CECILE LEMERLE-DERBES
Co-Owner and Winemaker of Derbès Wines

Cécile grew up in the wine industry.   She was born and raised in Champagne, where she was and still is involved in the growing of the grapes.   “When my father died, my sister and I were helping my Mum in the vineyards during school breaks.   We did learn a lot, and the hard way.”   She wanted to be a Medical Doctor and started courses, but switched in her Freshman year to Viticulture and Enology studies.   She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Viticulture in 1986 and her Master’s degree in Enology in 1990 at the University of Reims, in the heart of Champagne.   She then took one year of business classes.   During that time she worked at Champagne Bollinger and Champagne Jacquart, still closely involved with her family vineyards.

She moved to California at the end of 1991 and started to work for Schug Carneros Estate Winery as Assistant Winemaker with an Exchange student visa.   Once she got her “Alien Resident card,” she went to work for F. Korbel as a Research Enologist.

Eager to move on with her career, she accepted the position of Assistant Winemaker at Golan Heights Winery in Israel.   “It was much more than a work experience: Living twenty minutes from the Syrian border, spending three weeks learning Hebrew in immersion classes, making Kosher wines, and teaching Israelis how to appreciate wines.”   Work was really great, but social life was quite tough living three and a half hours from any city.

Cécile decided to move back to France near her family.   She farmed her own vineyards, taught, and consulted.   However, she did not find much opportunity for women as winemakers in France.   She wanted to start her winery in Champagne, but the vineyard is too small to bear the financial load of a start up winery.     Growing grapes and selling them was not fulfilling her dream.

Cécile moved back to California in spring 1998 to manage the vineyards and make wine at Opus One Winery.   She started Derbes Wines in 2001 with her husband Billy Derbès. and consulted between the 2000 Harvest and Summer 2005.

She had met Billy in August 1999.   The couple moved from Napa to Healdsburg in 2000.   They are the pround parents of Charles and Jean-Pierre, twin brothers born May 19th 2003, and Marie-Cécile, born July 2nd 2005. Having a family and a business prompted her to become an American Citizen.

Billy, an Aerospace Engineer, has a great appreciation for wine and food and enjoys the farming as well as the art of it.   In France, Cécile’s family really introduced Billy to the wine country lifestyle, enjoying wine during lunch or diner (usually both).

Derbès Wines produces Chardonnays from Carneros and Russian River, as well as Pinot ,Syrah, a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier from the Russian River Valley and a Rosé.   The mission is to produce elegant wines respecting the entity of the grapes and their origin.  respecting and reflecting the quality of the grapes in the wine.   Cécile is also a Member of Union Française des Oenologues de France, and participates actively in fundraisers.

Cécile and Billy planted Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay and Syrah on their property in the Russian River Valley.   Building their own winery and having a tasting room to showcase their product in order to grow is underway .

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