A Message From the Founder: Cheers to 2022!
My warmest holiday greetings to you and your family as we bring 2022 to a close.
It has been a special year at the Williamsburg Winery in that it was 40 years ago that my late wife, Peggy, and I first laid eyes on this farm that we later named Wessex Hundred. Back in 1982, we met with plenty of strange looks when we shared our vision of growing grapes and making quality wine in the Commonwealth. Yet the following year, we purchased the farm, planted the first grapes in 1985 and celebrated our first harvest in 1987. We released our first wine, Governor’s White, in 1988 and won our first major award in 1989, the Virginia Governor’s Cup.
Those pioneer days gave way to growth in every aspect of our business. We added a restaurant in 1996, the Gabriel Archer Tavern, and later event space in Wessex Hall, built in 2000 and renovated Westbury Hall in 2016. Wedmore Place, our European-style inn, was completed by 2007. Earlier this summer, the Tavern earned recognition from USA Today as the third best restaurant associated with a winery in the nation.
Our wines have gone from achieving statewide recognition to national distinction. For the first time this year, three of our signature varietals, the 2019 Petit Manseng, the 2017 Virginia Trianon and the 2019 Wessex Hundred Petit Verdot, achieved a trifecta of three Gold Medals in the 2022 Virginia Governor’s Cup. Additionally, this past year, our 2019 Petit Verdot Reserve, the 2021 Petite Fleur and the 2019 Merlot Reserve each was rated at 90 points or above.
Today more than 80,000 people visit the Williamsburg Winery annually. My wife, Francoise, and I enjoy greeting as many guests as we can, though, admittedly, it gives me great joy to observe our patrons experiencing time together. It’s a treat to sit near the Duck Pond or inside the 1619 Pavilion. We’ve also enhanced the Susan B. Constant Tasting Room. Earlier this year, we established the Art at Wessex Hundred series in collaboration with a local artists group, folks I call The Art People. A rotating series of paintings from local artists reflecting some aspect of the winery has transformed our tasting room into a mini gallery.
It’s heartening to be able to provide such a healthy retreat for so many visitors and repeat visitors.
We will continue doing things “the right way,” or better said “the good way,” in 2023. We’ll open more walking trails, including a mile and a half nature trek around Pate’s Creek and invite you to the Black Forest, my favorite spot on the farm. We’re researching new ways to improve our soil, which in turn will benefit the grapes that go into our wine. We will grow our wine club with new programs and offerings.
Speaking of new, you might have already noticed several unfamiliar faces at the winery. They all bring a new energy, enthusiasm and appreciation of Wessex Hundred. Make sure to introduce yourself if you haven’t already.
Many of you know that in addition to the farm, I celebrated my own milestone this year, turning 80 years young earlier this month. Whenever you reach a round number, you’re asked a lot of questions about superlatives in your life. When prodded about what makes me happiest, I couldn’t help but return to a photo Francoise snapped in the Black Forest. I refer to myself as “the dwarf” in it, and that’s how I appear, standing beneath a canopy of towering 100 foot tall loblolly pine. That picture is symbolic of one of the lessons that keeps me humble. We’re a small part of this universe, a speck in nature and at her mercy. I remain in awe of what we can learn from the trees that I cherish at Wessex Hundred or in the real Black Forest in Germany.
Hold all that is dear to you close this holiday season. We look forward to welcoming you here anytime. Linger over lunch or dinner or stay overnight at Wedmore Place. Remember this no matter what you do: Enjoy life!
Williamsburg Winery Founder,
Patrick G. Duffeler