As the World Gets Smaller

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Here we are, a Virginia Winery present at the London Wine Fair for many years.  Two years ago, Matthew Meyer, our Winemaker, chatted with numerous winemakers from Argentina to discuss new “assemblages” trends and to taste wines.

Steven Spurrier, one of the foremost British Wine Experts.

While in conversation over tasting the Williamsburg Winery wines, Steven Spurrier (one of the foremost British Wine Experts) recommended that Matthew should taste the Apogeo Malbec as being an exceptional wine.  Matthew did and met Geraldo Cartellone, the Founder of the A-16 Winery (see earlier blogs).

Patrick, Marcelo Pelleriti, Elena and Matthew in Argentina in ’14. Marcelo is seen as probably the foremost Argentine winemaker, having achieved a 100 Point rating.

Over the last 20+ years, it was under the impulse of Nicola Zapata, a major Argentine winery operator who understood that a singular focus on a special varietal to typify the  Argentinian terroir would bring great attention to their wines.  Malbec was selected and has proved now to become their signature wine.

In the Fall of ’13, we all met with Geraldo in Williamsburg and planned our trip to Argentina.  Last year, Matthew and I traveled to Argentina.

Matthew Meyer on the cruise ship on the Seine River presenting the Williamsburg wines.

The restaurant in Rouen that faces the place where Joan of Arc was executed during the British/French Hundred Years War.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the meantime, he was invited to present Williamsburg Winery wines to the passengers of a cruise line which went from Paris, France to the North Sea and sailed back to the French Capital.

Elena and Françoise in front of the Chateau de Monbazillac.

Françoise and I met him and Elena, his wife.  We travelled together down to Bordeaux, visited our barrel-maker (more about that in a future blog), a number of beautiful properties making memorable wines.  That included something we could not fail, stopping in Monbazillac and also meeting a leading winemaker working at improving the wines of the Cotes de Bergerac.

Matthew joining us to present the Williamsburg wines to French consumers in Sabine Brochard’s restaurant.

 

 

We participated in a consumer wine tasting of TWW products in the vaulted cellar of Sabine Brochard in Orleans (Ver di Vin).

The cases of the ’12 Apogeo are now on their way to Norfolk at the same time as Matthew was already back in Argentina participating in the ’15 Crush.  In the Southern Hemisphere, seasons are reversed, and they experience their harvest in April.)  He is planning a special Matthew Meyer Malbec under a new label uniting A-16 and the Williamsburg Winery.  It will take a few months before that very special release will be available.

Harvesting the Malbec for Matthew’ special project.

 

Matthew shoveling grapes at A16 Mendoza.

 

Meanwhile, Matthew is back in Virginia to oversee the planting of our new 5-acre Chardonnay vineyard.

More steps towards expanding our horizons.

Enjoy,
Patrick G. Duffeler
Founder and Chairman

 

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From the Perigord with Love

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Chateau des Milandes, the erstwhile property of Josephine Baker in the heart of the Perigord.

Early last year, Francoise and I were looking at homes in the Perigord, one of the iconic regions of France, just Northeast of Bordeaux. The Perigord is known for its pleasant climate, the beauty of the countryside and its castles, its extraordinary food including truffles and foie gras, and wonderful wines.

At the farmer’s market, we met Mme Gatt
who offers wonderful specialties like this smoked duck stuffed with foie gras.

Is it a surprise that we love the Perigord?

Our friend Alain Castagnie and his wife introduced us to a beautiful property just a few km South of Bergerac, the home of Cyrano of the Three Musketeers’ fame. The Chateau la Borderie is an eighteenth century manor home built on foundations dated to medieval days. The owner, Mme Lisbeth Vidal showed us a portion of an old chain mail that was discovered during an archeological dig on her property.

Chateau la Borderie

 

The Chateau is surrounded by wide acres of vineyards and they produce a good appellation Bergerac sauvignon blanc and a classic Bordeaux style red. However,  the interesting nectar that we tried was their Monbazillac. I had remembered it from a trip taken with my family in the fifties. Sweet memory.

The manor house at Chateau la Borderie.

Monbazillac is a cousin of the Sauterne, the world famous, rich and unctuous wine designed to be enjoyed as an aperitif, to complement foie gras in its many varied recipes, or as a dessert. We decided to bring cases of Monbazillac to Williamsburg and share it with our visitors, guests and Club Members. Two companion wines will be featured: the first one “a vin moelleux” (a mellow wine);  and, the second the Monbazillac proper.  Both are made 100% from Semillon grapes, and the difference resides in how long the grapes are allowed to mature. Both are typically identified as “late harvest” that give them their richness.

The West entrance to the Chateau.

Of course, even in a supposedly globalized world, things still take time. We had several most pleasant meetings with Mme Vidal, secured approval of the labels and special back labels from the federal government, and the wines were on their way to us by the end of the year. Next was the ABC registration approval.  We are finally delighted to offer samples of the two wines to those who will want to experience a taste of these lovely nectars of Aquitaine.

Lisbeth Vidal, Mme Castagne and Françoise in the viticultural area of Chateau la Borderie.

Enjoy life.

Patrick Duffeler
Founder & Chairman

 

The vineyards of Chateau la Borderie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bubbles from the Loire Valley

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The Loire Valley in France is a place of endless castles; Chambord, Chenonceau and another one hundred castles.

The majestic entrance to the castle.

Chateau de Chenonceau

It has been said for centuries that the Loire Valley was a place of what was defined as “la Douceur Angevine” or “the most pleasant climate of Anjou”. And, that is why the French kings built their castles on the banks and surrounds of that long and wide river that is the Loire.

As well, for the same time, the Loire has been a wine growing region famous for its Sancerre, its Muscadet and numerous other wines. In the nineties, we were in contact with a wonderful producer and imported their wines to include in our portfolio when we felt that a broad selection of wines added to our budding operation.

The Chenonceau Gallery which spans the river.

As we focused on rethinking the business of the Williamsburg Winery, we felt that all our attention would be dedicated to improving everything in our wine-making process from viticulture to barrels to the ultimate selection of the range of our wines. We set aside the importation of wines but maintained our multiple contacts with producers in Italy, Spain and of course the many regions of France.

Chateau de la Presle

Wedmore Place, the country hotel on the grounds of the farm, opened in late ’07. We wanted our own bubbly for our guests and contacted our friends at Chateau de la Presle which is located very near the Loire. For these last years, we have had quantities of their beautiful Cremant, Methode Champenoise, shipped to us with its Wedmore Place label.

The new Vintage Rosé Cremant in the name of their beautiful daughter.

Last Fall, while in France, we were delighted to make a short stop and get better acquainted with the younger generation which is now responsible for the management of the Chateau’s vineyards and its wine production.

The wine cellar in the Chateau de la Presle is filled with artifacts including a wine press from the Renaissance Period.

Upon our arrival in late November, we were surprised by a gift from Albane, seven years old, the daughter of Frederick and Anne Sophie Meurgey. She presented us with a near perfect picture of an American flag and pointed out that she was excited to meet persons living in the US. Said she: “Note there are fifty stars on the flag. I would love to go to New York.”  She also had a drawing of a yellow taxi cab, the Statue of Liberty and the new World Trade Center.

The drawings that Albane presented us, showing her enthusiasm for the U.S. and particularly New York.

Anne Sophie with Françoise in the wine cellar.

Albane is also the name of the new vintage rose Cremant which will be part of our next inbound shipment from France.

One of our objectives was to finalize all the details on the shipment of the cases that had been readied for departure.  The wines arrived with a bit of delay in the Trans-Atlantic travel and reached Williamsburg in January.

The Cremant is available in our Retail Store as well as at the Café Provençal, the fine dining restaurant of Wedmore Place.

See also the Chateau on www.domaine-penet.com.

Patrick G. Duffeler
Founder & Chairman

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Williamsburg Winery Wines now sold in France

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From left to right, Patrick Duffeler, Sabine Brochard, Francoise Duffeler & Laurent (Sabine’s partner and dedicated chef at their restaurant)

 

About a year ago, Françoise and I met Sabine Brochard, an absolutely charming friend.  One of our French friends who lives in Washington, D.C. had made the introduction.    Sabine was awarded the prize of being the top sommelier in France a few years ago when she was working for one of the iconic restaurants in Paris, La Tour D’Argent.

We had a wonderful conversation discussing the history of our project and the focus on improving soils.  I had brought wine samples with us, and after a careful tasting with her friends, she gave us a cheerful nod of approval.  She was also enthused about the conceptual approach that brought the Williamsburg winery to where it is today be it viticulture, winemaking, our human approach to our organization, or our focus on customer satisfaction.

Front entrance to the shop.

The vaulted cellar of their restaurant.

On the 21st of October, Francoise and I were on our way back to France (for the third time this year) and, upon landing, drove straight to Orleans for a “degustation” in the vaulted cellar of Sabine’s wine tasting and fabulous food restaurant.  That night, we received many questions and … compliments, and many wines were pre-purchased from the shipment that was to leave Williamsburg a few days thereafter.

The statute of Joan of Arc in the town center of Orleans.

Sabine in her wine shop with Kathy, her assistant.

The narrow street where Sabine’s shop is located.

The shipment is now safely being transferred to our guests of that first evening, with the balance in Sabine’s wine cellar at her retail shop.

We are formulating lots of projects to come resulting from this warm relationship.

In the meantime, we are expecting a shipment of 300 cases of specialty products from France and 200 cases from our Argentine contact as described in previous blogs.

Products to bring cheers to the Holiday Season on both sides of the Atlantic.

Patrick G. Duffeler

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Don’t Cry for Argentina

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Latest news is that Argentina, as a sovereign country, has decided to devalue its currency while for the Nth time defaulting on its foreign debt and arguing for relief with the international community.

 In fact, virtually all Argentines mock the instability of their governmental incapacity when dealing with economic matters. Sad as it may sound when we realize that about one hundred years ago, Argentina was considered one of the most advanced societies on the planet.

The grounds at Casa Glebinias. The entrance to one of the small cottages.

The poolside in the wonderful garden.

The family that owns Casa Glebinias. Next to me, Gabriel who organized the wine tasting.

Still, it is a beautiful country with extraordinarily kind and pleasant people, where food is excellent and the wines glorious.

In the previous blog, I talked of our visit in Mendoza. Matthew, our incomparable winemaker, and his wife Elena, Francoise and I enjoyed a touch of the Argentine way of life.

We had the good fortune to stay in the private estate  of Casa Glebinias, a wonderful B&B just South of Mendoza with a warm welcome from the family where we were treated to a very good wine-tasting by Gabriel, the son, who is an accomplished wine-maker.

The A16 Winery.

Don Gerardo Cartellone

Our trip was centered on our relationship with Don Gerardo Cartellone of A16 Winery and the superb Apogeo  Malbec  that he has produced and that will be brought in small quantity for our Club Members and friends.

Veronica Cangemi with Francoise and myself in the vineyards at A16.

A superb aria in the winery.

Just before our departure, we enjoyed another “asado” at the A16.   The special guest that day was Veronica Cangemi, a Mendoza born international star of the opera scene since her very young years. She regaled us all with impromptu arias in every corner of the winery and was honored as its “godmother “.  Veronica promised to come and visit Williamsburg on one of her next trips to the US.

If you appreciate beautiful sounds, let me guide you to: (control and click) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xk2Olu19DOg

It needs no further superlatives. Meeting Veronica and listening to her singing was a rare and precious moment.

Before we returned, Don Gerardo gave us a copy of the book he wrote entitled “Del Camino…?”. Interestingly, it was published as a single volume each chapter first in Spanish and then in English. The English title is “From the Path…?” It describes Don Gerardo’s 700 kilometer pilgrimage walk from the French border to Santiago de Compostela carrying out , in his own words, “a spiritual and personal inner journey”.

Gerardo Cartellone in his winery.

It is both a very interesting book from a cultural point of view and a deeply emotional reflection on his quest for solitude following an intense life change that had devastated him.

There is a neat video that describes his ordeal: (control and click)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ji1xfOTQhU

We strongly wish to see Don Gerardo achieve his goal of reuniting with his sons.

At Huarpe Winery. In the background, Maximilian Toso, Elena and Francoise. I am talking with Jose Toso, winemaker. Both brothers own Huarpe Winery.

Though with little time remaining, we managed to visit a half dozen other wineries where we tasted excellent wines and enjoyed the collegial welcome of winemakers and winery proprietors, all striving to compete with products that are attaining high recognition. One of these worthy of particular mention is Huarpe located right in the midst of vineyards of large international companies.  Once again, a pleasure to the palate.

The goal for the future will be for Matthew to fly down to Argentina next year  and guide the making of wines based on fruit that will be acquired and  will come to us under his signature.

Patrick G. Duffeler
Founder & Chairman

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A Footprint in Argentina

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Argentine wines have made a name for their country with the ever increasing quality of their Malbec varietal.

Juan-Manuel Fangio (right) and Patrick Duffeler (left) discussing the planning of the ’77 Grand Prix of Argentina.

When I was involved in Formula 1 Racing in the seventies and then as the Intl CEO of a fragrance company in the early eighties, I flew regularly to Buenos Aires. I had found the country to be very European in culture (over half of the Argentinians are of Italian descent), with beautiful landscape and extreme hospitality. A few years back, Matthew, our winemaker, flew down to Argentina and was captivated by the vitality of their wine industry.

Endless vineyards with the Andes as a backdrop.

Just last year, when presenting our wines at the London International Wine Fair, Matthew was in conversation with Steven Spurrier of Decanter Magazine, over the Williamsburg Winery wines and the fact that we were experimenting with a new block of Malbec on our vineyards. Matthew became intrigued by the praise of Steven Spurrier for a new Argentine wine that was in the latter’s opinion a rather extraordinary Malbec. An opinion of Steven Spurrier warrants immediate follow up.

Matthew trekked over to the small booth and met Gerardo Cartellone, the owner of A16, a new boutique winery near Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina. The Malbec that had generated that comment was called “Apogeo”. A conversation followed a tasting of the nectar, and Sr. Cartellone agreed to stop in at the Williamsburg Winery when next in the US.

Gerardo Cartellone at his winery.

In October of last year, we had the pleasure of hosting Mr Cartellone at Wedmore Place and he visited the winery and tasted our wines with Matthew. Over dinner, with a bottle of that fabulous “Apogeo” we got to know each other well while sharing views of the direction of the wine world and our respective goals for the long term future. We agreed to meet at his winery around the time of harvest in the Southern hemisphere (March-April). Our interest became focused on an opportunity for Matthew to participate in the creation of a limited edition Malbec wine from Argentina.

Matthew and Elena, his wife who has been very involved in the trade sales of the Williamsburg Winery, Francoise and I arrived in Mendoza on Thursday, April 3, after long flights. (Patrick II and Kristen stayed in Williamsburg after the very recent birth of Robert Henry, their son and my sixth granchild.) On Friday, we drove to the A16 winery and visited the marvelously engineered “garage operation” where that unique Malbec was created. We drove around the vineyards noticing that the orientation of the rows were different from how the other wineries in the area had been set.

Matthew, Mabel, PGD, Francoise, Gerardo and Elena in front of the rows bearing our names.

Grilled meats (beef and goat) along with grilled vegetables.

Argentine hospitality entails a traditional “asado” (see picture) for lunch to be enjoyed with wine, of course. For dessert, Mr. Cartellone took us for a short walk and surprised us with the fact that he had named a couple rows of his Malbec vineyard in the name of Matthew and Elena as well as in Francoise’s and mine. By the end of the day we had agreed on purchasing a small amount of the cases of “Apogeo” for our Wine Club Members as well as presentation to friends of the winery as a very special project.

Clay and rocky soil of the Mendoza area.

The balance of our stay was spent visiting numerous wineries to evaluate and understand the region in terms of its soil as well as its climate. As it was, the weather was less than what is meant to be normal. During January through April, they had experienced  a very unusual level of precipitation. The area is known for its dry climate and its water source derived from the glaciers of the Andes. The soil is clay mixed with a high proportion of rocks and drains very well.

Llamas Guanacos on a peaceful farm. In the background, the snow covered peaks of the Andes.

The cases of “Apogeo” wines will be shipped to Norfolk prior to the summer months and will need to quietly settle here at the winery in temperature-controlled space before the release of this beautiful  wine. We are all excited about our Footprint in Argentina, adding a new international dimension to the activities of the Williamsburg Winery.

In the meantime, our vineyard crew was busy spreading Dolomitic stone powder, gypsum and other minerals to improve the quality and micro-biological life of our vineyards. Healthier soils result in healthier vines and better grapes.  We are also expanding our vineyards on site with the planting of Albariño and researching the possibility of other vineyard sites in Virginia.  This will allow us to secure the highest quality of grapes to make more good wines.  We remain always mindful that in the wine world, in Argentine, in Virginia or anywhere else, everything begins with the grapes.

Patrick G. Duffeler
Founder & Chairman

The new planting of Albariño at the Wessex Hundred vineyard.

 

 

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One More Trip to Europe, Spring ‘13

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The first twenty parts covered the history of how the Williamsburg Winery began its life. I have been working on the next volume of parts on the excitement and challenges of the nineties and they will be released over the next months.

As a break in that process, here is the story of our latest trip. And, more of these will be interspersed with the continuing parts on the creation of Wessex Hundred as it is today.

Given the condition of the world today, international traveling is nothing like it was in the sixties or the seventies. From the downing of the PanAm 747 over Lockerbie to the plane crashes on the World Trade Center towers, terrorism has grown to the point of the necessity of adding layer upon layer of security at many aspects of daily living but more particularly to air travel. The resulting impact has been the deeply unpleasant time-consuming accommodation of the security measures, particularly when you miss a transfer flight as we did some months back. But, then again, life is what it is and the security is indeed needed.

The charming hotel Schoenbrunn just outside of Landshut. The perfect place to have a relaxing afternoon and goodnight sleep after the transatlantic flight.

In late April, we embarked for our destination to Munich, Germany. Coming from a family of Germanic roots, I have particularly enjoyed being in Bavaria, since my early days as a young boy in the Fifties. To top it all, Francoise, who is very French, lived for a couple of years in Munich and enjoyed it greatly. After collecting our gear and getting our wheels from one of the rental car agencies, we drove, as we usually do,  to the small Baroque city of Landshut, twenty minutes from the airport and rested overnight in a charming hotel housed in an old building that was a rural castle, Hotel Schoenbrunn.

The next morning, we crossed Bavaria and Baden Wuertenberg  and reached  the Swiss border for a meeting with Marc Breitenmoser, the owner of ARCave, a fascinating company that specializes in creating kits for constructing vaulted wine cellars. The range of products for the high quality organization of an up-market wine cellar that his company offers wine enthusiasts is extraordinary.

The perfect setting for a wine cellar. The design of AR Cave.

Of course, I have to admit that adding a vaulted wine cellar to our operation has been one of the limited expansions that I have been dreaming about for years. See how they build vaulted cellars on their web site.

http://www.rundumwein.com/

Our next session was near Geneva, a meeting with Eric Petiot a plant pathologist who has written numerous books on organic ways to treat plants and trees. Our interest centered on his recommendations for the world of viticulture that had been described on a television show on French satellite TV.

We had exchanged emails and arranged for the meeting at his house that includes his lab site. Eric Petiot is genuinely a genial person who discusses plant pathology with passion, and he recommended that during our trip we visit a viticulturist in the Champagne area who acts as the head of a group of champagne producers who are focusing on the health of their soils and the adoption of management  techniques that  are ultimately friendlier to the environment.

It was not just idle curiosity.  Patrick II, my son, Matthew, our winemaker and I have been focusing on how we could improve our viticultural practices from enhancement of the micro-biological life of the soil to minimizing the use of any chemicals.

The Château de Candie.

We then drove down to Chambery and had the pleasure of an over-night stay in a wonderful  old castle. I have had, since my early years, a love of old castles, and Francoise shares that feeling. The evening meal was light but superb including fresh asparagus with a surprisingly delicious passion fruit sauce.

See also: http://www.chateaudecandie.com/FR/Hotel_Chateau-Candie.html

Soon we were back in Forcalquier where Francoise has her apartment in an old nineteenth century  stone house in that little city in the mountainous part of Provence, north of Aix.

The view from the back terrace with the snow-capped Alps in the background.

Last year while I had remained in Williamsburg, she had begun to remove old wall paper in the entry of her place. We decided that we would finish the project . The walls soon were bare to old plaster. The ceiling had also been covered in Fifties biddy flower wall paper, and I set myself on top of the ladder to check things out to determine how and on what surface  it had been  applied.

The new ceiling of the entry-way after the job was completed.

 

Surprise, the plaster boards were loose and quickly I took it down noticing that these boards had been carelessly nailed into a few wood pieces that were barely attached to the rafters.  Over the years, I have always enjoyed  manual labor from making furniture to planting trees as a way to relax  and focus on completely different things.

The plan was then to install a cathedral ceiling made in tongue in groove heavy wood pine boards and create a beam like assembly at the peak of the ceiling.

Several days later the project was completed to Francoise’s approval and satisfaction, and we could use  the next days to visit a few places in Provence that were on our to-do list.

The vineyards of Chateau de Berne

 

With friends we travelled to the Chateau de Berne which is both a hotel and a winery.  As such it is a destination very much like our Wessex Hundred farm, just larger and in Provence rather than in Virginia, two regions of the world that we consider to be very close to paradise. http://www.chateauberne.com/en/home.html

We enjoyed a delightful meal on the terrace and went to visit the winery and the winery shop. The staff at the shop was most interested to learn about our operation and a couple of them were not shy asking as to whether they could intern with us.

No question, the Chateau de Berne is a beautiful property of fifteen hundred acres in the hills of Provence with lavender fields and vineyards that produce a great rosé.  A perfect place to relax for an afternoon.

Francoise took the picture of our friends from Provence (left) and the owner Chateau Thuerry (center) just before we went down to visit the cellars.

Later, we went to visit Chateau Thuerry which features a stunning avant-garde architectural winemaking cellar and enjoyed a tour of the facilities with the owner, M. Croquet.  http://www.chateauthuerry.com/homepage

The new architectural avant-garde design of the cellars of Chateau Thuerry.

A dinner with friends from Paris. To the right, Professor Danis Bois who created a school of therapeutic treatments and his daughter Natalie (left).

A few days later, we were on our way up north driving through the Massif Central.

Near Vichy, the small city famous for its medicinal thermal waters as well as mineral water, we had booked our overnight stay in a hotel, member of the Chateaux-Hotel collection headed by Alain Ducasse, probably one of the world’s top chefs if not the best.

The Chateau de Maulmont was managed by the Scottish-Dutch couple, also owners of the place. Francoise was impressed with its nineteenth century architecture as the structure was rebuilt over the ruins of a XIII century fortress. http://www.chateau-maulmont.com/fr,1,6474.html

The formal garden at Chateau de Maulmont.

The Chateau de Maulmont in central France.

 

The next day, we stopped at the home of friends in Sologne some hundred miles south of Paris. We have known the Lefebure family since 1972. Claude & Christiane have a few years on us, and we have had the pleasure of hosting their son and a number of the grandchildren and cousins for visits at the winery. It is always a pleasure to see them. Claude shares the same care and love of his woods as I do with ours.

We picnicked on the side of this farm road on our way to Burgundy.

After a quick breakfast we departed for the Loire valley known for its succession of the most famous royal palaces of the French royalty. A quick lunch with Francoise’ family and we were on our way towards Burgundy, deliberately selecting small country roads known as “departementales or communales”.  Winding, well maintained roads with virtually no traffic.

Alex Gambal

 

Our  meeting in the heart of Burgundy was with Alex Gambal a young American who some twenty years ago decided to take the plunge and become a vigneron and winery owner in and around Beaune. His wife  Diana Williams is a former free-style skier who now organizes special , custom vacations in French wine country. Alex showed us his cellar. We tasted an exceptional  white wine that we plan to bring in for our friends of Wessex Hundred. His production is limited. We are now talking about acquiring a special barrel of the famous Hospice de Beaune. http://www.alexgambal.com 

A few hundred kilometers up North, we stayed overnight with my brother’s widow deep in the Ardennes, virtually at the border of France, Belgium and Luxemburg. It was a short stay as we had a 10 o’ clock meeting with the young Champagne producer. It was Pentecost Monday in France, and the traffic was light. We made the two hundred clicks and got there right on time.

Sebastien Mouzon is from a family well established in Champagne. We had a most interesting meeting and left pleased with what he had shared with us. What was really important, he is one of the vignerons who has all his enthusiastic  soul in the product he produces and is greatly oriented towards organic farming.

We then took the slow lane driving back towards Germany stopping over in the Black Forest on the mountain road high in the Alps. The temperature had dropped down to about 40 degrees and we were in the clouds in these dark woods. We finished the trip on the last day with lunch in the Ratskeller of Munich, one of our traditions.

Goodbye Europe until our next visit.  We gathered plenty of information and little details that we can use to adapt to our projects in Williamsburg to make Wessex Hundred, the farm that encompasses the Williamsburg Winery and Wedmore Place with our own Café Provencal, a touch more unique, a place for good food, good wines and a place to “Enjoy Life”.

Patrick G. Duffeler
Founder & Chairman

 

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Part 20: The Strength of Peggy

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Peggy at 16.

It is often said that behind or right next to every man who develops a project, there is a woman. Well, next to me for thirty seven years was Peggy. We were married in ’67. As I had been offered a position in Europe by Philip Morris, we moved to Switzerland in ’70 where both of our boys were born, in ’71 and ’74 respectively.

Peggy, in the light of the restrictive regulations in Switzerland, was not authorized to engage in any professional activity. Previously, both of us had worked at Eastman Kodak. There were a reasonably substantial number of international executives living in the Lausanne/Geneva area, and the contacts with the British contingent were actually quite fun. Britons have very nice sense of humor.

’71, Peggy with Patrick II.

 

On the other hand, Peggy did not like or appreciate the classic approach that was so prevalent: that someone’s wife was pegged according to the husband’s position. I was the youngest of the Philip Morris executive group, and, accordingly, her status was that of the “wife of the junior guy”. Neither did she approve of the way the company thought (or perhaps, acted without thinking), such as taking things for granted, that I was at their beck and call, etc.

I still remember how upset she was one day when we were on home leave in upstate NY. On a Wednesday, I received a call from the senior VP requesting (or rather, instructing me) that instead of completing my vacation, I should take the plane the next day in order to be at a meeting in Lausanne with the regional president. This was to prepare the presentation to the corporate Board of Directors which was scheduled for the following week.

’74, Peggy and our two sons.

As requested, I did take the plane and left Peggy with the two boys. On that Friday morning, I was at the office, worked a good part of the weekend and flew back to NY later the following week for the presentation while Peggy and our sons were returning to Switzerland.

There were numerous other little events of a similar style. For example, one evening when I got back home around 7:30 PM, and she had a beautiful dinner ready. As we began to eat, there was a call requesting that I drive back to the office for a special meeting with VIP’s. As I left, I do remember Peggy quietly biting her lower lip and letting a couple of tears roll down her cheeks. It was heart-breaking.

’74, Peggy at the F1 Race Track.

Not a good way to keep a wife happy. And without any doubt, the conversation that we had in Guadeloupe as described in Part 1 of this story had a great deal to do with finding a life that could give a better balance in our relationship. Furthermore, we had been exposed to some of the less glamorous sides of business. We also did want a place for our sons to grow up away from some of the peer pressure usually found in the social network of corporate life.

Peggy had a strong-willed character. She was fiercely independent. We met in ’66 on the campus of the University of Rochester. She was California born. I was born on the other side of the pond. Both of us were studying at night and working full time at the main office of Eastman Kodak. I had seen her in the hallways of the corporate headquarters. Recognizing her, I invited her for a late nightcap. After a couple of Brandy Alexanders, our lips and our souls met. A few weeks later, we were engaged and married in August ’67 as mentioned previously.

’74, Peggy with Patrick II with the big, fast racing team car.

Peggy had already travelled by herself to Europe staying with a family in Germany, then touring Switzerland and Italy alone. She was delighted at my assignment to move to Lausanne, and she adapted quickly to the European environment. Within a year, she spoke French to the point where native French people could not identify the origin of her slight accent.

We travelled extensively, particularly during my years as the manager of the Marlboro World Championship Team. Our travels took us all over Europe but also to Latin America and the Far East. With business travel obligations every weekend, the company covered her expenses to accompany me on numerous trips appreciating that it was imperative as a kind of compensation for my seven-day-a-week business schedule.

’79, In front of our house near Geneva.

In ’73, I was asked to join a multi-country trip to Africa to evaluate potential marketing opportunities with a group of senior executives. Peggy was not asked to join us on that trip. The small corporate jet was detained in Zambia by the local military authorities, and we were all held without passports, under police guard in a hotel in Lusaka.

’83, Peggy (right) with the au-pair watching Patrick II swim in Spain.

The word quickly got around that a small plane had “disappeared” over Africa and that the people expecting our arrival in South Africa had not received any news for three days on the whereabouts of the plane. Peggy had been advised and had received alarmed telephone calls from Louis Stanley, the owner manager of British Racing Motors who had been expecting us in Cape Town. It was Peggy who reassured him and confidently told him that we would all resurface in good health and that organizing search planes over such a huge continent was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

’84, Painting the new garage in Williamsburg.

After four days of anxiety, we managed to quietly depart for Kenya. The details of that adventure will be for another story. Louis Stanley, a rather self important gentleman, admitted to me subsequently that he had never met somebody of such paused temperament as Peggy. Indeed, she was.

’85, A glass of wine for a break with Mike Waltrip.

 

 

She loved the winery project and made it her own. As the Williamsburg operation was moving forward, she dedicated her focus away from our two boys, now well in their teen age years and becoming independent, to concentrate on the financial software and accounting-cash flow aspects of the winery, as well as on the viticultural aspects. She had a deep interest in nature and an affinity for how plants grow, develop and produce fruit.

’85, Working in the new vineyard.

Regardless of her fierce temperament, she always added precision and a detail oriented approach as well as an element of grace, femininity, and a touch of sensuous softness to whatever she did.

She became a relentless worker, participating on all the many projects of the farm. She learned to operate a backhoe, purchased our transit to survey the elevations of the areas where construction was planned and worked with the architect and me on the actual detailed plans of the original buildings of the winery.

’85, Laboring in foundations.

In 1986, with Jeanette Smith as our Viticulture Manager on board, we went and studied the vineyards of numerous wineries in Virginia. Later, as the winery was developed, Peggy also participated in all the barrel cellar work. She had experienced a warm relationship with the elderly cellar master in Beaune during my time in Burgundy and put her knowledge to good use as described in the previous Part.

’88, The Duffeler family in front of the new house.

Ultimately, as we expanded the equity base of the operation, we structured a formal Board of Directors, and she became a member of that Board. A Board Member of few words, she was an attentive listener, who captured the attention of all whenever she expressed her opinion.

’90’s, A self-confident business and family woman.

She was extraordinarily supportive and accepted with enthusiasm the reality of our changed lives which was far from the glamour of the Formula 1 Grand Prix or the Saint Tropez vacations that we had enjoyed in the seventies and early eighties.

She has been the spiritual mother of the winery project.

 

 

(To be continued)

Patrick G. Duffeler
Founder & CEO

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Part 19: The (true) Art and Science of Viticulture and Winemaking at the Williamsburg Winery.

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By the Fall of 1989, we had garnered a few awards. The regional press had been covering the start of our operation and sales were brisk. Looking at the depth of our inventory, we knew that soon we would face a dilemma. In the world of wine, you cannot sell what you do not have in the cellar, and it takes time and effort.

In a similar vein, we had been so absorbed in moving things forward that, though I had had a fair number of years of experience in consumer product marketing, I had failed to focus on the ability to transform concepts into a well structured and developed communication plan with visuals.

Thinking back about the previous three years, it was amazing the amount of information absorbed, the lessons learned. My years in Burgundy might have given me a reasonable perspective on financial issues and on sales and distribution challenges. However, viticulture and winemaking in Virginia was one hundred percent new and proved to be “learn as you go”.

As mentioned in previous Parts, I have always enjoyed drawing. It seemed that one of the ways to convey the coherence of our marketing was to use the Diderot Encyclopedia style of presentation of craftmanship.

When asked what inspired us in the design of the winery, my answer was that it would be the by-product of the mind of a mad European had he arrived on these shores in the Eighteenth Century. Importantly, it would retain human dimensions by the size of the various buildings to keep it quaint and comfortable.

Already by 1990, the winery consisted of several buildings projecting both that evolutionary step-by-step approach and retaining a village-like charm. It had the character of what the generations of settlers had brought with them from their European cultural background and yet we wanted it all to be very Virginian.

I set pencil to paper and started drawing what viticulture and winemaking was for us. Below is the cover of a brochure which became a very popular hand-out to our visitors.

Front cover of what became a well-received hand-out.

Here follows a quick description of issues that needed to be confronted.

Determining the optimal characteristics for the set-up of a vineyard. Certainly analyzing the characteristics of the soil, its percolation, its nutrients, its micro-biological life. Planning the orientation of the vineyards to the sun, rows running East-West vs. rows running North-South. Plant density and, importantly, selection of a trellising system.

In France, varietal selection, plant density and trellising are determined by the area where you plant your vineyard. The local agricultural agent will ensure that you follow the strict rules.

At the annual symposium for the wine industry in CA, there are always multiple presentations from experts from Australia to Italy, and each advises newcomers to follow their methodology and be assured of great success.

I am prone to giggle about the trellising options. The Italian way could not be more different from the French way and they are both so certain that their system is best that it could almost give rise to cultural warfare.

The interior spread describing modern winemaking.

Initially, we had planted our original three acre vineyard with rows eight feet apart. A couple years after she joined us, Jeannette, our Vineyard Manager who had successfully organized the next twenty-five acres with rows ten to twelve feet apart, decided, to my surprise and without prior consultation, to pull every other row in that original vineyard and make it a vineyard with rows sixteen feet apart.

Yes, it gave that much more room for equipment and for air to circulate. Still, today, many new vineyards in Virginia are planted with eight foot spacing between the rows and the debate is inconclusive. It depends on a point of view and personal experience.

After over twenty-five years of vineyard operation during which I witnessed the purchase of pieces of equipment that were to be “critically important” to one vineyard operator only to see it unused by his successor, I have become more pragmatic.

Back cover showing the steps in a year of viticulture.

The same holds true in winemaking. In Burgundy, fundamentally as in all vineyards in the world, you do not necessarily induce fermentation by cultured yeasts. You do not have to. The high concentration of clusters of vineyard in a given area provides plenty of airborne native yeasts present on the grapes at harvest. Thus, fermentation begins naturally in the cellar. The use of cultured yeast is an option for the winemaker in what is available to him to direct the fermentation.

Peggy decided to assist Steven Warner in the barrel cellar. She had been impressed by the reality of the presence of airborne yeasts in our kitchen in France. She would make a whole range of different breads. She would prepare the dough, let it sit in a tray hanging from a beam in the ceiling in a temperature environment of some seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit, and it would rise without the addition of cultured yeasts.

Again, in Burgundy, malolactic fermentation (the secondary fermentation) occurred naturally as opposed to being induced. In this case, the evolution of science has led winemakers to closely monitor fermentation temperature as it deeply affects the extraction of aroma compounds among many factors. Further, it is not common in Virginia to have deep vaulted cellars to provide a constant temperature.

Equally, the new thinking of the ‘70’s and ‘80’s pioneered by Californian winemakers introduced the concept of controlling whether a secondary fermentation is or is not desirable for a given wine, or even whether a partial secondary fermentation is sought for a specific balance between malic acid and lactic acid.

Peggy ready in her barrel cellar work outfit.

Secondary fermentation control can be a challenge of its own. If the amount of stabilizer used is inadequate, the wine can begin to referment in the bottle and lead to what is called “pushed corks”. In ’88, a small batch of our first chardonnay exhibited corks lifting in the bottle and pushing the capsules up by almost one inch. We popped the corks and re-processed the wine to ensure that it was stable. This was another experience that could have been far more serious.

Steven was open to ideas stimulated by our background in Burgundy. One day, he decided to do the fining of our reds by using the froth of egg whites that had been beaten and gently inserting some in each barrel. I remember Peggy telling me that when they had left the market with some thirty-six dozen eggs, the cashier wondered how large the omelet was going to be. It did do a good job of fining.

About the only thing Peggy was not comfortable with was manipulating empty or full barrels. Talented as she was, her one hundred-five pounds did not measure up. What mattered was that she was elated at participating in every aspect of the business.

From the beginning, we knew that we required a good wine laboratory with the right equipment to help guide the art of the winemaker, but those are only tools. Ultimately, all winemakers agree that a good wine begins its life right in the vineyards. Sound viticultural practices are of paramount importance. Yet, the best vineyard person cannot control the weather. So, it will always be a matter of living with nature.

The extensive studies undertaken by the Geisenheim Institute of Germany with different soils in different climates have underscored that the course of the seasonal equilibrium between sunshine and precipitation and the temperatures will define the suitability of certain varietals to specific climates and the ultimate potential of wines that are harvested in desirable conditions.

Nature can be challenging, but that in itself gives rise to opportunities. For a number of years, the French grew wine grapes in Algeria in weather conditions that were easy and apparently ideal: dry weather avoiding damaging moisture from humidity and plenty of sunshine that brought grapes to rich sugar and tannins. The wines were always described as rough if not just coarse.

In Bordeaux, on the other hand, as in many other areas where the climate is far more challenging, with occasional late spring frost, summer humidity and heavy Atlantic winds, winemakers have pursued the elegance of the right balance between the flavors and aroma compounds to achieve wines of great distinction with color, a pleasant nose, a consistent palate and rich after-taste.

Sketch of the Winery by PGD almost as it looked in late ’89.

That approach has also been the style of the creation of viticulture and winemaking at the Williamsburg Winery. Today, as we continue to learn and experiment, we feel certain that, as we go further, “The Best is yet to Come.”

(To be continued)

Patrick G. Duffeler
Founder & CEO

 

 

 

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Part 18: Wessex Hundred, the Farm and its Environment

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The Winery in the winter of ’89.

From my early years, my mother taught me to appreciate the beauty of trees, of green space, of fresh air. There was not a week in our childhood that my brother and I were not brought to the large public parks in Brussels and, later, in the large forest East of the city that had been the hunting grounds of royalty.

A massive oak on the edge of College Creek.

I also grew up in the Ardennes, the area of the famous ’44 Battle of the Bulge. There, my brother and I had plenty of opportunity to run around in the woods with our uncle’s German Shepherd.

Patrick II and Kristen, his wife, in the woods during a winter storm.

Hansel, one of Patrick II’s Winery dogs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the goals in acquiring the farm was to provide our sons, Patrick II and Terence, with what I consider to be a healthy and “quality of life” environment. It entails multiple chores which provide a good discipline and learning experience and in return also offers a sense of freedom.

Both Peggy and I wanted the farm to be productive but also to retain the character of a traditional working environment; neither the look of a toy farm, nor a sterilized agri-business projection.

We had enjoyed the experience of visiting various estates of European landowner friends who had adapted their property to the Twentieth Century by dedicating a portion to agriculture, maintaining wild life in protected forested areas, and providing the locals with walking trails with views over fast flowing narrow rivers.

Some fifty to sixty acres of our farm were selected for the vineyards with another ten to fifteen for the residences, the various structures of the winery, and the site of the hotel under consideration. That left well over two hundred acres. The decision was made to replant trees in areas between multiple ravines where the soil had been tilled for grain farming and was well eroded.

The first stage was accomplished in 1989. With the counsel and assistance of Bill Apperson, a forestry expert with the VA Dept of Agriculture, we planted 37 acres of Loblolly seedlings on the Southern part of the farm. Ultimately, over the years, some fifty thousand trees were planted, some for the forestry project, others as decorative trees around the houses or the winery, and others to provide as much shading as possible for the parking areas of visitors.

Deer searching for food in winter.

Our work team then created a walking “Nature Trail’ which is nearly two miles long and follows the edge of Pate’s Creek to a point overlooking the marshes, the parkway and the James River.

Many Canadian geese using the farm as a stop over point on their way South.

Then several other areas were selected to increase the total forested surface to some 75 acres. The trees have grown to forty or forty-five feet in height. Numerous Oaks have developed in that forest where my sons and I spent just about every wintry Sunday working to cut Honeysuckle, Ivy, Virginia Creepers, Poison Oak and other invasive parasites that can destroy a forest. Here are their views on the challenge that it represented.

From Patrick II

“Looking back on the time spent on the woods has given me a sense of perspective. Admittedly, there were numerous occasions when I spent time in the woods cleaning brush, cutting vines and thinning trees when I grumbled and wished I had stayed in bed. The job seemed insurmountable and the methods by which we were trying to achieve our goals were seemingly inefficient and time consuming.”

“Looking back on it, there was a great deal of warmth and joy that comes from physical exertion at the end of those mornings. It’s hard to believe that the 45 ft trees that now dominate those woods were once saplings that needed all the help they could get.”

From Terence

A red-tailed hawk on the Farm (photo and next courtesy of Dr. Schultz, a neighbor).

“The woods down by the Creek are beautiful. It is one of my favorite places on earth; I never miss the opportunity to go for a hike to the creek along the nature trail.”

“Left alone, Mother Nature pretty much takes care of things. Leave a fallow field in eastern Virginia alone for a hundred and fifty years and you will end up with a peak hardwood forest full of Copper Beeches. You can accelerate things a bit by planting Pine trees, waiting for Oaks to establish themselves and cutting the invasive plants. It’s been fun to watch the natural cycle of rejuvenation over the past 25 years.”

“Pulling the old cars, appliances and bottles of toxic chemicals out of the ravines took some doing. I seem to recall one occasion when my father almost flipped over the backhoe when the soft ground (read landfill) gave way under the weight of the construction equipment. Fortunately, it only slid to the bottom of the ravine and we dragged it out with bulldozer.”

Another task was to reduce the tree density to favor the growth of the healthier trees to seven, eight hundred trees per acre.

Contact was made with the Department of Game and Wild Life, and their specialists came to bring young barn owls to repopulate the woods. Wild life has been abundant, and for certain species overly so. White tailed deer are abundant in Eastern VA.

Rodgers Huff, the then local president of United Virginia Bank who had been very familiar with the farm as he had leased portion of it from the previous owner, created a Hunt Club. The goal was for gentlemen to enjoy the sport while controlling the balance of wild life. For instance, by maintaining the correct density of the deer population, the wild life would have adequate food to grow to healthy size.

Deer on the meadow.

After the sad, untimely passing of Rodgers, Eric Capps, our Vineyard Manager, took the responsibility of the Hunt Club. As, later, he moved on to work for the VA Dept. of Environment, Ron Mosocco, our friend and independent accountant, has kept enhancing our hunt program. He arranges to donate meat through the program of “Hunters for the Hungry”.

A fox looking inquisitive.

We worked with the Science Department at The College of William & Mary to establish twenty foot deep, eight inch pipes to monitor the impact of the vineyard management and treatments on the water table. Since the Roman days, vineyards all over the world have been sprayed to control fungal development. Our interest was to find out if the fungal control had a serious impact on the water table.

Another hundred acres of land was left fallow, bush-hogged every year to rebuild its humus and favor good percolation of the soil. Even in Virginia, which receives about 24” to 30’ of precipitation, it takes ten years of accumulated clippings to build one inch of humus.

A bald eagle holding a fish in its claw.

A less pleasant task was to progressively pull out the carcasses of the cars that had been simply pushed into ravines as well as the many pieces of Twentieth Century trash discarded in the wild. Cleaning the three hundred acre farm and caring for it has been a project by itself.

There is an immense reward in walking through healthy woods, looking at a pristine portion of old cypresses (their feet submerged in brackish waters with their knees coming up to give the root system the necessary breathing) or seeing rivulets of clear, cold water meandering at the bottom of the ravines demonstrating that the soil is now absorbing the precipitation. Soil and forests express a sense of life, of renewal. It is an enjoyment that we like to share with our guests and visitors.

A path in the forest.

 

(To be continued)

Patrick G. Duffeler
Founder & CEO

 

 

 

 

 


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