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Derby Wine Estates - Paso Robles


Bordeaux, Rhône, and Burgundian-style award-winning wines.

When Ray Derby sold his family’s automotive parts manufacturing business in the late 1990’s, he quickly decided he was too young to retire. He had also maintained a vacation home in Cambria, a small Central Coast town not far from the famed Hearst Castle along California’s majestic Pacific coastline. The fact that the area was also the scene of the wine-producing boom highlighted by movies and national attention by the nation’s wine press also impressed Derby and his wife Pam.

“We saw what was happening to the area, and the national recognition that was being given to Central Coast fruit,” he recounted. “I remember thinking that the business of growing grapes might be just what the doctor ordered to keep us busy. When we started, it was solely with the intention of growing grapes and nothing else.”

The Derby’s began with a top-flight vineyard located in East Paso Robles that was simply named Laura’s Vineyard. It had a solid reputation for producing top caliber fruit and came highly recommended to the couple. Additional vineyards (Derby Vineyard in West Paso Robles and Derbyshire Vineyard just outside San Simeon) completed the land acquisitions for Derby Wine Estates.

“We found that it was relatively simple to sell our grapes so we decided to acquire some additional acreage to plant different varietals that seemed to be coming into vogue,” Derby continued. “We remained in our role as growers until it became apparent that the demand for our grapes was such that it allowed us to hold back a small amount for our own use in a winery operation.”

Derby Wine Estates became a reality in 2005 with an initial release of just under 500 cases, a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Sirah. The company’s first wines were well received and plans were made to increase the production of Derby Wine Estates.

“But we are still mainly growers,” Derby informed. “In fact, only 6% of our last crush went into making our own wines. The remainder was sold to a host of wineries that include some of the top names in the California wine industry.”

In the near decade since its inception, Derby Wine Estates has grown into an almost 4,500 case winery, still almost boutique in nature.

“We have no desire to become a mega winery,” Ray Derby added. “We specialize in small batch wines that fit the role of the boutique winery. We have decided to let the market dictate our growth. If the demand increases substantially, we certainly have the grapes available to increase our production accordingly. If we suddenly see an increase in demand for Derby Wine Estates, it would be possible to grow to 10,000 cases or more, but we don’t foresee that happening anytime soon. We prefer slow growth and a sustained customer support base. ”

Derby Wine Estates also pinpoints the exact location of the varietals it uses for each of its wines. A compass on the label actually points to a spot on the map where the vineyard is located. Different varietals require different soils and conditions and Derby Wine Estates’ labels help the consumer identify the source of each wine that is being consumed.

In addition, a three-year project to renovate an almost century-old building to house a new winery is imminent this spring. The existing building was formerly an almond producing facility that had been unused for a period of time. The newly designed facility will house a winery, tasting room and patio area for its customers.

“The old building reeks of personality and will make a great new home for us when it is completed. It’s taken us three years to complete but it has been worth it. We are right where we want to be,” Derby finalized. “We couldn’t be happier with our progress as a winery.”


  1. Derby
    2010 Pinot Gris
    Derby
    Derbyshire Vineyard
    Central Coast

    $17.50

    $20.00
    88 - The Rhone Report
    id: 2276
    Gold
  2. Derby
    2007 Bordeaux Blend
    Derby
    Implico
    Central Coast

    $25.00

    $32.00
    One of the Top 10 - 805 Living
    id: 2274
    Special
    Gold
  3. Derby
    2008 Bordeaux Blend
    Derby
    Implico
    Central Coast

    $25.00

    $32.00
    89 - The Rhone Report
    id: 2275
    Special
    Gold
  4. Derby
    2009 Bordeaux Blend
    Derby
    Implico
    Central Coast

    $25.00

    $32.00
    89 - Stephen Tanzer Int'l
    id: 2277
    Special
    Gold

Winemaker Tiffinee Vierra

Tiffinee is the only winemaker that Derby Wine Estates has ever employed. A food science major at nearby Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo, Vierra has enjoyed a 16-year career in the wine industry. She has worked for the likes of Wild Horse Winery and the iconic Edna Valley Vineyard as well as the smaller Tablas Creek Vineyard and Four Vines Winery.

Tiffinee feels that Derby Wine Estates’ three different vineyards present a unique challenge for her on an annual basis. She crafts wines of complexity and individual character based on each vineyard and the diverse parameters that nature lays out for her to work with.

She sits with owner Ray Derby to discuss final blends, but prefers to use her own judgment when it comes to selecting Derby Wines Estates’ final offerings. She is married to Derby’s Vineyard Manager, Steve Vierra, who joined the Derby management team in 2011.

Ray Derby - A very content winery owner

Ray Derby is today a spry 69 years young and could easily be one of the most contented winery owners in California. His venture into the competitive wine industry is humming along nicely and seems destined for ultimate success.

“I am a most fortunate person,” he recently declared. “My wife and I are partners in every sense of the word. We took a chance on starting something we knew very little about and it has all turned out for the very best.”

The Derbys’ Derby Wine Estates is a prime example of being in the right place at the right time. It also could act as a model for anyone interested in starting a new business.

“I believe firmly in delegating responsibility to our employees,” Derby stated firmly. “If you hire someone who knows what they are doing, then let them have the opportunity to prove themselves without too much restraint. Too many owners over manage, or micromanage, their businesses. I’ve had good success with all my former businesses by allowing my employees to act using their own initiative. The same formula has worked well with Derby Wine Estates.”

Despite the accolades that Derby Wine Estates has amassed over the near decade since its inception, Ray Derby insists he is still a grower as opposed to being a vintner. “We started this business to grow grapes and have continued along that road. The fact that we can now make and market our own fine wines is a tribute to what we have accomplished as growers.”

Ray’s wife Pam handles the financial aspects of their business while Ray sees to the everyday aspects of farming and administration of the winery.

Ray also points proudly to the fact that Derby grows some twenty-four different varietals on its three separate vineyards. “At first glance, twenty-four different varietals might seem a lot to the casual observer,” Derby noted. “But, it all seems to work for us. This large pool of fruit allows our winemaker to be creative in our offerings. A number of our wines that we make and sell are not that common in the California wine industry.”

Ray Derby also point out that his present status allows him to take a day off whenever he feels it is necessary. “One man operations have a long history of failing,” he commented. “Too much stress and pressure are the tools of failure, and I don’t intend to fail. If more owners adopted this philosophy, I would think they would enjoy running their businesses a good deal more.”

Ray Derby is the perfect example of a gentleman farmer turned modern businessman. His winery operation is well conceived and fits a number of niches left open by larger winery operations.

Is there anything that he would like to change? “Not really,” he confessed. “Our children are all successful in their lives and don’t seem too interested in the winery business. That’s a shame because the winery business is a great deal of fun and introduces you to a wide variety of interesting people. If I had it to do all over, I would do it exactly the same. I wouldn’t change anything for any amount of money.”

About The Region

The wine regions that are reflected in the three vineyards of Derby Wine Estates are the Paso Robles and Central Coast AVA’s. Derby’s well thought out operation includes a main Bordeaux-varietal vineyard on the City of Paso Robles’ eastern side with climate and soils that are well suited to fulfilling the needs of these classic French varietals. Another vineyard on Paso Robles’ western side is home to a number of Spanish and Rhône Valley varietals that require their own specific terrain and climate.

Finally, a third vineyard is located quite near the Pacific Ocean, arguably the closest vineyard to the water that exists in all of California. This is home to Derby Wine Estates’ Burgundian varietals that crave the humidity and coldness that accompanies such a location.

Such micoclimatization bodes well for Derby Wine Estates’ collection of twenty-four assorted grape varieties. It allows for the production of a large number of individual wines that are more and more sought after by the buying public.


Roasted Vegetables & Italian Sausage with Polenta


Ingredients

Cooking spray
4 cups water
1 cup polenta
1 small fennel bulb (about ½ lb.), stem & fronds removed, sliced thin
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, sliced (about 1 cup)
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tbs. olive oil
½ tsp. dried oregano
4 (4-oz.) lean Italian turkey sausage links
1 cup water
2 Tbs. fresh chopped parsley


Instructions

Coat a 3-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Combine 4 cups water with cornmeal, and pour into prepared baking dish. Set aside. Slice fennel into very thin pieces. Place in a 9x13-inch baking dish. Add bell pepper, red onion, tomatoes, and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with oregano. Toss to coat. Arrange turkey sausage on top, and add 1 cup water.

Bake sausage and vegetables, uncovered, at 425 degrees, for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven; turn sausages and toss vegetables. Place half of vegetable mixture on top of sausages before returning dish to oven.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Stir cornmeal mixture lightly and place in oven. Bake 45 minutes. Remove cornmeal from oven; stir gently with a fork and return to oven. Bake both dishes 10 additional minutes or until vegetables are completely soft and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a sausage registers 170 degrees. Remove from oven.

Stir polenta with a fork; add salt. Polenta will continue to thicken as it stands. Top polenta with chopped parsley. Serve polenta and sausage topped with vegetables and pan sauce.




Fettuccine with Prosciutto and Orange


Ingredients

12 oz. fettuccine
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into 1-inch pieces
Zest and juice of 1 orange
½ cup heavy whipping cream
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan


Instructions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until 1 minute before al dente, about 2 minutes for fresh pasta, longer for dried. Drain, reserving ¼ cup pasta water.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large heavy nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add prosciutto; sauté until browned, about 3 minutes.

Add reserved pasta water, orange juice, half of zest, and cream; bring to a boil. Add pasta; cook, stirring, until sauce coats pasta and pasta is al dente, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in cheese and divided among warm bowls.



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