A warm welcome from Steenberg
When I walked into the Steenberg Cellars, I was greeted by a friendly face and kind smile. Meeting JD Pretorius was an absolute pleasure. His warm nature and hospitality shone through the entire interview and we loved hearing his story.
We interviewed JD during a busy week, where he was entertaining WOSA (Wines of South Africa) and various other guests. WOSA’s whole team was doing a tour of Constantia to see what was new and what has been happening in the Valley. The farm was also doing a waiter incentive with Foxcroft, where their whole team participated in vineyards tours, cellar tours, as well as lunch pairing.
Friends in the Valley
JD is from Bloemfontein and started his career at Steenberg in January 2009. This year was JD’s ninth harvest. Many of the farmers arrived in the valley at a similar time. Stuart, the winemaker from Eagles’ Nest, Matt from Klein Constantia as well as Justin, the winemaker at Constantia Glen, have been together since varsity days.
“There really is a great vibe in the valley,” explains JD. The farmers have a social cricket team, The Constantia Strikers, who play other teams in the wine industry. Strictly only wine teams allowed. What a fun place to work!
JD gave us the low down on harvest season and why it’s actually the best part of a winemaker’s year. “Don’t be fooled, you are busy and work your ass off for 3 months, but it’s a break from any of the other work that usually has to be done.” It’s generally enjoyed most by winemakers because it’s an extremely focused time so everyone gives you peace and quiet for that time period. Out of harvest season, the job is even busier and you have to focus on day to day tasks as well as plenty of administrative work.
The job has provided plenty of travel opportunities for JD. His next trip is to visit various countries that they supply with Steenberg’s wine. This includes the Netherlands and Sweden amongst other stops. JD explains that the treatment from their hosts is always exceptional. “The wine industry is full of nice people,” says JD. They get incredibly spoilt while visiting wineries all over the world.
Art at Steenberg:
The Beck family, owners of Steenberg, have an exceptional art collection. Their art warehouse is full to the brim, and different pieces get rotated on a regular basis. The art pieces all have their own story and the horses at the front of the restaurant link back to the families horse racing and stud farm in Kentucky, America. See picture below.
A winemaker’s choice:
The recent addition of Bistrosixteen82 next to the tasting room has been a huge asset to the wine farm. Even when tourists head home during winter, the restaurant remains popular amongst locals.
The most popular wine variety is the Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc as well as the Chardonnay bubbles. In summer, the Steenberg Rose’ is a hit. In the Red variety, the Merlot is most the most popular bottle of wine. JD’s personal preference is white wine and plenty of bubbles. His food and wine pairing recommendation would be to go with the farm’s Italian Variety, which is an exceptionally good match with duck.
The Steenberg Swans:
When it comes to hobbies it seems as if JD does them all! From playing golf, squash, cycling, to paddling, as well as the occasional surf. Anything with a ball is JP’s forte.
The hobby that we particularly liked the sound of was the soccer team JD plays for, The Steenberg Swans. They play in the hospitality league. The team is made up of 2 guys who work in the vineyards, a sculler, a chef and a waiter. Sounds like a winning combination to us!
The Next generation of winemakers:
It’s an exciting time in the Constantia Valley, and it seems that families are growing fast in the region. JP and his wife Just had a little boy. He was born on the fourth of the month and harvest started on the ninth. A busy time it was indeed. JP is delighted, his parents are moving from Bloemfontein to the Western Cape. “Grandkids have a strong pull on grandparents,” he says.
On top of this Matt Day (winemakers at Klein Constantia) and his wife gave birth to a baby girl in November. Winemaker Boela Gerber (Groot Constantia) just had a little girl last year and his wife is pregnant again. The next generation of wine farmers in the Constantia Valley is going to be taking over before we know it!