As harvest in wine country is almost upon us and many Los Angeles wine enthusiasts prepare to make their yearly jaunt to either the central coast or Napa, finding those wineries that stand out from others can be daunting.
Dierberg and Star Lane Vineyards is a winery that elevates winemaking to a higher standard. Dierberg has a tasting room along Highway 246 in the Santa Rita Hills but does not open their winemaking facility to the public. I had the privilege to tour this magnificent vineyard that is located in the Happy Canyon AVA of the Santa Ynez Valley. Traveling past Solvang and Santa Ynez the winery is located in the hills in a very secluded area. The views are breathtaking as one travels several miles in from the main road to get to the winery.
Dierberg is built like a Spanish Moor castle against a hill. The facility was completed in 2009 so is relatively new. The winery uses this hill as part of the winemaking process. Like many wineries in France gravity is an integral part of the winery’s function. The upper level of the winery is where the grapes are pressed and the whites and free run reds are placed into fermentation tanks. From there the wines by way of gravity flow directly to the barrels in the first year room on the next level down in the winery facility. A lower level is the second year room before the wine goes down to the caves.
The inside of the winery has a more French feeling inside. The thick walls keep the winery cool. When entering the cave you feel like you are in the catacomb of a monastery. It is very impressive to see the 26,000 square foot cave with 14-inch thick walls. The cave with its 3 tunnels running north south and 4 tunnels running east west took 9 years to build.
Unlike most wineries Dierberg utilizes the pump over method to displace the cap. This is done once or twice a day for 4 minutes on the majority of wines during fermentation. With the Bordeaux’s the process is 20 minutes. All the wines except the Sauvignon Blanc utilize native yeast.
The caves are used for aging, storage and this is were the bottling is completed because the temperature of the cave is keep at 55 degrees through a radiant temperature control system.
In many respects Dierberg/Star Lane can be considered a green winery. The use of gravity in this day and age can be considered green. Dierberg has 46 springs on the property. The springs bring water from Tahoe. The use of a water well generates a good portion of the wineries electricity, which also makes the winery green.
At the end of my tour I asked Kurt Ammann, the sales manager at Dierberg & Star Lane Vineyards what makes the winery stand out from others. His answer was “ The facility, gravity and the caves”.
As to the wines there is a superb selection of wines under three different labels, Three Saints, which stands for Santa Maria, Ste. Rita Hills and Santa Ynez is their lower label, Dierberg and Star Lane the higher end labels that do stand out.
I was quite impressed with the 2009 Star Lane Sauvignon Blanc, Happy Canyon. This Sauvignon Blanc at $20 has a lot of bite with hints grapefruit.
I absolutely loved the 2007 Merlot from Star Lane. This is a free run intense full bodied Merlot made of Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
The 2008 Dierberg Pinot Noir, Drum Canyon in the Ste. Rita Hills has been recently released and has a lot of holding power.
The 2006 Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon is a big wine. The deep red color comes from the makeup of this cab. There is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 % Petit Bardo and 15% Cabernet Franc.
Dierberg & Star Lane also make a Chardonnay, Pinot Noir from Santa Maria, and a Syrah, which are also excellent.
For More Information and Tasting:
Dierberg & Star Lane Vineyards
1280 Drum Canyon Rd.
Open 7 Days a week from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm