Page 96 - The Montecito Journal Winter Spring 2009

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spr ing
hite or red, sparkling or not,
the journey from the vine to the
bottle is a unique and ancient process
that began over 7,000 years ago. According
to the Archeological Institute, “Grape presses dating
to the late third millennium B.C. have been found at Titris Höyük in
southeastern Turkey.” From the Middle East, there is evidence that wine
lovers migrated to ancient Greece, Rome and Thrace (Bulgaria). Wine
was so important in Greece, they honored the precious liquid with its
own god, Dionysus.
The tradition of drinking wine travels from the ancients for celebratory
events to current medical evidence that supports longevity and youth.
For all its mystical qualities, the process for making wine is relatively
quite simple. There are five basic steps to old-fashioned wine making:
harvesting, crushing and pressing, fermentation, clarification, and aging
and bottling.
Santa Barbara County supports a great number of winemakers, each
employing unique grapes and processes. Star Lane Vineyard, owned by
Mary Dierberg
, favors gravity-fed processing and caves for their
winemaking. Although they purchased the 4,000-acre property in the
Happy Canyon area in 1996, it took over eight years to build the area’s
first gravity-fed winery with climate-controlled “caves” for the fermenting
processes. To supply it, they have planted 237 acres of grapevines for
Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon
Blanc and Syrah.
Kurt Ammann
, manager of Star Lane Vineyard,
observes that the Dierbergs’ operation preserved the natural landscape
by not cutting down any of the oak trees on the land, and even planted
more; they also raise cows on the property.
Star Lane’s winemaker is
Nick DeLuca
. Nick hails from New York and
is a semi-pro mountain biker. After studying international law in France,
he found himself driving a fork lift for Cline Cellars. His life changed
when the wine press broke down, and he was able to repair it because
he knew how to read Italian! Blushing, he states it made him the hero of
the winery and he was promoted to cellar master. In 2004, Nick’s wife,
eager to return to her roots in Santa Barbara, sent his resumé
to Star Lane; they hired him immediately.
Nick believes the more moving parts one takes out of the process, the
more natural it is, so he shepherds the vineyard in that direction.
Star Lane is already set up to do just that, via its gravity-fed process
from the crush pad at the top level of the winery, to the caves three
stories below, all grapes, juice and wine is moved entirely by gravity.
Kurt explains, “The benefits of a cave environment allow for a much
higher humidity, which reduces evaporation, or as the French refer to it,
‘the Angels’ Share,’ which in turn does not allow the wine to evaporate,
but still allows alcohol to evaporate.” He notes that this ultimately results
in slightly lower alcohol levels, and the cool environment’s constant
temperature allows for slow consistent uptake of flavors in the wine
as well.
by Joanne A. Calitri
Star Lane Vineyard
Acres of Cabernet Sauvignon Grapes grow heartily in
the hillsides of the Star Lane Vineyard in Happy Canyon