Napa Valley AVA
The vineyard in the Diamond Mountain AVA is just 2 1/2 acres
As part of one of the most inclusive and prestigious small production AVA’s in Napa Valley, tiny Dyer Vineyard continues to produce exceptional wines from its diminutive 2-and a-half-acre vineyard located on mid-Diamond Mountain.
With the likes of Diamond Creek, Diamond Terrace, Von Strasser and Reverie as its closest neighbors, Dyer Vineyard is most certainly in the major league of fine wine production. And its two owners, Bill and Dawnine (pronounced Daw–neen) Dyer, can surely be considered as prominent winery owners.
Both are from California, Bill from Berkeley and Dawnine from San Francisco. The couple met in Santa Cruz where they attended college. Bill majored in philosophy and Dawnine was a biology major, with a heavy emphasis on Bio-Chemistry. How did they get interested in wine? Dawnine Dyer put it this way.
“We were a little older when we finished college. We both enjoyed wine and Bill’s sister lived in France. We were able to visit her and saw most of Europe, and the lifestyle associated with wine. Everyone there seemed to appreciate wine with food and we took notice of that fact.”
When the Dyers returned home, they visited Napa Valley and saw the early stages of the modern California wine phase beginning to take root. Again, Dawnine Dyer explained how this affected the couple.
“Napa Valley at that time was beginning to explode, the signs were everywhere. There was a good bit of building going on and the place seemed alive with expectations and predictions for the future. By then, we both had a little wine experience and almost everyone in Napa Valley was looking for good help that was willing to work. We were both quite lucky. Bill had worked at Bargetto Winery down around Santa Cruz, so he had a little experience. He was able to get a job with Charles Krug almost right away. I went to work for Zelma Long at Robert Mondavi Vineyards in their lab and enjoyed it immensely.” After several years, Bill wound up with Sterling Cellars and Dawnine with Domaine Chandon. Both had long term situations and decided to make the wine industry their careers.
In the early 1990’s, they started looking for a property of their own. The couple’s first thought was to find a site on which to build a house, and the prospects of planting vineyards came second. They decided to take a tour of existing hillside properties and were shown a beautiful parcel on Diamond Mountain that was completely undeveloped. It tested out well and was thought to provide a home site and four plantable acres. “We bought the property right away,” she recalled. “And it was so compelling that we decided to plant it immediately in Cabernet Sauvignon. Diamond Creek was already incredibly well known and we wanted to see what we could grow on our own.” That was in 1993 and the rest is history. The first release of the 1996 vintage was a microscopic 70 cases, and was met with instant success. In the resulting 18 years, the entity known as Dyer Vineyard has only grown to between 300 to 350 cases. Only two and a half of the original acres remain under vine, but the Dyers’ dream of a home came to fruition in 1995.
“We take whatever the vineyard gives us,” Dawnine continued. “We even planted a small amount of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc to balance the original Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cab Franc is particularly important because it lifts the natural mineralogy of the mountain to the fore. It allows us to give as much expression of our terroir as is possible, something really important to Diamond Mountain wines.”
While the Dyers are aware of their area’s pedigree, they are remarkably clear about their winery’s future. They expect to work the property for at least another twenty years and are content with the fact that they have not built an empire. They consider the property more important than the brand itself, a somewhat singular viewpoint in the incredibly competitive California and Napa Valley wine industry.
The Dyers will never replant their vines, but are content to watch and learn as their vineyards continue to mature and develop more depth and complexity. Dyer Vineyard is that rare jewel in the crown of wines that constitutes Napa Valley. Would that there were more like Dyer Vineyard, content to be small and great and determined to make wines that mature correctly and contain good fruit integrity.
Bill and Dawning Dyer - Partners & Winemakers
Dear Platinum Series Wine Club Members,
In 1993, Bill and I had the opportunity to plant a small hillside vineyard on Diamond Mountian. It was a rocky site and just oozed great terroir. We planted it to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab France, and Petit Verdot and gave it our family name – Dyer Vineyard.
As winemakers (Bill was then winemaker at Sterling and I was winemaker at Domaine Chandon), we were eager to apply our skills to a single vineyard – to make the “blend,” as it were, in the vineyard. Being familiar with other wines from the Diamond Mountain District and those “infamous Diamond Mountain tannins” we knew that the wines could be extraordinary and would most certainly stand up to aging – that was something we were looking for in a site.
Now, 21 years later, we are amazed to look back at those early wines and how lovely they are with age. 2007 was a spectacular vintage in the Napa Valley – warm and dry conditions with a minimum of extremes produced famously rich and concentrated wines. Over the years, it has become an iconic vintage – a standard bearer for the characteristics that best typify Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – lush ripe fruit, supple and round on the palate.
We are pleased to be able to share our Diamond Mountain version of this iconic vintage with you, and at a time in it’s life when it is beginning to show the benefit of cellaring. It’s packed with minerality and a little leaner that wines from some AVAs (that’s Diamond Mountain!) and will certainly age well for another 10 years, but it’s showing nice development right now. We hope you will enjoy a bottle during this upcoming holiday season.
Partner and Winemaker