Cool-climate site wines have been Tyler Thomas’ calling card since he started as assistant winemaker at Hyde de Villaine in 2004. Thomas quickly made a name for himself on the North Coast and took charge at Donelan in Sonoma County in the summer of 2008. There, he crafted 23 wines rated 93-100 points by Robert Parker. Donelan Winery and Thomas seemed like a match made in heaven and the beginning of a long, illustrious career for Thomas.
At the World of Pinot Noir Festival in Santa Barbara last March, we learned exactly why Tyler decided to leave his comfortable North Coast digs. He explained, “Finding the unique expressions of vineyards is what attracts me to wine, and I wanted to see if I had the mettle to build a tradition of excellence from superb sites without being confined to a 3-, 4-, or 5-year vineyard contract.” In short, Tyler received an offer too good to pass up — from a name we knew well.
The Dierberg family has been farming vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley since the mid-1990s. Thirteen miles from the Pacific, on the western edge of the appellation, the Dierberg Vineyard benefits from the maritime influence of the Pacific. The cool climate keeps acids fresh, while sandy loam soils mixed with marine sediments provide excellent drainage for the vines. The concentrated yet restrained Dierberg fruit has found its way into knockout estate wines and those from top producers such as Bryan Babcock in the Santa Rita Hills. But even with a reputation in the AVA as blue-chip farmers, for owners Jim and Mary Dierberg, there was a missing piece: a superstar winemaker to raise the estate wines to their true potential.
In the summer of 2013, Thomas was given full oversight of Dierberg Vineyard, catapulting Dierberg into the California Chardonnay elite.
“I’d learned in my career that there are two requirements to making great wines — the patience of long-term vision and the control of estate vineyards,” Thomas explained. “The Dierberg family represented both.” Thomas knew his winemaking philosophy was perfectly suited to capitalize on the Dierbergs’ multi-generational commitment to the land and their investments in cultivating incredible sites.
Since Tyler has taken the reins, early returns have been spectacular. In the vineyard, Thomas has instituted a higher degree of selection, working to promote freshness across all of the varietals and “seeking something transcendent” — as Tyler puts it — with extended aging capacity.
We’ve been waiting for Thomas to get back to us for six months now, since the tasting in Santa Barbara in March. Finally, one week ago, we got the call.
The 2013 Dierberg Chardonnay Dierberg Vineyard is a window into the new regime. Rated 93 points, this is Antonio Galloni’s #1 California Chardonnay under $30 — we couldn’t agree more.
Galloni called this 2013 Chardonnay Dierberg Vineyard “super-polished and finessed from start to finish,” a “striking, effortless Chardonnay” with “superb textural depth and tons of personality, all in a laid-back, understated style that is such a signature of Santa Maria.”
This one will go down as one of Dierberg’s finest estate-level bottlings — with the stuffing to age gracefully for the next 5 years. A blazing start from Thomas, just $29/bottle today, while they last.
This is really nice Chardonnay; very laid back, smooth without being insipid. I believe the average of the Galloni and Parker reviews would be right on. Nice complexity. Really 4.5 stars and very nice. I'm considering this as the accompaniment to some sauteed shrimp in a cream sauce with spring peas and rice. Now, I wish I had bought a case of this. 9/21/17: Had another of these and it was excellent! Oaked, but not intrusive.. Two left.
Very nice bottle of wine . A little more cellar time would make it a little less green & better but who has the time or a cellar. I was very pleased with the chard & the price per bottle.
A rather ordinary Chardonnay
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