Jim Dierberg, When he has a passion for something, he acts quickly and decisively. Just ask his wife, Mary, to whom he proposed on their first date! It was love at first sight, yet again, when they laid eyes on the Star Lane Ranch, now planted to some 230 acres of vines. "We had looked around Napa and Bordeaux for a property early on," Jim recalls. But Napa and the Old World were getting a litt... Read more
Jim Dierberg, When he has a passion for something, he acts quickly and decisively. Just ask his wife, Mary, to whom he proposed on their first date! It was love at first sight, yet again, when they laid eyes on the Star Lane Ranch, now planted to some 230 acres of vines. "We had looked around Napa and Bordeaux for a property early on," Jim recalls. But Napa and the Old World were getting a little crowded. "We wanted open space and big sky." They found it during a business trip not far from Santa Barbara in a beautiful valley called Happy Canyon.
Bankers by profession, Jim and Mary are no newcomers to wine. They've owned one of America's oldest wineries, Hermannhof, since 1974. It's located in their home state of Missouri, where Jim was raised in a farming tradition. (At age 11, he won the St. Louis County Fair with his champion pig, Buster.)
An initial passion for wine developed during the couple's early trips to Germany during the 1960s. Back home in Missouri, they discovered an old winery in Hermann - founded in 1852 - was for sale, and they bought it. "Hermann seemed just like Germany in many ways," Mary says. "But it was only an hour from St. Louis."
The wines at Hermannhof are good, but the Missouri climate is not conducive to growing the European varietals that have made France and California famous. It was only a matter of time before the couple would seek out a new winemaking perspective. They purchased Star Lane in 1996. "All the local farmers knew this was one of the warmest spots in the area," Jim recalls. After consultation with renowned Central Coast grower Dale Hampton and soil scientist Paul Skinner, the Dierbergs realized that the land was best suited to growing Cabernet and its related varietals. They started with 100 acres.
Later in 1996, they bought a cooler vineyard site better suited to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay a bit farther north in Santa Maria. And in January of 2004, they added a new property in the Santa Rita Hills, also suitable for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. These two vineyards are called, fittingly, Dierberg.
Currently, the winemaking couple are constructing their dream winery on the Star Lane property. It's dug into the hillside for efficient use of energy and will host some 26,000 square feet of caves for barrel aging. "We're excited about having a facility that will allow us to do justice to the terroir, which has already proved to be capable of producing wines of great distinction," Jim notes with pride. Read less