Part 17: Vintage Victory - The Williamsburg Winery

Part 17: Vintage Victory

Front page article by Patrick Lackey. "Vintage Victory." The Virginian-Pilot - 15 Oct. 1989
Front page article by Patrick Lackey. “Vintage Victory.” The Virginian-Pilot – 15 Oct. 1989

The ‘88 Vintage had been pressed. We had harvested good quantities from our on-site vineyards and secured additional grapes from our leased vineyards in several areas of the state.

With fermentation over, the wines had been either filtered and bottled or the chardonnay had been placed in barrels. The barrels we had acquired were a blend of mostly French Oak and some American Oak. The ’88 chardonnay was released late in the Spring of ’89. It was the second release of a chardonnay. The ’87 had moved very fast, and we were increasing production now in our brand new facility.

Simultaneously, the Company’s Capital Base had been expanded by the issuance of additional Shares to certain of the existing Shareholders. Once again, new forecasts were being prepared given the growing interest in the operation which had received a considerable amount of coverage.

A collage of some of the many press articles in the Fall of '89.
A collage of some of the many press articles in the Fall of ’89.

As a member of the Virginia Wine Association, we suggested that Williamsburg would be the perfect location for the organization of the professional tasting to determine the best wines from Virginia in the competition defined as the Governor’s Cup. I recommended that the Association reach out to top, well recognized wine experts.

Shep Rouse, a professional winemaker of high qualifications, was happy with the selection of Williamsburg, his hometown, as the venue and accepted the task of acting as organizer. Rob Bickford used his excellent network of contacts to assist him. A first class group was assembled at the Williamsburg Inn, including Dan Berger of the LA Times, Terry Robards of The Wine Spectator, Patrick Fegan of the Chicago Tribune, Dee Stone of the Atlanta Constitution and Atlanta Wine Review, Peter Sichel, wine merchant and author, and Marcel Desaulnier, executive chef and co-owner of the famous Williamsburg Trellis restaurant.

As an issue of principle, I personally stayed out of the various tastings that were conducted with the help of volunteers from the membership of the VA Wine Industry.

Then came the evening black tie Gala in late September. I received a call a few minutes before departing for the reception. The notification was that we had won the coveted Governor’s Cup.

Virginia Gazette, September 27, 1989.
Virginia Gazette, September 27, 1989.

After the dinner, the awards were announced by Archie Smith, the then president of the VA Wine Association. The last award was revealed and Governor Baliles presented us with the trophy and made specific comments about his wish to see the industry grow in the Commonwealth. We invited him to be the guest of honor at the official grand opening of the winery. The Governor graciously accepted and the date was set for the early days of October.

Driving home that evening, all of us had large smiles. The next day the telephone kept ringing. The press wanted to interview us on site and find out how we had come to that result so quickly.

After all, we were just “the new kid on the block”.

So a few days later, we prepared for the Grand Opening. There seemed to be a multiplicity of details that needed attending: the last finishing touches to the construction and its appearance, interior as well as exterior, the format of the event, the list of guests, the invitations, protocol, etc.

There are too many ribbon cutting ceremonies, as I saw it, so we needed a unique approach. I thought of the European traditions of the Middle Ages when the officials of free cities presented a key of the entrance gate to their regional prince and ruler.

I tasked Ken with sourcing a classic brass rimlock with long brass keys. One was found in Richmond and hurriedly installed on the entrance door to the winery. One of the two keys was hung on a long chain and presented to Governor Baliles at the ceremony on a velvet cushion. The local TV was there along with County and City officials, Board Members, Shareholders and numerous guests, After the brief speeches under a tent, the Governor hung the chain around his neck and walked to the winery and opened its door.

We were winner of the Governor’s Cup and now officially open.

Governor Baliles has come back and visited with us numerous times. He tells me that he still has the key.

(To be continued)

Patrick G. Duffeler
Founder & CEO

Experience the Winery

Come see the many ways we’ve earned our place on the world wine map.