Cécile Lemerle-Derbès

Cécile Lemerle-Derbès

Derbès Wines (Winemaker and Co-Owner)

Cécile Lemerle-Derbès grew up in the vineyards of the Champagne region of France, where she was involved in the growing of grapes. She wanted to become a physician, but she switched course during her freshman year to study Viticulture and Enology. She received a bachelor’s degree in Viticulture in 1986 and a master’s degree in Enology in 1990 from the University of Reims, in the heart of Champagne, and she also spent a year taking business classes. During that time she worked at Champagne Bollinger and Champagne JACQUART and remained closely involved with her family vineyards.

She moved to California in late 1992 and began working for Schug Carneros Estate Winery as an assistant winemaker while she was on an exchange student visa. Once she received a green card, she worked 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 as she was living in a different culture and living 20 minutes from the Syrian border. But she missed being close to a large city.

She decided to move back to France to be near her family, and while there she farmed her own vineyards, taught, and consulted. However, she did not find many opportunities for women winemakers in France. Although she wanted to start her winery in Champagne, the vineyard was too small to bear the financial load required for a start-up winery. Furthermore, she found that growing grapes and selling them was not fulfilling her dream.

She moved back to California in spring 1998 to manage the vineyards and make wine at Opus One Winery in Napa, where she was the production director from 1998 to 2000, and consulted for local wineries from 2000 to summer 2005.

In 1999, Cécile met her husband, Billy Derbès, an aerospace engineer from New Orleans, and they moved to Napa in 2000. They started Derbès Wines in 2001. Derbès Wines produces Chardonnays from Carneros and the Russian River Valley, as well as Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. Its mission is to produce elegant wines respecting the entity of the grapes and their origin.

Cécile is a member of Union Française des Oenologues de France. The couple has three children, including twin sons Charles and Jean-Pierre born in 2003 and daughter Marie-Cécile born in 2005.