Tag Archives: Sauvignon Blanc

Dierberg and Star Lane Make a Great Pairing

Dierberg and Star Lane share a beautiful tasting room in the Santa Rita Hills area.

Dierberg and Star Lane share a beautiful tasting room in the Santa Rita Hills area.

The Santa Barbara County area – Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Maria – is known for producing very good Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah (and other Rhône varietals). So we went to the Dierberg – Star Lane tasting room, in the heart of the Santa Rita Hills AVA, the original Pinot Noir growing region in the Santa Ynez Valley, with an eye to taste the Pinot Noir.

The garden at Dierberg Estate Vineyard.

The garden at Dierberg Estate Vineyard.

Dierberg Estate Vineyard and Star Lane Vineyard are the two brand names that the Dierberg family uses for their wines, with the Dierberg label used for the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah, and the Star Lane label used for the Sauvignon Blanc and red Bordeaux varietals grown at the Star Lane Vineyard in the warmer Happy Canyon area of Santa Ynez Valley. The tasting room serves wines from both brands, and is located at their Drum Canyon Vineyard. They also have a third vineyard, producing grapes for the Dierberg label, in the Santa Maria area.

Bean bag toss at Dierberg.

Bean bag toss at Dierberg.

As I said, we were looking to taste their Pinot Noir, and we got to do that. But we were also able to taste the Star Lane wines, and these were a revelation. An excellent Star Lane Sauvignon Blanc, really well balanced, led off the tasting. (Yes, bought a bottle of the Sauv Blanc.) After going through some of the Dierberg Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, we went to the Star Lane Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignons. They make a few variations on these, ranging from a Cabernet Franc at about 90% Cab Franc, to a standard Cabernet Sauvignon (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec), to a high end Cabernet Sauvignon (called “Astral”, with just Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc), to the “Roots” Cabernet Sauvignon. This last has just a bit of Merlot blended in (4%), with the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes coming from a block of the Star Lane Vineyard that was planted with actual Cabernet Sauvignon root stock instead of the usual American grape root stock with grafting of the Cabernet Sauvignon. The Astral was very good, very balanced, as one would expect from their high end wine. But the Roots caught our attention. There was a lot going on there, from the fruit in the nose and the entry, to the big body, to the tannins on the finish. Loved it, had to buy a couple of bottles.

We were seated outside for the tasting. Beautiful day, beautiful wines. Our tasting was led by Megan, who has already passed her first level sommelier exam and is studying for the second level. She was incredibly knowledgeable, and responded to both our basic and advanced questions with easy to understand answers. So a great tasting experience also. Megan thinks the Astral will age better than the Roots, but I put my money (literally) on the Roots Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ll check back in 10 years or so and see where we are on this one.

L’Chaim,

Larry

A Merry (Edwards) Visit to the Russian River Valley

Lori and I were heading up to Mendocino for Memorial Day weekend and wanted to get an early start on Friday to beat traffic. However, we couldn’t check into the house we were renting until 4pm. We thought going straight up 101 and heading off to Mendocino on Highway 128, with maybe a stop in Geyserville for lunch and wine tasting. But then inspiration hit: Cut off 101 on the 116 west toward Sebastopol, stop at Merry Edwards Winery for a tasting, then find lunch somewhere in that area.

We had previously met Merry Edwards at a Russian River Valley Winemakers event a few years back, and tasted her Pinot Noir at that event, and really liked it. She is one of the first, if not the first, women winemakers in the Napa/Sonoma area, having started her winemaking career in the early 70s. Her eponymous winery was founded in the late 90s to make Pinot Noir. Sometime mid 2000s she started making Sauvignon Blanc, which turned out so good it was the first Sauvignon Blanc (the 2007 vintage) put into the top 10 wines of the year by Wine Spectator, and continues to win awards.

The winery cat enjoying the serenity garden outside the Merry Edwards tasting room

The winery cat enjoying the serenity garden outside the Merry Edwards tasting room

It’s a beautiful facility with a little garden in front of the tasting room, with her Coopersmith vineyard all around. Tastings are free. When we went, the tasting menu was the

2013 Sauvignon Blanc: Sauvignon Musqué grapes, a Sauvignon Blanc clone, are used in the blend. (I’ve previously talked about this clone in a post on Armida Sauvignon Blanc.)

2011 Chardonnay, Olivet Lane Vineyard: 100% malolactic fermentation, but not an extreme buttery taste. I forgot to ask, but I’m assuming that there was not a lot of new oak used on this wine. An enjoyable Chardonnay.

2012 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast: This is a blend of a few vineyards, a lighter bodied Pinot Noir but well balanced. Actually it was our favorite, although the couple tasting with Lori and I liked the other Pinots better.

2012 Pinot Noir, Meredith Estate: Bigger, more fruit forward Pinot Noir, with some significant tannins on the finish.

2012 Pinot Noir, Georgeanne Vineyard: The warmest weather vineyard for Pinot Noir that Merry Edwards uses. Good now; but needs more time to come to terms with its different components.

Underwood:  seafood capellini in tomato broth

Underwood: seafood capellini in tomato broth

After picking up a few bottles from Merry Edwards, we headed off to Underwood in Graton for lunch. We’ve heard about this restaurant for a long time, but never eaten there. Every time we’ve been in the area for lunch/brunch it’s been closed; our poor timing. (They’re not open for lunch/brunch on Sundays.) This time though we scored. We took a quick look at the regular menu, but the daily specials enticed us. Lori had a delicious chicken sandwich, and I had this wonderful seafood capellini.

We did eventually make it to Mendocino. We were joined in Mendocino by our boys and their families, which made for a wonderful weekend. Sunset over the Pacific, through the fog, was beautiful. The beach was fun, even if both air and water were a bit cold. And we saw a parade of grey whales late one afternoon, 5 pairs of mothers and calves, about 100 feet off shore, heading back north for the summer.

L’Chaim,

Larry