Dierberg - Star Lane Vineyards
Santa Ynez Valley AVA
A high profile collection of Burgundian-style wines.
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 acreage was exactly what we were looking for and its proximity to the ocean made it perfect for us to be able to grow Burgundian grapes that I was really interested in growing.”
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 winery actually hosts a pair of wineries, Dierberg Vineyard and also Dierberg’s Star Lane Vineyard. While both wineries are owned by the Dierbergs, their direction is 180 degrees apart. Dierberg Vineyard utilizes the Central Coast’s cool-weather terroir and is exemplified by the two estate vineyards that provide Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for Dierberg Estate.
The original Dierberg Vineyard in Santa Maria was planted in 1997 and the newer Drum Canyon vineyard that is located farther to the south in the Santa Rita Hills came a short while later.
In both vineyards, cooling Pacific Ocean fog and breezes keep this sunny corner of California far cooler than one would imagine. This phenomenon favors crisp acidity and gentle ripening in classic Burgundian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.
“This combination of soils and weather is near perfect for the two varietals involved,” Dierberg informed. “A number of wineries in the area have had excellent success and I knew the place could eventually produce great Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.”
If the initial results are anything to judge by, it would seem that Dierberg is most correct about his assessment. With its incredible new winery completed in 2009, Dierberg Vineyard and Star Lane Vineyard have become the jewels of the Santa Ynez Valley wine colony. The place is a page from classic France, and is carved into the sandstone at the base of a 1,500-foot-high ridge. It is also modeled on a French-inspired design built around a classically conceived courtyard framed by stone windows and arches.
The winery will produce between 7,000 and 8,000 cases 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 else,” he revealed. “We want to be able to control our destiny and that means growing all our own grapes.”
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, and making the very finest wine possible is everyone in the wine business’s ultimate goal.”
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
It is with great pride that we share with your our inaugural vintage of Star Lane Merlot, the result of our decades old dream to produce a Bordeaux-style wine that could compete with the finest in the world.
Mary and I had been looking around Napa and Bordeaux for a vineyard property early on. But Napa and the Old World were getting a little crowded. We wanted open space and big sky. Really, we found Star Lane almost by accident. During a business trip to Santa Barbara, Mary and I took a quick detour to the Santa Ynez Valley to look at a ranch that had recently come up for sale. Within a couple hundred yards inside the gate, Mary turned and said, “Can you think of any reason why we wouldn’t buy it?” The only answer I could come up with was, “No. I can’t.” It was everything that we had been looking for – and more.
Over the years, the terroir of Star Lane has proved itself more than capable of producing wines of great distinction. Everyone involved is very proud of what we’ve accomplished in such a short period, and the quality of this wine is a testament to them, to this very special place, and to an unwavering faith in our dream. Although, we did not start out with the mindset to produce a Merlot to be bottled as a single varietal, we felt that the quality and integrity of the fruit begged to stand on its own. With just 650 cases produced, this wine truly shows off the Happy Canyon AVA to its most beautiful potential.
About Star Lane Vineyard
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.”
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.
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.
About Dierberg Vineyard
Situated in the heart of the Santa Rita Hills along Highway 246 between Lompoc and Buelton in Santa Barbara County, the Drum Canyon Vineyard is one of the Central Coast’s most dramatic properties, with steep hillsides rising more than 7,000 feet above the Dierberg Estate tasting room. The challenging slopes and strong steady wines that blow through the canyon help produce tiny, concentrated berries, which in turn, make wines that reflect the intensity, power, and grace of this renowned California growing region.
Jim and Mary Dierberg planted the Drum Canyon Vineyard in 2003 and it has since produced premium Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes used for Dierberg’s award-winning portfolio of Burgundian-style wines. The Pinot Noirs from Drum Canyon Vineyard retain their signature acidity, while balancing ripeness and refinement. The result is world-class wines with food-friendly finesse and tantalizing vibrancy.
Dierberg Estate Vineyard has consistently captured significant scores and awards since the first release in 2004, and seems poised for many more in the future.
Andy Alba - Winemaker
Andy Alba has been a part of the winemaking team at Dierberg Vineyard since the very first vintage in 2001. He started out at the custom crush facility where the Dierbergs made their wine before building a state-of-the-art, on-site winery in 2005 (it was completed in 2009). Andy understood the style that the Dierberg family wanted to achieve, and he quickly became intimately involved in the Dierberg winemaking process. In 2005, he moved to the Dierbergs' new winery facility in Santa Ynez and has been overseeing the winemaking duties ever since. In 2011, Andy was given additional responsibilities including overall leadership and direction of winemaking and vineyard management. He now oversees all aspects of wine production at the company's three estate vineyards (in Santa Maria, Santa Rita Hills, and Santa Ynez).
A San Diego native, Andy Alba studied biology at UCSD and began his career developing diabetes drugs at a Southern California biotech company. His interest in chemistry lead him to perform wine analytics on the Central Coast in 1998, and he immediately fell in love with wine country and the art of winemaking.
Today, more than a decade after starting with the Dierbergs, Andy's winemaking style still reflects his initial goal. "I try to produce wines that are natural, not overly manipulated, that reveal the essence of their birthplace,” he explains. "That's how I know I've done my job.”