Art, Wine, Motorsports and an Evening to Remember at Wessex Hall on Dec. 9
Guests visiting the Williamsburg Winery know its founder, Patrick Duffeler, as a friendly fellow with a warm handshake, a storyteller with an exquisite memory for names and dates and the ability to weave the spiciest of details into delightful anecdotes.
Decades before he envisioned owning a winery in Williamsburg, the Belgium born businessman was tasked with creating the inaugural Marlboro Formula One race car team for Philip Morris, his employer in the early ’70s. For six years spanning 1972-78, he lived and breathed little else, a fast and furious jet set life, where extensive workdays blended into even longer evenings and occasionally even longer nights.
Duffeler will dig into those memories for an evening of food, wine and conversation about motorsports on Thursday, Dec. 9 from 6 to 8 p.m. He will be joined by Formula One author/historian Clyde Berryman for an event billed as “Art, Wine and Motorsports.” The interactive night in inviting Wessex Hall will also feature a book signing by both men. Duffeler authored “The Art and Science of Viticulture and Winemaking at The Williamsburg Winery” (a copy of the new second edition is included with each ticket purchased) and Berryman’s most recent book is “’QPRS: F1 Grand Prix Racing by the Numbers (1950-2019).”
The Williamsburg Art Gallery will be showcasing art that’s available for viewing and purchase beginning at 3 p.m.
Duffeler enjoys answering questions from a period dominated by fast, slick cars when flashbulbs captured the spectacle of the drivers and their ardent following,
Some tidbits from him when prompted . . .
His favorite driver: Emerson Fittipaldi, who won the Formula One World Championship twice, the first time in 1972 with the Lotus 72D, and another in 1974 teaming with Marlboro, driving the McLaren.
“He was fun, a brilliant driver with a brilliant personality,” Duffeler says. “He was straightforward and simple, not the macho sort.”
In 1975, he accompanied Fittipaldi to the Cannes Film Festival, a glitzy affair on the French Riviera where starlets weren’t shy about showing off as much flesh as they could get away with. Duffeler watched uneasily at the buzz surrounding a Formula One car on display. His duty was to protect it, a formidable task when every hand wanted to touch its shiny surface.
Fittipaldi hopped behind the wheel to do a simulation. He cranked the engine, a rumble that revved up everyone within earshot, punctuated by the Brazilian speeding 300 feet before he braked sharply.
Watching the scene unfold, Duffeler sighed relief as “No one was hurt, which was, of course, my concern.”
Leaving Cannes, Duffeler turned over the keys to his Mercedes rental to Fittipaldi, who navigated the steep curves of the two-lane mountainous road with precision, unbothered by the fading breaks during a downhill glide. “I was comfortable because he was a pro,” Duffeler says. “We traveled a lot of places together and it was always fun.”
Duffeler was in the passenger seat again for another memorable spin, this one from Torino to Genoa, a 172-kilometer trek in Italy. European champion Andrea de Adamich drove.
“Andrea was superb,” Duffeler recalls. “He was totally engaged in telling me what he was doing and how he
was doing it. He shared how he was taking the curves and holding onto the steering wheel, a bunch of recommendations that I follow today.”
Anyone familiar with Duffeler knows he can plan a party and he organized several for Formula One. Perhaps the most memorable was a post-race celebration in Rome after the Vallelunga race, a non-championship event in 1972. Inside a neighborhood cantina, the festive sound of drivers toasting each other morphed from clicking glasses together to tossing the empty ones across the room to each other.
Some were caught. Many shattered.
Duffeler suggested that if the game was to break glasses, why throw? Drop them to the floor instead. “To demonstrate, I took my glass and threw it on the floor,” he says. “I told the lady running the cantina we would pay for all the damages.”
The welcome news satisfied the Carabinieri, the domestic police who had been called to the scene.
“By then, the drivers were dancing with their girlfriends,” Duffeler says. “Thank goodness everybody had good shoes to protect themselves!”
Duffeler’s stories pair well with Williamsburg Winery wine — no glass throwing, please!