Sta. Rita Hills

Dragonette Cellars

Dragonette Pick-Up Party at Duvarita Vineyards
Dragonette Pick-Up Party at Duvarita Vineyards

On a recent visit to Santa Barbara wine country we attended the Dragonette Cellars’ pick-up party at Duvarita Vineyards. Nestled in the Sta. Rita Hills, Duvarita provides grapes for two Dragonette wines, a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir. We enjoyed some of the best street tacos I have ever eaten, along with cheeses and copious wine pours, provided by John and Steve Dragonette, Brandon Sparks-Gillis and Nick Luis, among others.

Spear Vineyards & Winery

Spear’s setting is spectacular
Spear Tasting Room
Spear Tasting Room

It was actually the folks at Dragonette who inspired our next stop that day. They recommended we try Spear Vineyards and Winery, which happens to be just minutes from Duvarita Vineyard. Reservations are required, so I had emailed Spear the week before and received a lovely response from their winemaker Kat Gaffney. Once we passed through the gates and drove up the driveway, we realized what a stunning location we had entered. The winery is housed in an old dairy farm that has been beautifully restored. The old grain silo sits proudly out front next to the expansive patio.

Once inside, we were greeted by Elena, who sat us on the couch next to the wall of windows that look out over the vineyards and the Valley. The tasting room is stunning. In addition to the spectacular view, there is also a glass wall separating the tasting room from the wine making area. Behind the vintage motorcycle on display are the shiny steel tanks and other equipment necessary to the winemaking process.

We began our tasting with their 2017 Pinot Noir Estate ($45)…with “cranberry, green figs and red cherry on the nose. Strawberry, raspberry and tea leaves on the palate.”* A dry, fruity delight. That was followed by the 2017 Syrah Estate ($45)…with “boysenberry, white pepper and eucalyptus on the nose. Red currents. leather and forest floor on the palate.” All I can add is that that was the most delicious forest floor I’ve ever tasted! 

Then things got interesting. Usually, we taste whites before reds, but at Spear, they’re poured after the reds because they feel that their reds are lighter and their whites are bigger and show more acidity. And I have to agree with that decision. 

First we tasted their 2017 Chardonnay Estate ($35)…”crisp white peaches, lemon rind and saline minerality on the nose. Citrus zest, honeysuckle vine, and sage on the palate.” It was a very fine example of Chardonnay. Then the 2017 Chardonnay Gnesa ($45)…”lemon meringue, pineapple, and white flowers on the nose. Tangerine, green pineapple  and white sage on the palate.” I initially though this was going to be my favorite of the flight, but then the 2018 Chardonnay Gnesa, Stainless ($60) was poured…”lemon blossom, tangerine skin, and grapefruit on the nose. Dragonfruit, fresh mango puree and lychee on the palate. Amazing!

Our friends at Dragonette also recommended Spear’s Grüner Veltliner ($30) so we asked if it was available for tasting. “Honeydew melon, white flowers, and wheatgrass on the nose. Honeysuckle, apricot, and celery salt on the palate.” This is an excellent choice and a really good value.

Dierberg Star Lane Vineyards

Dierberg Starlane Winery
Dierberg Star Lane Winery

While Spear was completely new to us, Dierberg Star Lane was a known entity. We hadn’t been there in several years, but with another mention from the folks at Dragonette, we decided to stop by as it was just minutes from Spear.

Dierberg Starlane Tasting Room
Dierberg Starlane Tasting Room

Dierberg Star Lane is housed in what also appears to be a renovated barn. The grounds are immaculately keep and the interior is modern, clean and very appealing. There are several tasting bars to choose from and plenty of extra seating, both inside and out.

We sat down at one of the bars and were quickly introduced to our pourer, an aspiring winemaker. She guided us through a delicious tasting, starting with 2018 Star Lane Sauvignon Blanc ($22). Next was the 2016 Dierberg Chardonnay ($32). Then the 2015 Dierberg Drum Canyon Vineyards Pinot Noir ($52). And the 2015 Dierberg Pinot Noir ($44). Last on our tasting flight was the 2016 Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon ($52). 

At the bottom of the flight list was a “Wine Club Member’s Exclusive,” the 2016 Star Lane Cabernet Franc ($55). Our pourer offered a taste which we quickly accepted.

What can be learned from our experience. Always be willing to try wineries (or restaurant or…) that are new to you. You’re bound to find a new treasure.

(*All descriptions in quotes are from respective winery’s tasting notes)