Something quite different arrived at my door the other day. As part of a sampling of new releases from a California producer, the two white wines in the shipment caught my eye because of their vintages. One was a chardonnay and the other was a sauvignon blanc. While most chardonnays being released right now are from 2009 or perhaps 2008, this one was from 2007. While almost all the sauvignons I receive are from the ‘09 vintage (some 2010s from the Southern Hemisphere are also now being released) this one was from 2008. Most chardonnays, of course, will benefit from some bottle age and some of the great ones from Burgundy and California can develop for years. While sauvignon blancs are typically enjoyed young, they, too, can develop in the bottle.
And so it was that I tasted these two wines from Dierberg Estate Vineyards in Santa Barbara County on different evenings. The first was Dierberg Estate’s 2007 Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay. Made in a bright, fruit-forward style, this wine is a model of balance at this point with subtle, well-integrated oak treatment (just 40 percent of the blend was aged in new oak). There’s lots of complexity here with notes of lime and orange, tropical fruit, ginger, vanilla and a nice underlying minerality. Quite Burgundian in character with superb acidity and alcohol of 14.1 percent. The wine would be superb with all kinds of white meats and elegant fish dishes. It was one of my favorite chardonnays of the past year and is well worth the $32 price.
Dierberg’s sister property, Star Lane Vineyard, focuses on Bordeaux varieties in the relatively warm eastern end of the Santa Ynez Valley, and its 2008 Santa Ynez Valley Sauvignon Blanc is also notable for its balanced approach to a variety that often presents itself in extremes – exceedingly racy, as in many New Zealand sauvignons, or as sauvignon hiding in chardonnay clothing, which is sometimes the case with California sauvignons. Star Lane offers a delicious middle ground in this $20 wine with muted notes of pink grapefruit, lemon curd and lime and lots of minerals on the long finish. Acidity is very ample, in this one as well, and alcohol is listed at 13.4 percent.
Beyond modest levels of alcohol and releasing their white wines with a little age, the Dierberg wines are made with an emphasis on native yeasts, all of which combine to make them distinct and memorable.