Community - March 28, 2007

Obituary: Duane Cronin: Perhaps 'the most talented small winemaker' in U.S.

by Renee Batti

Duane Cronin "decided how he wanted things to be — as was typical of his entire life," said his sister, Joy Holtz of Arkansas. As Mr. Cronin battled the longtime illness that finally took his life earlier this year, Ms. Holtz said, he decided that news of his imminent death should not be widely publicized, and that his memorial service would be a private, family affair.

The Woodside resident and acclaimed winemaker died Jan. 14 at age 61. Family and friends gathered at his home for a sad but "joyous affair" to celebrate his life on Jan. 20, Ms. Holtz said.

Mr. Cronin launched Cronin Vineyards in Woodside in 1980, after leaving behind his career at IBM. His limited-production wines — primarily chardonnays, pinot noirs, cabernet sauvignons and merlots — won many followers among wine lovers favoring complex wines made in the Old World tradition.

The wines also won the approval of many a wine critic. In a 2004 column in Food & Wine magazine, Richard Nalley included the 1999 Cronin cabernet sauvignon in his "10 top bottles" listing. And he wrote: "Retired computer consultant Duane Cronin may just be the most talented small winemaker in America. His wines have Old World balance and proportion coupled with beautiful Santa Cruz Mountain fruit."

"He prided himself on his wines' being handcrafted," noted brother-in-law Brian Holtz. "He felt he had to do it all himself."

For Mr. Cronin, the challenge wasn't to make a lot of money, but to make great wine, Mr. Holtz said.

Born outside Chicago, Mr. Cronin earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Iowa State University. He worked for IBM for his entire career in technology.

He began making wine in his garage soon after buying his Woodside property off Old La Honda Road in 1975, his family said. He was part of the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association, serving as president at one point.

His last commercial vintage of Cronin Vineyards wines was 2000, wines bottled shortly before the time his illness began to sap his energy, said his sister, Joy Holtz. "His standards were extremely high ... and he wasn't up to doing any more (major) production," she said.

K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City ( has agreed to purchase the remaining inventory of Mr. Cronin's winery and personal collection to sell, with a portion of each sale going to the Duane Cronin Trust. The trust has been set up to support Mr. Cronin's two sons — Joseph, 16, and Samuel, 13 — and contribute to their college education, Mr. Holtz said.

In addition to his two sons and the Holtzes, Mr. Cronin is survived by his wife, Nancy; another sister, Connie Bradley; and two nephews and a niece.


Posted by Lee Anneberg in Denver, a resident of another community
on Mar 31, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Duane was my pledge father at a fraternity at Iowa State in the 1960s. I remember his love for cars including a Shelby Cobra. I had not kept up with Duane since college and went looking for him when a recent news article mentioned that the Shelby Cobra was one off the all time best cars. My regards to his family who I did not really know. Lee

Posted by Dr.R. Mulacek, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 19, 2014 at 5:15 pm

When Duane was working with his father before IBM. My wife and I befriended him, he then drank some of the best wines you could have . Wines we had in our cellar, they were wines before the war, some of the finest you could have the privilege to enjoy with us. Wayne knew nothing about wine and we educated his palate, which was the beginning of Wayne going into the wine making business. He had with us some of the best vintages of the past century. 1949 1937 1953 1945 all from" Bourgogne". Regards to a man who with his skills achieved some of the most delightful Chardonnay from California.

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