Tuesday, December 1 , 2015, 4:02 am | Fair 41º

Presqu’ile Wines Debuts New Tasting Room, State-of-the-Art Winery

The family operation, with roots in the Santa Maria Valley, savors its first year in the new facility

Presqu’ile Wines’ new tasting room, complete with a fireplace, opens to a patio that overlooks part of the vineyard and the southern end of the Santa Maria Valley.
Presqu’ile Wines’ new tasting room, complete with a fireplace, opens to a patio that overlooks part of the vineyard and the southern end of the Santa Maria Valley.  (Elizabeth Dodder photo)

By Laurie Jervis, Noozhawk Contributing Writer | @noozhawknews |

Presqu’ile Wines, since 2007 a staple vineyard at the south end of the Santa Maria Valley, is now home to a showpiece tasting room and state-of-the-art winery.

Anna Murphy pumps fresh juice for Presqu'ile rose under the watchful eye of brother Matt. Their sibling Jonathan is assistant winemaker. (Elizabeth Dodder photo)

While the various grapes Presqu’ile turns into wine are winding their way through fermentation and into tank and barrel, the winemaking team is savoring its first year working in the new facility.

And it’s a family operation.

Presqu’ile’s president Matt Murphy leads the winemaking team comprised of his brother, Jonathan, who is assistant winemaker, and the cellar crew, which includes their sister, Anna.

Jonathan’s wife, Lindsey, manages the tasting room, and Amanda, Matt’s wife, directs marketing and social media.

Key to the team is winemaker Dieter Cronje, a native of South Africa, who met Matt Murphy met when both worked in cellar production at various wineries in Northern California and on the Central Coast.

The two men, who call themselves “brothers” from different mothers, shared a dream of founding a winery to showcase terroir-driven wines like those native to Burgundy, France. While they scouted potential vineyard sites across the Central Coast, they kept circling back to the Santa Maria Valley, Matt Murphy recalled.

When asked what makes the Santa Maria Valley appellation so special, Murphy answers bluntly: “The Santa Maria Valley is the best place on the West Coast for pinot noir.”

Presqu’ile (Press-KEEL, French Creole for “almost an island”) is so named for the Murphy family’s retreat, which was located off Mississippi’s Gulf Coast.

During Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, the vacation home to three generations of Murphys was blown to pieces.

Here, on a hilltop above Orcutt with views all the way northwest to Guadalupe, Murphy outlined his family’s mantra.

“Hopefully what (Presqu’ile) does is build up some critical mass” for the Santa Maria Valley as a whole, Murphy said. “Our commitment is to what I see as world-class wines, and Santa Maria continually delivers on my stylistic preferences” for wine.

Freshly picked pinot noir grapes await sorting and de-stemming by members of the cellar crew, seen in the background. (Elizabeth Dodder photo)

The vineyard is built upon the sandy soil blown over centuries south from the dunes that line the shore of Guadalupe and Oceano, he noted.

At Clark Avenue, the elevation is 750 feet, and rises via gently rolling terrain to 1,050 feet at the top.

Presqu’ile’s story began in 2007, when the Murphy family purchased 193 acres along East Clark Avenue. They hired Jim Stollberg of Maverick Farming Co. to plant 21 acres in 2008, and the remainder in 2009.

The estate grapes are five clones of pinot noir, as well as chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, syrah and nebbiolo; total planted acres are 72.

Included in the estate are approximately 13 acres of pinot noir planted in 2001 by the previous owners of the adjacent estate.

Cronje and Matt Murphy kick-started Presqu’ile’s label in 2008 with their first vintage, a sauvignon blanc sourced from other Santa Maria Valley vineyards that they made in an old barn on the property. That first vintage was shared only with friends and family, however.

Stainless steel tanks are filled via a gravity-flow system from the upper levels of the multistory winery. (Elizabeth Dodder photo)

Presqu’ile’s first harvest and vintage from estate grapes was in 2009, Murphy said.

The process of breaking ground for a winery facility started in 2008 and took nearly two and a half years, he said. The five-story, gravity-flow winery and connected tasting- room facility were designed by Taylor Lombardo Architects of San Francisco, according to Presqu’ile’s website.

The initial Presqu’ile tasting room, located on Alamo Pintado Avenue in Los Olivos since early in 2012, closed its doors in early September, Murphy said, after the Santa Maria facility opened to the public in June.

Today, Presqu’ile sources its syrah from Bien Nacido Vineyard, some sauvignon blanc from Riverbench Vineyard & Winery, and produces its rosé of pinot noir with both estate fruit and that from the nearby Solomon Hills Vineyard.

Case production in 2012 was just shy of 4,000, Murphy said, adding that over several years’ time (“as long as it takes”), Presqu’ile will expand to about 15,000 cases per year.

In other words, quality over quantity is the ultimate goal with each vintage.

Twelve other winemakers source grapes from Presqu’ile, among them local producers Ernst Storm (Storm Wines) and Josh Klapper (La Fenetre), Murphy said.

» How to taste: The Presqu’ile tasting room is open seven days a week. Tours of the facility are daily at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and include wine tasting paired with small bites, and an overview of Presqu’ile, the estate, wines and the winery. The cost is $45 per person. Reservations are required, and cancelations must be made 48 hours in advance. For more information, click here or 805.937.8110.

— Freelance writer Laurie Jervis can be reached at [email protected]. Click here to read her blog. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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