SAN FRANCISCO, February 16, 2012 - The Deerfield Ranch Winery story is serendipitous. It is a long-time-coming love story that has stood the test of time.
Just like making good wine, you have to start with the best ingredients. Then you need patience, knowing when to leave the grapes be, knowing when they need attention, and knowing when they are ready to be harvested. The story of the owners of Deerfield Ranch Winery, Robert and PJ Rex, is very similar.
They were friends for 10 years before they dated. PJ is a smart cookie. She knew at the beginning of their friendship that the timing wasn’t quite right; the grapes weren’t quite ready to be harvested. But Robert says he was in love with her from the start.
Robert began as many wine lovers begin, making wine in the basement and garage of his home. Robert and PJ’s story started in 1972 at Cal Berkeley where they both went to college, making wine out of Robert’s apartment.
At the time, Robert was studying chemistry, laying the perfect foundation for his future as a winemaker. He considers himself a wine doctor more than a grower. PJ was studying finance in college; you might say the perfect foundation for her future role as managing partner at Deerfield Ranch.
In the 1970s, wine making in the US was still in its infancy. The industry really supported beginning wine makers, and midnight side deals of grape buying started to happen.
As the smell of harvest in the apartment began to waft through the building, their secret wine making was no longer a secret, and neighbors started clamoring for more and more.
Quickly the demand outpaced the supply. It was time to up the production, and turn Robert’s passion for wine making into his profession.
The main reason why it took Robert and PJ so long to get together is that Robert married his high school sweetheart, and PJ didn’t want to be perceived as the other woman.
After Robert’s divorce, she wisely instructed him to date around and make sure she was what he wanted. Robert reluctantly did so, and PJ’s plan worked.
Ten years after meeting at Cal, they officially became a couple.
Serendipity took over again with their move to Sonoma. Initially they looked to Napa for their future in wine. But with a bit of luck, fortune, fate, and the perfect real estate agent, in 1982 they purchased some property in Sonoma where they opened a B&B, exclusively providing their wine to their guests.
Back then wine making permits were a bit tricky to come by. As a result, Robert contracted his services out to many of the large wineries on the condition that he was able to make some of his own wine under their permits.
This lasted for several years, but it was quickly becoming apparent that they needed their own land and their own permit.
They found the Deerfield Ranch property and made it theirs. The property already had the name, so they kept it for their wine label. The mountain ridge that is featured on many of their wine labels is the view from their home of Sonoma Mountain.
In 1996, they officially closed the B&B to focus on winemaking, though they say there are still long time guests that refuse to accept that the B&B is closed and continue to come for overnight visits.
With several other boutique wineries, they opened Sonoma’s first co-op wine tasting room.
Deerfield Ranch’s own winery and tasting room officially opened three years ago. This was the culmination of a lengthy project, including cave, roadway and building construction that went on a bit too long and was way over budget. But they survived the construction, and after several decades and 75 partners later, the Deerfield Ranch winery is what it is today.
With a rich history in love and patience that is reflected in every wine they make and every experience you have with Deerfield Ranch.
If you are lucky, you might just catch one of the winery events for which Robert handcrafts his chocolate truffles. There is truly nothing better than having a glass of Robert’s Zinfandel, nibbling on a bit of homemade chocolate and hearing stories of the birth and life of Deerfield Ranch.
Here’s to the next 30 years…cheers!
For large groups, be sure to call ahead and make a reservation.
When wine tasting, try to keep it to four to five wineries to truly experience the unique qualities of each.
Find out more about Deerfield Ranch wines.
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