Review: Wines of Diora, 2020 Releases
Diora is a winery located in San Bernabe Vineyard, in the tiny San Bernabe AVA in Monterey County.
When first planted to grapes in the 1970s, the vineyard was optimized for large-scale commercial winemaking, with wide vine spacing to accommodate machine picking and pruning. Delicato Family Wines, owned by the Indelicato family, purchased the San Bernabe Vineyard in 1988, which then spread over 12,000 acres, running from the Salinas River up to the foothills of the Santa Lucia Range. In recent years, Delicato embarked on a labor-intensive program to transform the site to draw out its full potential to yield distinctive, terroir-driven wines. Diora is the result of these efforts.
As part of this venture, the family has sold off more than 6,500 acres of the site, keeping the blocks best suited to high-quality wine grapes. These remaining blocks have been entirely replanted, taking into account the vineyard’s varied soil types, elevations, and exposures—a result of San Bernabe’s turbulent geologic history. Proceeds from the sale of land were used to fund the purchase of a superb site in the neighboring Santa Lucia Highlands, called River Road Vineyard, that has also been replanted. Today, Diora wines draw from a small selection of the best plots within the 1,800 acres of grapes that remain at San Bernabe Vineyards, as well as River Road Vineyard.
Veteran winemaker James Ewart has worked with the San Bernabe Vineyard and the neighboring Santa Lucia Highlands for more than twenty years. The proximity of the vineyards to the winery allows James to crush in smaller lots, moments after harvesting, and to process each ton with precision. Both of these vineyard locations benefit from cool afternoon winds that roar in from Monterey Bay and meet the warm rising air from Paso Robles to the south. At San Bernabe, summer temperatures swing as much as 34 degrees from day to night. This ideal climate allows for rich flavor development during the day, rising acidity during the cooler nights, and final, well-balanced wine.
Well, let’s see how all that turned out.
2019 Diora La Belle Fete Rose of Pinot Noir Monterey – Made from grapes expressily grown for rose, this wine is 12% fermented in barrel, with 3% grenache rose added to the mix. It’s a lively wine, a deft blend of fruit and citrus, lightly almond-dusted as it develops in the glass, but designed with acidity to spare. Gentle strawberry kicks things off, with an orange flower note that adds a clear floral element. A- / $20
2018 Diora La Splendeur du Soleil Chardonnay Monterey – There’s oaky chardonnay, and then there’s this, which comes across like oak extract that’s been dusted with a splash of wine. Frankly I found this wine nearly undrinkable, turning distinctly vegetal when it wasn’t beating me over the head with what feels like a heavily-manipulated wood element. There’s some salinity in the mix at least, to liven things up, but that’s a long time coming… and not worth the effort. D / $20
2018 Diora La Petite Grace Pinot Noir Monterey County – Note the “Monterey County” designation. Dense and inky, this hits the tongue as an immediate surprise considering it’s a wine from a usually restrained region. Here, the primary elements run to licorice, graphite, and tar, with a brambly blackberry note serving as the primary fruit element. There’s lots of extracted oak here, giving the finish a big vanilla punch. The wine feels closed off at first, but some time in glass helps the woody notes to temper a bit, and a silky berry cobbler note emerges on the finish. B / $26