What: Many wine drinkers think cabernet sauvignon begins and ends in Napa Valley. While it is true that Napa cabs usually are great, you can find outstanding cabs throughout California.
This wine from Star Lane Vineyard is a wonderful example of what’s going on outside of Napa. It is lush and bold, easy to drink right now, but holding great promise for cellaring.
The wine is a dark red in the glass, with arresting floral aromas. It is a complex wine, with layer after layer of flavor unfolding. It starts with dark cherry and plum leading to licorice and finishing with some savory notes. The finish is long and smooth.
Star Lane owns about 60 percent of the planted acreage in the Happy Canyon AVA, making it a leader in Santa Barbara’s cabernet sauvignon renaissance.
The 2013 vintage marks the first for winemaker Tyler Thomas, who gained fame in Napa and Sonoma before joining Star Lane. For this wine, he separately fermented more than 30 small lots of cabernet sauvignon, each expressing the specific site’s distinct flavors and textures.
The resulting blend is complex and delicious. While the wine is mostly cab, small amounts of cabernet franc, merlot and malbec were added to give it an extra layer of flavor. The wine was aged for 20 months in French oak barrels, 35 percent new.
“I am excited to pursue a new angle of California cabernet sauvignon in Santa Barbara County which promotes freshness and authenticity,” said Thomas. “While Santa Barbara is currently not well known for cabernet sauvignon, I believe the potential for greatness is there.
“The combination of this incredibly exciting new terroir in Happy Canyon with the Dierberg family’s dedication and commitment was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
I hope I will be around to see how this wine develops as it fully matures in five, 10, 15 years or longer.
Winery: Jim and Mary Dierberg are long-range thinkers. They bought the historic Hermannhof Winery in Hermann, Missouri, in 1974 and immediately set out to restore it to its pre-Prohibition glory when it was one of the most important wineries in the country.
But even as Hermannhof flourished, the Dierbergs were looking for a place to grow classic European grapes that produce fine wine. The Midwest doesn’t have the proper climate or soils for that kind of wine production.
They spent a decade looking around the world, including France and the Napa Valley, but when they explored Santa Barbara in 1996 they found the ideal spot for the kind of wine they wanted to make. They set up a 250-year plan to make their winery a benchmark in Santa Barbara County.
They first purchased Star Lane Ranch and planted it with Bordeaux varietals. The family then planted two vineyards to produce pinot noir and chardonnay in cool climate areas of Santa Barbara, the Dierberg Vineyard and the Drum Canyon Vineyard under the Dierberg label.
The Star Lane Ranch is in the Happy Canyon AVA, defined as an appellation only in 2009. Sitting on the far eastern boundary of Santa Ynez Valley, it has significantly warmer weather than other parts of Santa Barbara County. This allows the property’s 200 acres of Bordeaux varietals to maintain their freshness while also fully ripening.
The Dierberg Vineyard property is a 160-acre vineyard located on the western edge of the Santa Maria Valley appellation just 13 miles from the Pacific Ocean. The property is planted to 12 “heritage clones” of pinot noir, which trace back to Burgundy, as well as chardonnay marquis cuttings of historic Wente clones, and the closely related Clone 4.
Drum Canyon Vineyard, obtained by the Dierbergs in 2003, is a cool-climate property, planted to 70 acres of chardonnay and pinot noir grapes.
Today, the entire operation is one big family affair, with the Dierbergs’ grown children and their spouses intimately involved in the day-to-day operations of the vineyard and winery.
Goes With: We had this with baby back ribs cooked on the grill. It’s a meal that requires some patience and planning ahead because I cook the ribs at a low temperature for several hours.
I use a mop sauce to give the meat a tangy yet sweet flavor with a little heat. You need a big wine to create a perfect pairing with this dish. A lighter wine would disappear if served with my ribs.
The Star Lane cab was a wonderful match. The rich, complex flavors and smooth mouthfeel tamed the fiery flavors in the ribs. I added pasta shells in a cheese sauce and a salad to complete the meal.
The mop sauce and slow cooking leave the meat tender and juicy. Pork is a good meat for picking up flavors in sauces and marinades, so you can easily change the flavor by adjusting the sauce.
Here’s the recipe: Start with three cups of apple cider vinegar and one cup water.
Add red pepper flakes, Morton Nature’s Seasons, minced garlic, Kosher salt and brown sugar. For more heat, add cayenne pepper. The amounts can vary depending on your tastes, but I usually use twice as much Nature’s Seasons and red pepper flakes as any of the other ingredients.
Boil the mixture for about 10 minutes and let it cook. As you place the ribs on a heated grill, splash on the mop sauce with a barbecue mop and sprinkle the ribs with more Nature’s Seasons.
Cook the ribs, starting bone side down, over a low heat, generally around 250 degrees, for at least two hours, basting every 20 minutes or so. Indirect heat is the best method. For the last 20 minutes, turn the ribs over to develop a nice crust on the meat side.
For serving, cut the ribs along the bones and mop on more sauce. They will taste delicious as is, but you can serve sauce on the side.
- Wine tasting: 5-8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17, Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta; $5; (803) 279-9522
- Wine tasting: 5-7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17, Kroger, 435 Lewiston Road, Grovetown; free; (706) 619-3420
- Wine and beer tasting: 5-7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17, and Saturday, Feb. 18, Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; (706) 922-9463