Patrick Duffeler Cherishes the Moments While Leaving a Legacy
Patrick Duffeler savors what’s simple.
Business requires the Founder of The Williamsburg Winery to regularly dress in suit and tie, sit behind a computer and answer a smartphone.
But the Belgium-born executive derives more pleasure from donning military fatigues, work boots and heavy gloves. Disappearing into the 62,000 trees that enrich Wessex Hundred, he can lose himself in the woods for hours at a time, inhaling every breath with vigor and gratitude.
Patrick is as adept at taming a tree with the clippers in his holster as he is making the decisions to grow the Commonwealth of Virginia’s largest winery.
Along with numbers, history and literature fascinate him. He is an engaging storyteller who writes with wit. Quick to pick up a pad and draw a concept in need of explanation, he dabbles in art, too. He can cook for a crowd, muse about philosophy, and recite precise dates and details from trips to more than 60 nations. He’s been a plumber, roofer, and carpenter at times on Wessex Hundred, able to operate bulldozers and forklifts as easily as he navigates financial software.
Mindful never to boast about his own importance, Patrick doesn’t want to be called “Mr. Duffeler.”
“Anybody who steps in front of the mirror and thinks he’s important is a jackass,” he says.
Patrick’s professional career began at Eastman Kodak in Rochester, New York, shortly after he graduated
from the University of Rochester with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Finance. Five years after working for the international marketing division, he left to be Director of Promotions for Philip Morris in Lausanne, Switzerland.
That’s where he started a Formula One motor racing team that won two world titles under his leadership, a thrill for a self-described “car guy.”
As part of an investment group in Geneva later that decade, he schooled himself in the wine industry in Burgundy, France. He developed contacts in both Europe and California that would prove vital in the upcoming years when he and his wife, Peggy, set out in search of an American farm to be home to them and their sons, Patrick and Terence.
After visiting 52 farms, they settled on what today is the 300-acre Wessex Hundred, home to The Williamsburg Winery, two restaurants and a four-star hotel, Wedmore Place.
Their work to transform the initial property – which he recalls as “a real mess” — never daunted Patrick. His initial treks along the farm’s ravines impressed on him the challenges the settlers faced when they arrived in the same spot in 1607.
“I was just nearing 40, Peggy was barely 35, and we had a reservoir of energy,” says Patrick, a commuter from his Sixth Avenue office in New York City to Wessex Hundred on weekends until he made Williamsburg his primary residence in 1987.
The Duffelers harvested their inaugural wine in 1987. Two years later, the Chardonnay won the Governor’s Cup Award — it remains The Williamsburg Winery’s top seller. In 2004, Peggy Duffeler, whose passion for the project rivaled her husband’s, died after a long illness. He refers to her as the spiritual mother of the winery project.
In May 2007, Patrick married Francoise Richard, whom he had met 27 years earlier. He affectionately refers to her as his guardian angel.
Patrick rises early to start his morning with 400 exercises, 40 pushups included. Fresh air is essential to his daily regimen; he energizes his soul by retreating into the woods to run his hands through the soil and tune in nature’s sounds.