Discovering the World of “Bastides”

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The town of Monpazier, in the Perigord, France.

During our fall trip to France late last year, we discovered the world of Bastides. The French word is derived from the classic bastions meaning a fortification protecting its occupants and constructed to allow for defense.

The central square of the town in late fall.

Traveling in Périgord, we were looking at various places hoping to find the right property that we could acquire given the fact that the one that we had come to terms with had been removed from the market.

I am standing under the covered market place in the center of Villereal.

We stayed over in a B&B near the town of Villereal (an old French description translated meaning “Royal Town”).

The arcades with the arrow indicating the flow of incoming pedestrian traffic to the central square.

 

I was interested in the design concept of the town, having seen a very similar design three or four years before meaning a town layout where all the streets are crisscrossing at a ninety-degree angle surrounding a central square where almost all the sides are covered walkways.

Looking into history, we learned that these towns were built in the 13th century (yes, seven hundred years ago)!

Francoise in a side street in Villereal.

The Dordogne is a river that flows westward from the central mountains in France to Bordeaux. Also, it gives its name to the area and is known for being the land of one thousand and one castles.

Monpazier, The Church, The Flower Market in Summer. Compare it to the second visual above.

Going back in history, to the 12th century, the famous Eleanor of Aquitaine was married to Henry the II King of England after her marriage to the King of France. It resulted in the crown of England to claim a right to the Aquitaine area in Southwest France. Hence the British learned to savor Bordeaux wines.

In the 14th and 15th centuries, during the 100-year war, the area was the scene of endless battles between the French on the North Side of the Dordogne and the British forces on the South Side.

The Bastides built in the 13th century provided havens of peace for the inhabitants. The central square of the town was the place for the weekly market and often featured also a well to provide water when the town was closed during threats of attacks.

Monpazier, Views around the Central Square. One visual, shows motorcyclists’ helmets aligned like ancestors did in the medieval days.

What was striking about those Bastides is the thickness of the stone construction, walls are regularly 2-feet thick. Given that pretty much all the houses even if they were well lined up continually, there seems to always be a very specific identity to each house creating a unique design.

Somehow or another no modern structures have been built up in those Bastides, so they have retained the uniqueness of their medieval charm.

 

The defensive walls of Monpazier.

The towns of Moliere & Beaumont du Perigord.

 

Cheers,
Patrick G. Duffeler
Founder & Chairman

 

Photos: Patrick & Francoise Duffeler and sourced from Secrets de Pays Magazine No 6, 2017 France. 

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And, Another Long Trip to Europe, Part Three

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Our next stop was Athens where we were to visit the Acropolis and the Parthenon. It was a huge disappointment. The lines to enter the Parthenon were over two and a half hours long. It reportedly is visited by over fifteen million visitors a year. We were just happy to look at the famous century old Greek constructions from a distance while walking in the park surrounding the Acropolis. Sadly, with such a high level of visitation, the park was despicably filthy, covered in broken beer bottle glass and endless plastics and cigarette butts.  It reminds me of our long-term effort to enhance the cleanliness of Wessex Hundred, our farm where the winery sits.

Athens, Greece. At the Acropolis; to the left, a temple near the bottom of the hill, To the right, a view of the distant Parthenon. The trees hide the giant cranes installed for the reconstruction work.

Fortunately, we were able to find a genuine Greek terrace restaurant and enjoyed souvlaki kebab with local traditional food on which George and I were happy to indulge with large mugs of German beer.

Bougainvilier on the island of Santorini.

Our next excursions took us to the mythical island of Santorini and the port of Katakolon on the Peloponese. Olympia is located near the vestiges of the site where the first Olympics took place in 776 BC and continued for some twelve centuries until they were banned by the Christian Emperor of Rome.  

The harbor of Valetta in Malta viewed from the port-hole of our state-room on board the ship.

Finally, we had brief visit of the island of Malta and then returned to the shores of Italy with first a visit of Taormina, a jewel of a town on the island of Sicily.

Taormina, the jewel of the Mediterranean. Upper left, the medieval town; upper right, the Greco-Roman Amphitheater. Lower left, George, Francoise and myself. Lower right, the view from the amphitheater; in the background, Mount Etna, the volcano.

Taormina was founded by the Greeks and then fell under the control of the Romans who expanded the Greek amphitheater to bring it to a capacity of 50,000 spectators. The town is located way up on mountain overlooking the sea and faces Mount Etna, the volcano that dominates the landscape. The medieval days brought a significant evolution of the town with the construction of many churches, gates to enter the city, and narrow pedestrian-only streets.

Pompeii; the city that was devastated by the eruption of the Vesuvius. To the left the thermal bath. To the right, one of the many streets that were so well preserved under the mountains of ashes.

Our last stop-over was in the bay of Naples. We had a choice of options to visit Sorrento and the Amalfi coast, the islands of Capri and Ischia or the ruins of Pompeii, the Roman city that was destroyed by an eruption of the Vesuvius volcano in the middle of the first century AD. The entire city and many of its inhabitants were buried for some eighteen centuries under a humongous pile of ash spewn by the volcano. Given that I had seen Capri many years ago, we opted to visit the excavations of Pompeii which verges on the incredible.

Top: The Foro Romano from the Palatine Hill. Bottom left: The Colosseum. Bottom right: The she-wolf with Romulus & Remus, the legendary founders of Rome, which became the symbol of this ancient city.

The next day, we were back in Rome and toured the city. Francoise picked up a nice leather bag at an open air market, and we had a delightful lunch in a street side casual establishment. The owner was grateful for our presence and I happily talked him into helping us celebrate our closing luncheon in the eternal city by offering us glasses of Prosecco.

Early the next morning, George and Marianna took a flight back to the West Coast. Later that day, we flew to Marseille and proceeded to return to Norfolk

In all, it was a long trip. We accomplished most of what we had on our agenda. We lamented the obvious governmental dysfunction in both Italy and Greece and cannot escape our growing concern over the increasing air and water pollution in the Mediterranean and over the large cities. It feels really good to be back at Wessex Hundred.

Cheers,
Patrick G. Duffeler
Founder & Chairman

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And, Another Long Trip to Europe, Part Two

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The next morning, we boarded the “Norwegian Spirit,” a cruise liner that can provide comfort and fine cuisine for some two thousand guests. Their crew of nearly nine hundred with numerous incredibly talented persons from Eastern Europe is well trained. They show a culture of service and attention to the passengers which is exemplary.

The ship on which we embarked for our twelve day cruise.

For twelve days, we cruised the Mediterranean and made numerous stops where we could have various options of shore excursions.

Top left: Florence, The Duomo with its entire facing in white marble. Top Right: Florence, Ponte Vecchio (The Old Bridge). Bottom: Marianna, Francoise & George

We docked in the port of Livorno and went to visit Florence and then Castello del Trebbio. The Castello is a fine winery housed in a facility built between the twelfth and the fifteenth century. We had the pleasure of meeting the owner, a charming lady of Austrian extraction, and sampled the wines. Difficult for me to stay away from wineries.

The entrance to the old castle which happens to be a winery. It dates back to the early medieval days.

Another stop-over brought us to Cagliari, on the coast of Sardinia, where the uphill climb was long and very steep to the old fortress and its elephant tower.

Sardignia, The port of Cagliari with its elaborate balconies. The entrance to the “Elephant Tower”.

After a stormy day at sea with endless lightning bolts, we reached Crete. Our goal was to visit the excavation of Knossos, a city built initially six thousand years ago and that was forgotten until the late nineteenth century. Our guide was very knowledgeable and explained numerous details about that fascinating site.

To be continued…

Crete, Knossos, a city built 6,000 years ago. To the right, a Roman street with the center stones covered drainage for grey water.

Patrick G. Duffeler
Founder & Chairman

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And, Another Long Trip to Europe, Part One

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Francoise, my lovely wife, left for France during the closing days of August.

By then, she had received all documents subsequent to her interview and her test on American citizenship which she passed with flying colors and became a naturalized US citizen on August 14.  She quickly got her blue passport and went visiting with friends and family in Paris and in the Loire Valley.

In mid-September, I flew off and met her at the airport. We took the high speed train to Marseille, picked up a rental car  and proceeded to Forcalquier, the small medieval town in Provence where she has an apartment in a nineteenth century stone building.

On our docket was attending to multiple chores for the care and maintenance of her apartment including the installation of a new water heater as well as an upgrade of the electrical circuit-breaker box to meet the latest code.

Michel Voarick, owner of the prestigious vineyard in Aloxe-Corton, with Christine Gallet and Francoise.

We were also in contact with our friend Christine Gallet who is part of the team of Michel Voarick who runs an extraordinary winery in Aloxe Corton, one of the finest appellations of the top flight Burgundian wines. We purchased bottles of the famed white Corton-Charlemagne as well as bottles of the red Aloxe Corton. (We brought them back with us and these bottles are sleeping in Matthew Meyer’s area until all appropriate approvals have been received.  The special French wine dinner is to be announced shortly.)

The collection of copper pans and pots that will soon arrive in Williamsburg.

We also travelled to meet a friendly lavender producer who provided us with three forty-five pound bags of dried, high quality lavender.   The lavender is destined for the pleasure of the guests of Wedmore Place as we have small pouches of lavender in every room.  We shipped the lavender along with some fifteen antique copper pots and pans to the care of Bossuet, our fine artisan barrel making company located north of Bordeaux. This large parcel will be included in one of our forthcoming containers for shipment to the Williamsburg Winery.

Upper left: The old gate to the town of Forcalquier. Other visuals: On the French National Day of the Patrimony, we went to visit a house. It was acquired by a retired school teacher who has determined that he would continue the renovation of this sixteen century house. Above are views from the interior courtyard as well as one of the vaulted cellars.

Rome, Italy. Top, The Vatican City. Middle, George and Marianna Share with me on the bridge over the Tiber in front of the San Angelo Castle below.

 

During our stay in Forcalquier, we had the good fortune of visiting a property in the town that is open only once a year on the day to celebrate the rich architectural patrimony of France.

On the last day of September we were in Rome meeting George and Marianna Share, our good friends from Santa Monica.  From ’81 until ’86, George was Executive VP of Fragrances Selective in the days when I was that company’s International CEO. We have remained close friends all these years. George and Marianna, both now 82, are inspiring people staying vitally active and energetic.

(To be continued)

 

Patrick G. Duffeler
Founder & Chairman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Once upon a time, there was a farm in Williamsburg, Virginia

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For a number of years, I have shared with friends and guests the story of how we acquired this farm.

The meadow and the loblollies (a native Virginia long-needled pine) on the west side of the farm.

At the time, I was International President of Fragrances Selective.  Peggy felt that we were ready for a new life, for a project that we considered our own and that would provide a home for our two boys who were then 10 and 8.

We looked at 52 farms in Virginia and decided to purchase the one we could not afford.

Wessex Hundred, as we decided to name it, was a 300-acre farm overlooking College Creek and the James River.  It was bought in ’83.  Peggy, the boys, the au pair, the dogs and I all moved in during the Summer of that year. That portion of the story was detailed in earlier blogs.

To help finance the project, I kept my job as a business mercenary for another four years, flying back to Williamsburg late on Friday nights and leaving at 5:00 AM on Monday mornings, that is if I were not travelling overseas.

Another part of the loblollies looking on the east side of the meadow overlooking the deep ravine.

Before taking the first steps of planting the vineyards, we contacted Virginia Tech and Lucy Morton, a special viticultural consultant who had completed her studies in France and translated a book on ampelography.

From my early days, our mother had passed on the wisdom of environmental protection.  She loved nature and would relish our annual outing to look at cherry trees blooming in the Spring.  Somehow, her respect for nature stayed with me.

While working in Burgundy in the late 70’s, I had developed a lot of interest in grapevine growing.  The first planting on Wessex Hundred took place in ’85 which Peggy coordinated all by herself while I was pursuing trying to expand the savings we needed for the project.

In ’87, we leased a couple of other vineyards and had our first grape harvest.  The first Governor’s White wine was bottled in January ’88 and sold in February.  It received the Best of Virginia Gold Award at the Norfolk Yacht Club.  As we were building the winery, we also concentrated on the creation of our own “Black Forest”.  Phase I was the planting of 37 acres with the assistance of the Virginia Dept. of Forestry.

Françoise is always helping. Here we loaded broken branches and portions of wild grapevines cut off from invading the trees.

Our total surface of woods was expanded to the current 75 acres including the deep ravines that feature some beautiful cypresses which, I was told, are probably several hundred years old.

The canopy is showing the emergence of spring.

The back of the mule is loaded with old wires, posts and old trash.

Plantings took place between ’89 and ’95;  I cannot help myself,  we are still planting trees every year.  Over 50,000 trees have been planted on this farm since we purchased it.  Peggy had communicated to me an understanding of the life of the soil.

We determined our policy that we would never exceed more than 20% of the farm in grapes which leaves over 150 acres (that we refer to as “the flats”) for a produce garden and, eventually, animals.

Deep in the ravine, the color is brilliant and water flows to College Creek.

Over these last 25 years, it has been one of my missions to take care of the woods, select the healthier trees, cut the various parasite plants (of which there are many in Virginia:  poison ivy, poison oak, VA creeper, wild grapevines, honeysuckle, etc.)  The planting of loblollies on the 37 acres now provides a canopy some 45’ tall.  It is absolutely quiet and it brings me to peace with myself.

When I work in the woods, I am still removing the legacy of the time when the farm was rented out.  Over the years, we have removed three automobiles from the ravines, pulling them out with a long chain and the backhoe.  We are still finding old beer bottles, barbed wire, and rusted metal posts.  However, in the flats, the soil has benefitted from 25 years of being fallow, mowed down each year to rebuild the top soil.  

Another close-up of the canopy. Those trees that were planted over 25 years ago, are now nearing 40 foot tall.

Water percolates and riverlets are now active in the deep ravines which had been dry when we purchased the farm.  

There is so much to do.  It is a passion.  It is lovely to breathe fresh air in the woods.

To all, “Enjoy Life”.

Patrick G. Duffeler
Founder & Chairman

 

P.S.:   For those interested in trees, I recommend reading the book of Peter Wohlleben, “The Hidden Life of Trees”.  Mr. Wohlleben is a Waldmeister in the Eiffel region of Germany which has some fabulous forests.

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One of the lesser-known aspects of the Wessex Hundred Farm

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When we think of the Williamsburg Winery in the center of the farm, we think automatically of vines, grape harvest, wine, tasting, and pleasure also.

There is, however, another aspect that we know less of, not the least dear to Patrick Duffeler’s heart and spirit.  It is his “Black Forest”.  He wanted it to reflect the image of the forest situated in the Southwest of Germany.  A forest of pines and oaks, which has been expanded with more than 50,000 trees over the years, on a surface of approximately 75 acres.

A single copper beech that has kept its leaves during the winter provides an interesting contrast in the light of the woods.

A single copper beech that has kept its leaves during the winter provides an interesting contrast in the light of the woods.

His devotion to the respect of the project has lasted since he and his family settled on this piece of land in Virginia at the beginning of ’80.

From the beginning of Winter, and up to the first heat of Summer, the ritual begins.  Patrick dresses in his military fatigues, a pair of boots, a military helmet, and a pair of thick gloves.  All of this is in order to better melt into the universe of his woods.  At the same time, he carries a small pair of clippers in a holster attached to his belt, an ax and heavy-duty clippers.

The knees of cypress trees at the bottom of the ravines.

The knees of cypress trees at the bottom of the ravines.

As we know, there are allegedly some 100,000 species of trees in the world.  A tree grows, lives and populates the forests with its brothers.  It contributes to the functioning terrestrial ecology, with its capacity to store the carbon dioxide; it takes an active part in the cycle of the water; and, it reduces the presence of pollutant gases in the air, etc.  Its importance is crucial to all human beings when it renders oxygen and responds to one of our vital needs:  the oxygenation of our entire body by respiration.

 As the pines have now lost their needles, there is light on the trail for green grass to grow.

As the pines have now lost their needles, there is light on the trail for green grass to grow.

To own a forest, to watch it grow, is not enough.  It must be accompanied and maintained because trees are subject to invasion of parasites which slow their growth or even, sometimes, kill them.  In response to that thread and to ensure their proper development, we need to eliminate these parasites (honeysuckle, wild grapevines, etc.) with appropriate tools in order to give trees the capacity to live and to defend themselves when facing many potential enemies.

Patrick fighting with a huge wild grapevine

Patrick fighting with a huge wild grapevine

The work needed is to go from tree to tree, cut the parasites which take root at the base of trees and make their path to the light by borrowing the tree trunk, by generally climbing around it and strangling it.  Some trees, forgotten of human attention during a number of years, once free, show the stigma of a devastating strangulation.

It is needless to expand on the fact that it represents a lot of work.  It is also a passion without flaws, and the enormous satisfaction of having contributed to help trees in their large role for the environment and the well-being for all human beings.

Placing rolls of old wire on the back of the mule ready or the dumpster.

Placing rolls of old wire on the back of the mule ready for the dumpster.

In the next blog, Patrick will speak more broadly of his passion for trees which led one of his relatives to say:  “Patrick probably calls each of his trees by name.”

 

 

If you like beautiful stories about men, nature and trees, please visit  “The Man Who Planted Trees”, a novel written by Jean Giono in 1953.  Jean Giono is a French writer born in Manosque, Provence, who died in 1970.  Most of his works deal with the Provençal peasant world.

 

Françoise C. Duffeler

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A Siberian Snow Blizzard in Williamsburg

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Williamsburg enjoys a very peculiar climate.  In 1981, Peggy, my wife, had found this out when we were doing our research before purchasing the Wessex Hundred farm. 

The area is very much impacted by the maritime climate, even though we are some 50 miles from the ocean.  The dominant winds are from the Southwest, coming from the Caribbean, following the Gulf Stream that flows up the East Coast.

The weather pattern tends to change midway between Williamsburg and Richmond, resulting in more snow in Richmond in Winter and more heat in the city in the Summer. Meanwhile, Williamsburg, which is on the Peninsula between the massive and wide York and James Rivers, has a more balanced weather pattern but also more precipitation.

Whereas the last frost in the foothills of the Piedmont can be in late May, or even early June, usually Williamsburg may experience an early Spring in the first quarter of the year with its last frost hovering somewhere around April 10th. 

We just experienced  the coldest spell on the farm since 1983, when we moved to Williamsburg and spent our first Winter in the little house dated 1736, which had not been fully renovated and was uncomfortably cold when the mercury dropped down to the teens.

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Top Left: The entrance of Wedmore Place. Top Right: The Gabriel Archer Tavern. Bottom Left: Bitter cold wind blows the snow from the roof of our house. Bottom Right: The yard of our house displays its Christmas look.

This last week, we were surprised by a snow accumulation of some 24″+ in 24 hours. The snow was dry and powdery; and the temperature was way below freezing – at night, it dropped down to the very low teens.

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Majestic trees in our forest on the property.

The next two days, January 8th and 9th, we had very bright sunshine on what felt like a Siberian Winter. I worked in the snow and cold wind using the backhoe to plow much of the top layer of snow and finally got back home. It was brutally cold.

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Top Left: Our garden shed. The garden is well covered in snow. Top Right: The flats south of the winery. Bottom: The entrance to Wessex Hundred after I plowed it some with the backhoe. (I thought I was virtually freezing.)

The next day, January 10, it was bright and sunny.  Still, the temperature was in the mid-20’s.

This recent cold, with wind blowing from the Canadian Northwest, made Williamsburg look almost Alpine, without the mountains.

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Francoise and my house on top of the hill after the blizzard.

Personally, having lived for close to 10 years on the shore of Lake Ontario, I got well used to serious snow falls and long, cold Winters.  However, I prefer a shorter Winter.

Today, January 12th,  it is sunny, the temperature is 72, and the snow is gone.

Enjoy Life,
Patrick G. Duffeler
Founder & Chairman

 

Photo credits:  Francoise and Patrick II

 

 

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Adding a famous new wine country to our roster of visits: Moldova

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Map showing Moldova to the east of Romania

As we departed, our friends were puzzled where we were going.  When we told them that we were going to Kischinau, the capital of Moldova, that small republic squeezed between Romania and Ukraine, which has the Guinness Book of Records of the largest wine caves and has numerous wineries, some producing exceptionally good varietals and vintages, it raised a few eyebrows with the comment, “Where is that Kischinau?”

The fountain at the entrance to Milestii Mici.

Whenever I have a new destination, I feel the urge to do my homework and learn about the history of the country.

Moldova became an independent country in the early nineteenth century in the area then known as Bessarabia.  The principality of Moldova was founded in 1359.  Earlier in Antiquity, it was the home of the Dacian tribe.  It became part of the Roman civilization and, subsequently, of the Byzantine Empire which collapsed at the time of the discovery of the New World and came under Ottoman rule.

The largest underground wine cave according to the Guinness World Records.

Between the two world Wars, Moldova was integrated as part of Greater Romania and was annexed by the USSR in 1944 until the fall of the Soviet empire.

It is an interesting country of 3 million people that blends different ethnicities:  Romanians, Hungarians, Ukrainians, Russians, Bulgarians, and Germans.

Our promise was that we would report upon our return.

We were fortunate to be accompanied by Matthew Meyer, our fabulous winemaker, and his wife Elena Barber who was born in Moldova.

An attractive display when going towards the tasting area.

 

One of the tasting rooms with sixty seats. To the right, Russian guests who are treated to traditional Bohemian music while enjoying the wines.

Early this month, we flew from Dulles to Munich and the next day found ourselves in Kischinau where Matthew and Elena picked us up at the airport.  The next day, the visit of the caves of Milestii Mici had been organized.  It is located about twenty minutes from the center of Kichinau.

The glass with the logo of Milestii Mici.

The next day, we went to Cricova, another winery, which has equally impressive caves.

In both caves, we were shown around by accomplished English speaking guides.

While in Moldova, we were invited to spend an evening and overnight in Elena’s family’s home village.  Following tradition in the “old country”, they prepared an absolutely sumptuous dinner of lamb, polenta, stuffed peppers, a variety of sausages, home-made wine, and numerous small glasses of ten-year old brandy.  “Salut”, as it is said in the Romanian language, or “Na Zdrovia” in Russian also commonly spoken in Moldova.

As we left the country for meetings in the Perigord, we felt very pleased at our discovery of Moldovan wines and may try to arrange to bring a few of those bottles to share with our friends.

Matthew, Elena, Francoise and I at a local Folkloric restaurant. Great food and good wines.

Dinner invitation at Elena’s family. Left to right: Igor, Katerina’s husband; Elena’s nephew; Katerina, her kind sister; and her Father.

From left to right: Francoise, Elena, Katerina & Elena’s mom

The tourists enjoying a giant meal with Elena’s family.

Cricova – The second largest winery in Moldova

Wine Knights of the Round Table can enjoy their wines.

Another tasting room ready for a serious meal.

 

As we left the country for meetings in the Perigord, we felt very pleased at our discovery of Moldovan wines and may try to arrange to bring a few of those bottles to share with our friends.

Cheers to all,
Patrick Duffeler
Founder and Chairman

 

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Gabriel Archer of 1607 Jamestowne celebrated by a Virginia Reserve Wine

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Archaeologists from the Jamestown Rediscovery Project work at a site where the bodies of four of the founders of English America were discovered. Photo courtesy of Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation (Preservation Virginia)

Gabriel Archer was a key figure of the founding of English America. A Cambridge educated lawyer, Gabriel Archer was the Co-Captain of the Godspeed, the lead ship of the three vessels that brought the men that founded the first permanent settlement in the English New World.  They were establishing a colony for the Virginia Company, a private venture under a Royal Charter.

The reliquary found on the grave of Gabriel Archer as it appears following cleanup. Photo courtesy of Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation (Preservation Virginia)

The bodies were found at the site of the first church to be established on Jamestown Island. Photo courtesy of Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation (Preservation Virginia)

Archer wanted to locate the settlement at the mouth of a creek, on a piece of land that was to be named as Archer’s Hope. This was not meant to suggest his aspiration.  Rather, reportedly in the words of the period, “hope” referred to an “opening or hollow amongst hills”.  However, Archer was overruled by Captain John Smith who placed the settlement instead on “Jamestowne” Island.  The creek became known as Archer’s Hope Creek and, subsequently, as College Creek as it finds its source behind the College of William & Mary that was chartered in 1693.

When, in January 1982, Peggy and I first walked on that acreage where Captain Gabriel Archer had recommended the colonists settle, it was bitterly cold. But, the farm grounds were beautiful and inspiring. After many visits to other farms, we decided to acquire what we later, after considerable historical research, would find was not just Jockey’s Neck Farm, as it was then called, but Archer’s Hope. In the meantime, we had named our project, our farm, Wessex Hundred.

Peggy’s and my heritage stem from the lands of the Saxons. Wessex means “Saxons of the West”. Wessex, in the western part of England, was the kingdom of Alfred the Great who reigned in the ninth century. We were Saxons of much farther West.

“Hundred” was a descriptive of early settlements in the Virginia colony to refer to a parcel where one hundred families could produce enough food to feed themselves.

Wessex Hundred, aerial view from the north. At the top, the James River. Top left, Archer’s Hope Creek, now College Creek. In the foreground, right, Wedmore Place; left, The Williamsburg Winery and The Gabriel Archer Tavern.

Our goal was to have an agricultural operation that would be our home for our children.  We had determined, after my experience in Burgundy, that a winery was to be the centerpiece of the operation.

The outdoor seating area of the Gabriel Archer Tavern.

Wessex Hundred became home to the Williamsburg Winery in 1987 and later to its diverse operations: Wedmore Place, a 28 room country hotel, the Café Provencal, a fine dining restaurant; and, right across from the winery itself, the Gabriel Archer Tavern, a farm-to-fork, informal, dining establishment opened in ’87 with the focus on “Delicious Simplicity”.

The historical research had led us to talk to many historians and archeologists, and we discovered the treasures of the land and its chronicle from 1607 to the twentieth century.

I was raised with an appreciation for history. By the time I came to the U.S. as a seventeen year old lad, I had experienced a lot of travel with my parents, from Norway in Scandinavia to Italy and Spain on the Mediterranean and every country in between.

My mother always had done research to prepare our family trips, and we were taken to visit what felt to be every castle, cathedral and palace on the way.  That experience had left an impact on me and gave me a deep appreciation of history.

The marker identifying the location of Archer’s Hope on the Colonial Parkway. Photograph by Geoff Wade.

Therefore, it was just logical that Peggy and I would seriously learn all we could on the rather substantial material that we found on the history of the farm.

View of Archer’s Hope, now Wessex Hundred, as seen from the Colonial Parkway over College Creek. Photograph by Geoff Wade.

Gabriel Archer and his preference to place the first settlement on our farm loomed large and was, in many respects, inspiring.  So much so, in fact, that Peggy and I deeded the land that would have been “Archer’s Hope” (and can now be seen from the Colonial Parkway, a roadway between Williamsburg and Yorktown) into Conservation Easement.  We chose not to build on that land in order to protect the historical vista.  This site is now identified by a state historic highway marker.

Captain Gabriel Archer was born in 1575 and grew up in Mountnessing, Essex, about 25 miles from London. He attended Cambridge University and then Grays Inn, where he studied law.

William Young, the interpretor who has studied the life of Gabriel Archer and regales his audience with stories of the First Settlement.

Archer had been part of an expedition in 1602 on the coast of “Northern Virginia”, what would later be called New England. He had written a then widely read account of that trip. He had been an enthusiastic proponent of the Virginia Colony and had been named co-captain of the Godspeed that arrived in the New World in 1607. Subsequently, Archer was named as the first secretary of the colony but initially was not appointed to the governing council. He was a fierce critic of Captain John Smith and other leaders and was one of the principals involved in deposing the first president of the colony, Edward Maria Wingfield.

After Smith was sent home a few months later, Archer was one of the most important of the leaders remaining.  He returned to England in 1608 and sailed back again to Virginia a year later with the fleet that was damaged and scattered by a major hurricane in the Atlantic. He was on one of the ships that survived the crossing and arrived at Jamestown in August 1609. He died in 1609 or 1610 during the terrible Winter known as “The Starving Time”.  His burial within the church’s chancel demonstrates that his status was recognized among the settlers even during a time of great stress. He was only 35.

One of the archeologists that we had met told us about a specialist in seventeenth century history and construction.  This is different from the general understanding of American Colonial period style which is essentially derived from or inspired by the American eighteenth century architectural style.

Dr. Bill Kelso, the archaeologist who directed the finding of the original fort of the 1607 Settlement.

Personally, I had always felt an interest in medieval construction, and the seventeenth century styling is much more rustic and representative of the late medieval era.  This interest propelled us to meet William Kelso, an extraordinary archaeologist who communicates enthusiasm.  At the time, he was Director of Archaeology at Poplar Forest  as well as Commissioner of Archaeology for the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission.

Among all his projects, Dr. Kelso had actually directed archaeological studies conducted on our farm during which he found the site of the footing of the Bland Plantation identified on one of the many French military maps of 1781. For lack of funding, he had simply reburied the site and left its precise location on the historical records which we had received.

We discussed the idea of finding an original seventeen century house and transporting it to the farm. Dr. Kelso liked the idea. After much discussion on many topics related to his expertise, we decided to sponsor one of his projects. He then asked us to sit on the Board of the Virginia Company Foundation which he had created in order to protect as many of the few remaining constructions of that century. We offered the office of the winery as a good meeting place for his board.

It was during one of these meetings, sometime around 1989-90, that the topic of the Jamestown settlement came up. Most members who were from the APVA, the Federal Park Service or other institutions were conclusively certain that the site of the original fort had been totally eroded by the current of the James River.

Bill, on the other hand, was intrigued.  Peggy and I strongly supported a motion for Bill to request access to the island area where he thought he could find artifacts and possibly evidence of the original settlement of 1607. The rest is history.  As a result of his ground-breaking work on Jamestown Island, Bill has since been recognized by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II who awarded him the title of Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2012.

At a forthcoming meeting with Dr. Kelso, I plan to resurrect the idea of bringing an old seventeenth century house right here next to the winery and discuss the potential of a serious study of the grounds of the Bland Plantation.

The most recent news was that, after two years of scientific evaluations, one of the four bodies that Dr. Kelso had unearthed in the site of the original Jamestown Church was identified as that of Gabriel Archer. Two intriguing artifacts were found in Archer’s grave: part of a captain’s leading staff and a silver box. The leading staff is indicative of his military rank and was placed on top of his coffin in his honor.  The stature and importance of the man became front page news.

We were delighted. Already in 1991, we had decided to name our first “reserve” wine, a red blend of different Vinifera varietals, the “Gabriel Archer Reserve”. Descendants of Gabriel Archer living in Richmond, VA contacted us and expressed an interest in our activities both in the sense of their interest in wines, but more importantly about our research on the history of our farm.

The wine became the flagship of our product range.  Friends of the winery have written to us about how well the ’93 vintage has aged and bested some top Bordeaux first growth wines in tastings. The most recent news was that the Gabriel Archer Reserve received wonderful ratings by none other than Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. Both the 2009 and 2010 received a 90 point rating.

Almost 25 years after the first vintage of the Gabriel Archer Reserve, the history of the man has come to life in a bright light.

Cheers to Gabriel Archer.

Enjoy Life,
Patrick G. Duffeler
Founder & Chairman

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Of Barrels, Antiques and a Container

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The Chateau de Salles. A lovely overnight stopover.

Matthew and Elena were happy at a luncheon in the Perigord.

Early in April ’15, Françoise and I were in Provence and drove up to Paris to pick up Matthew, the Winery’s talented Winemaker, and his wonderful wife Elena, who is also the On-Premise Sales Manager (sales to restaurants and specialty shops).  We picked them up on the side of the barge on the Seine River and drove straight down to the Chateau de Salles, north of Bordeaux.  (See previous blog.)

 

Driving in at the Bossuet barrel- making company’s yard

The next morning, we had a meeting with our friends from Bossuet (barrel maker).  We visited the operation and learned a great deal more about the difference between industrial barrel making and artisan barrel making.

Jean-Louis Bossuet is a hands-on manager.  He knows all the details of how to make barrels.  He started his own business, and his operation now produces some 7,000 barrels, each made from the beginning to the end by one of the artisan barrel makers who applies his signature number on each barrel upon completion.

Left, Jean-Louis Bossuet is describing one of the activities of the artisan barrel-makers. Center, Placing the hoops while toasting the inside of the barrel. Right, getting ready to tighten the staves at the bottom to place more hoops.

Jean-Guillaume Kerrinckx, the cosmopolitan Bossuet export manager.

Jean-Louis Bossuet and his wife in the office.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean -Guillaume Kerrinckx is the manager who roams the world talking to winery managers who want quality barrels.  The specifications are defined based on the goals of the winemaker as to how the barrels should impact the wine that it will hold, selecting the tightness of the grain of the wood, the level of toast, etc.

In the meantime, I had reserved a number of antiques from three different areas:  two sources in Provence and one in Perigord which were destined for Williamsburg.

The Chateau de Sauvan in Provence where we souced many antiques over these last ten years.and most found their way in Wedmore Place.


Our friends at Chateau du Sauvan occasionally find us some unique pieces and buying those pieces from them supports the Foundation that maintains that gem of an 18th C. property.

Top left to right, a carved armoire dating back to ca 1800. an oak buffet, A painting of Etienne Doyon dated 1793. Bottom, a large pewter soup dish, an engraving of the three graces, a marble mortar. one of six chairs dated Directoire (late XVIII)

Francoise is standing next to Jean-Noel Hulmann the lavender producer just outside Cereste in Provence.

 

Not forgetting the 50 lbs bag of dried lavender  from Provence that we bring to place in small bags for the delight of the guests at Wedmore Place.

The charming little town of Issigeac just a few miles away from Monbazillac and Bergerac.

 

 

 

 

 

Christian Lapeyronnie, in front of his antique shop in Issigeac.

So, in May, after having rejected proposals from truckers and wanting to ensure that the antiques would be well cared for, I found myself renting a big truck, picked up the antiques in the three places, with the last stop being at Issigeac where Christian Lapeyronnie closed off the narrow street in that medieval town where his shop is located.  We loaded the truck with the final items on a 95º warm day.  The truck was full to the double door, and we badly needed refreshments to recover from the heat.

 

Top Left to right, A Louis XIII armoire ca 1650, a large and tall display armoire, a XIX century bookcase. Bottom Left to right: a mahogany desk with leather inlay.A harvest folding table, another oak buffet.

Françoise is standing next to Jean-Noel Hulmann the lavender producer just outside Cereste in Provence.

After some 1200 miles in the truck on the autoroute and also on narrow, French country roads, Francoise decided that she would not want to be the companion of a truck driver as her favorite pastime.

The next day, we were back at Bossuet and first loaded the 30 new barrels destined for the Williamsburg Winery 2015 vintage and transferred the antiques from the truck to the container.  Everything was well protected. Within the allocated two hours, the container was loaded and sealed by 3:30 on June 3.  All the paperwork had been well prepared, and the container arrived in Norfolk late in the week of June 22.

The barrels are first to be loaded in the container. Jean Louis Bossuet checks the tight placements of the barrels. Next comes the turn of the antiques well covered in blankets to protect them. Finally, the pieces were stacked to the top of the container. The container was sealed by the truck driver and we kept a shot of it. It all arrived in Williamsburg and we broke the seal, opened the doors of the container and things were quickly unloaded.

 

 

 

Custom clearance was expeditious.  On Friday, July 3, we got a crew to off-load the container.  It was a company holiday and we got the message that the truck would arrive at 1:00pm.  Traffic on the interstate was a nightmare and the truck finally showed up at 4:30pm.  Sonny, Patrick and Stacey moved quickly and in one hour, everything is now safely at the Williamsburg Winery.  Our thanks to all who helped that process.

Top left, Sonny Pickens, (bottling supervisor & muscular strong man) Patrick II and Stacey Lightfoot our assistant winemaker who is also long on strength and equipment operation, The offloading begins.
Bottom left: a very heavy 350 year old piece is carefully removed. Soon, the barrels roll out. We are ready to celebrate Independence Day.

ENJOY LIFE.
Patrick Duffeler
Founder & Chairman

Click here to watch the laser burning of logos on the barrel head at Bossuet.  It used to be done with a hot iron like branding cattle.  Technology is amazing. Enjoy (1min/45sec)

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