal of producing some of the best wines in the world, and I hope that they do.  It seems that they have laid the foundation and put all of the right elements in place to do so.  I look forward to continuing to taste these wines as each new vintage comes out and as past vintages gain bottle bouquet.

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October 2010
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