Winemaker, Derenoncourt California
The story of Stéphane Derenoncourt’s career is one of a man mastering his craft from the bottom up. Born the son of a steel worker in northern France, Stéphane developed a taste for manual labor and a love for nature early in life. In 1982, at the age of nineteen, he hitchhiked to Bordeaux on a whim, taking a job as a vineyard worker in Fronsac. For the next decade, Stéphane lived, worked, and breathed in the vineyards of Bordeaux’s Right Bank, becoming intimately familiar with the life of the vine and each plot of land’s capacity to stamp its unique qualities on its grapes.
In the 1990s, Stéphane rose to become winemaker at Chateau Pavie Macquin and La Mondotte in Saint-Emilion, among other estates, where he established a reputation as one of Bordeaux’s most talented vintners. Today, Stéphane consults for over 100 properties in ten different countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia through his company Derenoncourt Consultants.
Intrigued by the richness and diversity of California’s soils and exposures, Stéphane partnered with Montesquieu Winery President Fonda Hopkins to establish Derenoncourt California Winery in 2006 – his first American winemaking venture. This range of micro-production, single-vineyard wines seeks to express the uniqueness of Napa’s dynamic, high-altitude terroirs with freshness, balance and sensuality.
Country born: France
Education: Burgundian philosophy of winemaking and Burgundy vigneron Henri Jayer
Years in the wine industry: 20-30 years
Stéphane credits his approach to the many years he spent working in the vineyard, learning the subtleties of soil, vine and climate that are essential to crafting wine that is fresh, sensual and – above all – honest. An avid proponent of natural viticultural methods and minimal intervention in the cellar, Stéphane seeks through each of his wines to “draw out the identity of the locality and imprint it on the fruit,” in order to present the wine enthusiast with a pleasurable and profound terroir experience.
Taking inspiration from the Burgundian model, which prizes minerality and vibrancy in wine, Stéphane employs only those methods that ensure absolute respect for the fruit and do not interfere with nature’s ability to express itself. He believes that the more discrete the human influence, and the more pronounced the natural, the better. His approach is based on common sense, intuition, and the use of tasting as a real decision-making tool. Ultimately, Stéphane makes wines that he loves to drink and share.