California’s Dierberg

Santa Barbara County, home to an increasingly diverse array of grapes and styles, stands out in the international world of winemaking for three wines: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. Jim and Mary Dierberg appreciated that truth from day one. The couple came to the region from the Midwest in the early 1990s to plant ultra-premium grapes and craft great wines.

In 1997, the Dierbergs purchased and planted a property in the Santa Maria Valley, prepared to make Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays that would both reflect and elevate the reputation of Central Coast wines. A few years later, the Dierbergs planted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on steep hillsides along Drum Canyon Road and Highway 246 in what is now the world-famous Santa Rita Hills.

To make the most of each property, the Dierbergs developed vineyards with a groundbreaking diversity of grape clones — rather than focusing on the standard Central Coast varieties — ensuring that high-uality grapes with low yields would lead to fabulously luscious yet traditionally refined wines. The formula quickly worked, and today Dierberg Vineyard represents the traditional winemaking legacy of Santa Barbara County, delivered with an unrivaled attention to quality.

2011 Dierberg Chardonnay, Santa Maria, $42.00
The 2011 Dierberg Chardonnay leads with vivid aromas of deep mango, rich lemon, a hint of fresh lemon peel and creamy hazelnut. On the palate the wine is lush citrus: lemon curd, lemon blossoms and lemon rind with a slight toasted sesame seed accent. The wine finishes with the focused acidity and a tightly wound structure that the Dierberg Chardonnays have come to be known for.

2009 Dierberg Syrah, $36.00
Allowing the vines to mature with just enough water, the resulting grapes grow small but very pigmented, so the process becomes very easy: no maceration, no cold soaking, no pressing, no messing with fermentation temperatures. In other words, no special methods to either inhibit or increase extraction.

When it comes to Dierberg Syrah, less is more. The tasting experience typically includes lots of crushed purple flowers on the nose, from lilac to lavender to violet, followed by a concentrated rush on the tongue that expands gracefully, ranging from sweeter blueberry to tarter cranberry. The tannins are appropriate, the wine is natural and not contrived, and the mouthfeel is rich without being heavy.

2009 Dierberg Pinot Noir, Santa Maria, $42.00
In keeping with the traditional Dierberg style, the 2009 Pinot Noir is a structured wine, yet one that retains great balance, nerve and elegance. Dark raspberry and wild blackberry notes are accented by the characteristic forest floor aromas typical of our vineyard terroir. Flavors lean towards the fresh raspberry end of the spectrum, with light mocha and complex forest floor nuances. Enjoy it now for its bold fruit and explosiveness or cellar for several years to bring out the subtle complexities lurking just below its surface.

2008 Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon, $42.00
Notorious for requiring the longest hang time of any wine grape, Cabernet Sauvignon requires heat. Star Lane, where vaulted mountain peaks offer a respite from the fog and a steady heat, ensure that the Cabernets would ripen just as the acidity levels settled. Indeed, in particularly cold years, Star Lane may be the only place in Santa Barbara County where Cabernets can properly develop. Every year, though, you can expect wines with licorice, black cherry, cassis, spice and vanilla -- flavors enhanced by hand processing down to individual grapes -- and extended fermentations that draw out the deep tannins. The wines age with grace.

2010 Three Saints Chardonnay$16.99
This Chardonnay is characterized by its lush, fleshy fig notes and a creamy citrus flavor. Delicate spring blossom aromas are balanced by weight on the mid palate from extended lees ageing. Flavors run the gamut from delicate Meyer lemon through opulent toasted hazelnut impressions. Featuring a vibrant and richly textured mouthfeel, the 2010 Three Saints Chardonnay drinks deliciously now and should evolve for several years.

2009 Three Saints Pinot Noir, $22.00
Three Saints Pinot Noir begins with ebullient aromatics of crushed raspberries, black cherry, sassafras and vanilla bean. A plush mouthfeel accompanies notes of wild strawberry, fresh cedar and cherry cola. The long finish emphasizes the rich fruit character, with enough bright acid to leave one longing for yet another sip.

2009 Three Saints Cabernet Sauvignon, $22.00
The 2009 Cabernet opens with opulent dark fruit, crème de cassis, currant and fresh blackberry. Notes of cedar and sandlewood harmonize with touches of cinnamon and allspice. The round tannins create a supple, full-bodied finish with lingering notes of cocoa.