Jim Dierberg is a dreamer who gets things done. He proposed to his wife, Mary, on their first date, and 48 years, four children and six grandchildren later, this charming couple dreamed and planned and researched and worked and created a vintner’s dream come true: Star Lane Vineyard and Dierberg Estate Vineyard.
Nestled in the rolling hills of Happy Canyon in the Santa Ynez Valley and chiseled into the 1,500-foot-high sandstone hillside, is the 26,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art cave, maintained at a constant 56 degrees for optimum barrel aging. Drawing from Bordelais designs that Mary fell in love with in southern France, the winery boasts a round, classic courtyard framed by stone windows and arches.
Inspiration for the family’s logo appeared closer to home: an eight-point star Mary spied one day on the ceiling of the Santa Barbara Mission. This star — a universal symbol of balance, harmony and cosmic order — appears everywhere: greeting you at the iron entry gate, on massive concrete columns and wall sconces, embedded in the marble floor of the “Grand Room” and, as the sun withdraws its light and life from the vines and gently drops behind the hills, as a sparkling blanket, a star-strewn California night sky covering the 35,000-acre vineyard.
It’s a winery of colossal proportions and productivity in complete harmony with nature … just as the wines it produces.
In addition to this warmest Star Lane location — which produces cabernet sauvignon, cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Petil Verdot and Syrah — the Dierbergs farm other properties. Santa Rita Hills includes a tasting room that is open to the public and is dedicated to producing Pinot noir and chardonnay.
A respected wine critic had this to say about a wine produced in the family’s third growing region: “2006 Dierberg Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir: A stunning nose composed of aromas of perfectly ripe cherries and berries with subtle hints of baking spice and smoke-infused oak. A really impressive mouth full of delicious dark sappy fruit underlain with smoky oak, earthiness and citrus.”
Translated for neophytes like me, “It tastes great!” As do wines from all three labels: Star Lane Vineyard, Dierberg Estate Vineyard and Three Saints.
Raised in a farming tradition, Mary in Iowa and Jim in Missouri, unlike me they are no neophytes to wine. Winemaking captivated them during travels to Germany in the 1960s. Soon afterward they discovered and purchased an old 1852 winery, Hermannhof, an hour away from St. Louis and their love affair with grapes began.
Twenty-two years later, their California dream was born with the purchase of 100 acres in sun-drenched Happy Canyon Valley. Relying on advice from Central Coast growers, soil experts and the ongoing expertise of winemaker Andy Alba, their wines are consistently ranked among the finest by wine connoisseurs.
“Wine is like a person,” Jim will tell you. “A person who begins life struggling to grow. Encountering all sorts of problems as he or she ages. Ripening, maturing, reaching a peak and eventually mellowing. Acquiring a patina, like a beautiful antique.”
Great pride is taken in the all-natural process of producing a Dierberg wine. From soil to bottle, each step of the way is in harmony with nature.
“The finest grapes need to struggle to grow,” Mary tells me.
Again, just like people.
Each time I’ve gone to visit my vintner friends and have pulled into the winding two mile approach to their home and vineyard, I’ve had to catch my breath and pull over to the side of the drive to take in the kaleidoscope of beauty surrounding me. Thousands of rows of grapevines creating a patchwork quilt with the folded hills. Every shade of green imaginable. And gold. Azure blue skies and lake-reflecting hilltop pines.
And, if you’re lucky, a nose-to-tail parade of black Angus cattle ambling alongside the drive.
The Dierberg and Star Lane Vineyards tasting room is located at 1280 Drum Canyon Road and is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Click here for more information, or call 866.652.8430.