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Star Lane Vineyard - Santa Ynez Valley

92 Points - Wine Enthusiasts magazine

People who know Jim Dierberg are aware that he seldom puts off the things in which he really believes. Jim asked his wife Mary to marry him on their first date. Later on, the St. Louis native and his wife went to a wine festival in the small town of Hermann, Missouri. The Dierbergs enjoyed themselves immensely and two days later, Dierberg bought the bank in the town. One thing led to another and an old brewery/winery that had been closed since Prohibition came to the couple’s attention. It was called Hermannhof and in 1974, the Dierbergs bought the property. It took them two years of renovations before the winery again began producing wines that have continued to attract visitors to this day.

While Jim Dierberg continued his adventuresome career in private banking, he also became enamored with the wines of California and eventually set about to find a location to continue his efforts in the wine industry. In 1996, after checking out Napa Valley (much too crowded) and Sonoma County (a little less so), Dierberg visited the Santa Ynez Valley and found the exact conditions he had been searching for.

“The property was located in the eastern end of the Santa Ynez Valley and is touched by the San Rafael Mountains that loom above it, Dierberg related. “The land is the highest in the appellation and also the warmest. Once I saw it and realized the possibilities, I immediately bought it and started plans to develop it.”

The vast property consists of around 4,000 acres, of which a modest 236 are currently under vine. The area is actually called Happy Canyon and who can ask for any place with a better name for growing? The newly completed winery actually hosts a pair of wineries, Dierberg Estate and Star Lane Vineyard. In our case, it is the latter that prompts the most attention.

Star Lane Vineyard is named after a famous old ranch that sat on the property for many years and whose name was intended to set it apart from Dierberg Estate that produces Burgundian varietals.

At Star Lane Vineyard, it is the Bordeaux varietals that receive top billing, an ambitious project in an area that isn’t exactly known for its Cabernets and other Bordeaux grapes.

“I really believe that some of the original farmers failed to go far enough east into the mountains,” Dierberg further explained. “The heat increases as you get farther away from the coast and as the elevation also increases. Our Bordeaux blocks are where the most heat is concentrated and where the soils seem most suited.”

If the initial results are anything to judge by, it would seem that Dierberg is most correct about his assessment. Star Lane Vineyard has already captured significant scores and awards with its initial releases and seems poised for many more in the future.

With its incredible new winery completed, Star Lane Vineyard becomes the jewel of the Santa Ynez Valley wine colony. The place is a page from Bordeaux, and is carved into the sandstone at the base of a 1500-foot-high ridge. It is also modeled on a Bordelaise design built around a classically conceived courtyard framed by stone windows and arches.

Inside, 26,000 square feet of caves extend deep into the hillside and contain no wood (except for the barrels) and are encased in concrete for maximum temperature and humidity control. The crush pad is three stories above, which allows all juice to be moved by gravity that ensures the gentlest handling possible.

Star Lane Vineyard’s initial release of 7900 cases came in October of 2007. The winery will produce around the same amount this year and for the immediate future. Every drop is estate bottled, a fact that Jim Dierberg is extremely proud of.

“We don’t buy a single grape from anyone,” he revealed. “Besides, there aren’t many Bordeaux varietals grown around here anyway. I guess we are the real pioneers when it comes to growing Cabernet Sauvignon and the like.”

Dierberg is content with the accolades his wines have garnered but admits that he still has a number of goals to achieve. “You are always correcting and adjusting,” he concluded. “That’s the only way to make even better wines.”

Jim Dierberg is also extremely proud of the achievements that his daughter-in-law, Jaimin Dierberg, has achieved. She has successfully marketed their wines in Singapore, China, Taiwan and Japan and will work on other markets in the future.

  1. Star Lane
    2006 Merlot
    Star Lane
    Santa Ynez Valley, Estate
    Central Coast


    92 - Wine Enthusiast
    id: 664