We are big fans of Presqu'ile Winery. They even sit at the top of our list of the Best Santa Barbara Wineries to visit. We were very happy to get a chance to interview their talented winemaker Dieter Cronje. Dieter has been described as a rising star on the California wine scene. We couldn't agree more. Dieter is originally from South Africa, but he has traveled extensively in pursuit of a wide-ranging wine knowledge. Dieter's specialty is coaxing the full potential out of Pinot Noir grapes. That can be a tricky business, but Dieter consistently produces top-flight wines. Please enjoy our interview with Dieter.
CWA - What interests you about wine?
Dieter Cronje - It's difficult to identify a specific part of wine that is more interesting than the rest. If you follow history and evolution, fermentation, in general, has played a large part. The existence of wine and how far it has come as a whole is a miracle. I do however specifically enjoy how the process forces one to be aware of nature and how it influences the decisions we need to make to produce a product that represents the conditions of that specific vintage.
CWA - What can you tell us about your winemaking style?
DC - Personally, I lean towards a more traditional style of making wine. As with most things modern technology has largely improved our methods in regards to efficiency but simultaneously removed the artisan nature of previously hand made products. We try to keep our product as natural as possible with respect to the vintage and our promise to our customers to produce a pure product.
CWA – What is the most important factor in making a great wine?
It has been said many times but a good wine is grown and not made. Growing the right grapes in the right places and paying extra attention to farming, in general, is the foundation to superior wines
CWA - Is there any advice you wish you got before you started making wine?
DC -It would not be advice as much as it would be a reality check. Very few if any young winemakers have an understanding of the wine market and the process of selling wine.This is the biggest challenge, and a very important part of starting a brand, and even more important for sustaining the brand over time. It's a dynamic market that does not necessarily follow typical business trends. Experience and networking are necessary to keep up with the ever-changing trends.
CWA - Which wine law/regulation would you change if it were up to you?
DC - In the USA it would be in regards to interstate commerce when it comes to selling wine. Many of the laws enforced at this point in time were put in place in the prohibition era. They are often restrictive to smaller wineries.
CWA - Do you have any favorite wine publications/websites/social media sites you follow?
DC - I mostly stick to the technical side of winemaking so I spend most of my time in textbooks.
CWA - How do you feel about the current wine rating system? Do you feel it helps consumers with their wine buying decisions?
DC - I do believe that the current system has its benefits, especially for more inexperienced wine drinkers. It sets a standard to start learning and creating your own preferences. Over time though I would suggest that once you have a better idea of what you like that you would drink the wines you enjoy regardless of what other people say. At the end of the day, as with art, taste and wine are too complex to summarize without a lifetime of enjoying and learning
CWA - What were the last two truly memorable wines (that weren’t your own) you tasted?
DC - I recently got married and after the ceremony, I was fortunate enough to enjoy a bottle of 2004 La Tache with my groomsmen; though not the greatest vintage, it was a rather special moment with special people. Secondly, a couple of weeks ago I was blessed to drink a bottle of 1993 Whitcraft Winery Bien Nacido Pinot Noir that proved to me how well Central Coast Pinot Noir can age. I spoke to Drake Whitcraft afterwards and he said that he only had 4 bottles left of this wine that his father made. Truly a rare and delicious bottle of wine.
CWA – Which of your current wines are you the most excited about?
DC - That's difficult to choose but we have changed a few production methods for Chardonnay and Pinot noir that have resulted in some truly exciting results.On top of that our Sparkling wine program keeps evolving and teaching us things about our vineyards that we would never have learned had we not started the project
CWA - Is there a winemaker that you modeled yourself after or just appreciate their skill?
DC - There are many winemakers that make excellent wine with unique interpretations of this wonderful beverage. Richard Kershaw from Kershaw wines in South Africa played a very large role in my passion for wine. Recently I have been fortunate enough to work with Jeremy Seysses from Domaine Dujac, from whom I have a learned a lot in a short time. Locally in the USA, Jim Clendenen has been an inspiration even though I have never been able to work in his cellar.
CWA - Where can people taste your wine?
DC - Our tasting room is located at our estate in the beautiful Santa Maria Valley, just a few miles from the Pacific. In addition to tasting flights, we offer daily tours for guests who really want to immerse themselves in our wines and winemaking practices.
CWA - Where can people buy your wine?
DC - We are fortunate to have great distribution partners throughout the country. Most frequently our wines are found in restaurants, as we feel they are best enjoyed over a meal with great company and great conversation.
We are often asked, “What are the top wineries for Napa insiders?” If you have been wine tasting in Napa Valley, you’ve probably hit some […]
So what makes visiting the Santa Ynez wineries so special? The stunning backdrop of golden hills, coupled with the breathtaking beauty of rolling vineyards, creates the perfect […]
Our reporter spent 24 hours in the Funk Zone of Santa Barbara. The Funk Zone Santa Barbara is a cluster of top notch wine tasting […]