by Joan Tupponce
Belgium-born Patrick Duffeler didn’t move to Williamsburg by chance; he came with a purpose, to open a winery and a boutique hotel.
“My wife and I had made a decision to recycle ourselves,” says the owner of the Williamsburg Winery. Before his move, Duffeler had held senior executive positions in Europe with Philip Morris and other companies. “We picked up a love of wine when we were in Burgundy. We wanted to make a difference by concentrating on the content of the bottle, not the marketing,” he says “We liked the fact that winemaking is a collegial, old-fashioned industry.”
Duffeler purchased the 320-acre Wessex Hundred Farm in James City County in 1983 and planted his first crop of grapes two years later. The first wine produced in 1988, Governor’s White, won Williamsburg Winery its first award, a Gold Medal from the Virginia Governor’s Cup, just two weeks after its introduction. It remains the winery’s most popular wine.
Production has increased from 2,500 cases 20 years ago to more than 65,000 cases today. The winery’s 50-plus acres of vineyards produce six grape varieties, including Petite Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Duffeler employs up to 70 people during peak season, June through October.
Since its inception, the winery has received more than 250 awards. Its Acte 12 Chardonnay was rated as “One of the Best Wines in the World” by Decanter Magazine’s World Wine Awards in 2007 and in 2008.
Along with the winery, Duffeler owns the Gabriel Archer Tavern and Wedmore Place, a European-style country estate hotel within walking distance of the winery. The hotel opened a year ago. “People want to have wonderful memories of their travels,” Duffeler says. “They want a place that is quaint and personal, like being in a home. That’s what we’ve created.”
Duffeler loves living in the Williamsburg area. “Williamsburg is the soul of America,” he muses. “When I walk the back streets in the winter I hear the echoes of 18th-century people. It’s exciting.”
The Historic Triangle area — Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown — is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Attractions include the Jamestown Settlement, Yorktown Victory Center and Colonial Williamsburg, the restored 18th-century capital of Virginia.
The Williamsburg region includes James City County, which is home to Busch Gardens Europe and Water Country U.S.A. The area boasts well-known golf courses at Colonial Williamsburg and the Kingsmill Resort & Spa.
The area’s economy
Retail, tourism and education are the main economic drivers in Williamsburg. Colonial Williamsburg tops the list of employers with 3,500 employees, followed by the College of William & Mary with 2,200. James City County, which surrounds Williamsburg on three sides, has a diversified economy that ranges from manufacturing and distribution to retail and tourism. The county’s largest private employer is Busch Gardens with approximately 6,000 seasonal and full-time employees. Anheuser-Busch Brewery has more than 800 employees. Busch Properties, which includes the Kingsmill Resort & Spa, employs 900. Other major companies include AVID Medical, which sells custom procedure trays for the health-care community, the Wal-Mart Import Distribution Center and Prime Outlets, one of the most profitable outlets in terms of sales and customer volume in the United States.
Where to stay
Duffeler designed Wedmore Place based on ideas picked up in his travels. Each of the hotel’s 28 rooms is named after a province in Europe and is decorated to reflect the region. “The rooms have been influenced by my background and travel experiences,” he says. “My wife is French, and we wanted to convey the differences between different cultures. We have 15th-century to 19th-century themes, from rustic to sumptuous.” Colonial Williamsburg offers Williamsburg Inn, a stately property known for its customer service, and 28 Colonial houses scattered among shops, taverns and gardens along Duke of Gloucester Street. For golfers, The Kingsmill Resort & Spa is an elegant but comfortable getaway.
Where to eat
Duffeler offers visitors two dining options — the Gabriel Archer Tavern, open for lunch daily and dinner on Thursday through Monday, and The Café Provencal, open daily for lunch and dinner, in Wedmore Place. The café specializes in upscale Mediterranean fare. Look for entrees such as pumpkin ravioli and prawn linguini. When he’s not frequenting his own establishments, Duffeler enjoys a night out at the Fat Canary, a lively bistro known for its creative entrees and service, and Blue Talon, a small bistro that describes its selections as “serious comfort food” —Virginia pork loin, meat loaf and gourmet mac and cheese. For steaks and seafood, many locals head to Opus 9 Steakhouse in the New Town area of Williamsburg.