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P


atrick Duffeler, Belgium-born founder and chairman of The Williamsburg Winery, greets the world with a profound sense


of optimism and adventure, traits which made him uniquely suited to building a world-class winery mere miles from Jamestown, where courageous set- tlers established the first permanent English colony


in America more than 400 years ago. Perhaps Duffeler’s family mottos, one in French and one in


German, inscribed on the walls of Wessex Hall at the winery, best sum up the guiding principles that have shaped him and his life’s passions: “Bien faire; laisser dire.” (Do things right; let people talk.) And, “Freiheit, Ehre, Treue, Weiter.” (Freedom, honor, loyalty, go farther.)


wineries across the state and The Williamsburg Winery is the largest. This year, Duffeler will pay tribute to the harvest that produced the winery’s first wine, Governor’s White, a 1987 vintage which won The Williamsburg Winery its first award just two weeks after its introduction — a gold medal from the Norfolk Yacht Club competition. The 1988 Chardonnay won the ultimate Governor’s Cup award in 1989. Governor’s White remains the winery’s most popular wine. Within five years, the operation had reached a sustainable production of 25,000 cases per year and topped 50,000 by the year 2000. Today, the Williamsburg Winery produces 40,000 to 45,000 cases per year — as many as 540,000 bottles of wine. “It takes patience,” he said of his endeavor. “It’s a very stable,


very forward-looking industry. And what could be more rewarding than conducting business on 300 acres of green space and fresh air?” His optimism is embodied in an industry


Perhaps Duffeler’s family mottos inscribed on the walls of Wessex Hall at the winery, best sum up the guiding principles that have shaped him and his life’s passions:


“Bien faire; laisser dire.” (Do things right; let people talk.) And, “Freiheit, Ehre, Treue, Weiter.” (Freedom, honor, loyalty, go farther.)


ef At the arc of a successful international business career,


during which he traveled extensively across the globe, Duffeler decided to accept the challenge issued to him by his wife Peggy to “do something intelligent with your life.” So after an exhaustive search, the duo bought Wessex Hundred Farm in Williamsburg in 1983. Duffeler had felt a fondness for Williamsburg since visiting as a young man in 1961. “Williamsburg is the soul of America,” he noted. “When I walk the back streets in the winter, I hear the echoes of the past.” In 1983, Virginia’s wine industry was considered fledgeling


at best, with only about 14 wineries, many of which have since changed hands or ceased operations altogether. After a good deal of hard, sweaty labor on the part of the Duffelers, they harvested their first crop of grapes for the newly established winery in 1987. Today, there are more than 275


The House & Home Magazine


where it can take up to eight years or more for a bottle of wine to evolve from harvest to dinner table.


In the Beginning


Some of Duffeler’s early childhood memories were of WWII Brussels, with bombs falling and his father chopping up chairs for the stove because it was “so bloody cold.” But there were plenty of happy memories later of extensive international travels with his family and schoolmates. One such journey took him to Williamsburg and sparked an enduring interest in colonial Virginia. “I was a terrible student,” Duffeler said, “but very fascinated by mechanical things.” Yet he subsequently became an avid student of history, literature, antiques and art, no doubt due to his travels and a natural curiosity and zest for life. He was awarded a scholarship to the University of Rochester


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