Patrick Duffeler has handed down his role as chief executive officer of The Williamsburg Winery to his son, Patrick Duffeler II.
“I’m 70 years old. I’ve been working on a seven day a week schedule for almost 20 years, so it’s about time to pass the baton to a younger person who can adapt to circumstances, to the situation, and stay involved in strategic thinking,” Duffeler said.
Duffeler II, 41, has been working at the winery since his days as a student at the College of William and Mary. He worked part time in the tasting room, then as a sales representative for the winery after graduation. While working as sales rep, Duffeler II had internships with French wineries in Bordeaux and Cognac.
When he returned to the U.S., Duffeler II became the assistant hospitality manager. He became the manager of all on-site sales activities after completing an MBA-level wine marketing course. In 2006, he was named vice president and has most recently served as chief operating officer and president.
“He has inherited all the qualities of his mother and none of my shortcomings, so it’s the perfect balance,” Duffeler said of his son.
The Williamsburg Winery started with an idea in the late 1970s: Duffeler was working as a senior officer in an international fragrance company when his first wife, Peggy, who died in 2004, challenged him to find another job. They sat down and looked at a map and picked Virginia for the location of their winery.
“I have visited 56 countries in my life, and I think Virginia is wonderful. … I think sometimes Virginia is underrated by some people who have been here so long they don’t realize how wonderful Virginia really is. I don’t know too many places in the world that have all the positive characteristics of Virginia,” Duffeler said.
When trying to select a farm for the winery, the husband and wife team visited 52 farms before purchasing the 300-acre property in 1983 where the winery still stands. They officially founded The Williamsburg Winery in 1985.
“It was an expensive farm. It was like we purchased a farm we couldn’t afford,” Duffeler said, adding he had to hold outside jobs through what he called the “purgatory years” before he could afford to fully jump into the winery project in 1987.
That year, the Duffelers crushed their first grapes with plans to reach 2,000 cases per year. The winery had its first sale in 1989 — the same year the winery won the Governor’s Cup for its 1988 Chardonnay.
Currently, the winery is producing more than 50,000 cases using about 120,000 gallons of grapes. Over the years, the winery has opened the Gabriel Archer Tavern, Café Provencal and the 28-room Wedmore Place hotel.