Today was a spectacular day. Dan and I started off with delicious breakfast at the Flamingo Resort restaurant. Followed up by meeting the owners/winemakers of Deerfield Ranch winery, Robert & PJ Rex.
I took one look at them and knew I would like them. Their story is very serendipitous. A long time coming love story that’s stood the test of time. Just like making good wine, you have to start with the best ingredients. Then have patience, know when to leave the grapes be, know when they need attention. Robert and PJ’s story is very similar.
They were friends for 10 years before they dated. PJ is a smart cookie. She knew the time wasn’t quite right. But Rex says he was in love with her from the moment they met.
They began as many wine lovers begin, making wine in their basement and garage of their home. Their story started in 1972 at Cal Berkeley where they both went to college, making wine out of Robert’s apartment. Robert was studying chemistry, laying a perfect foundation for his future. He considers himself a wine doctor more so than a grower. PJ was studying finance. You might say a perfect foundation for her future role at Deerfield Ranch.
In the 1970s wine making in the US was still in its infancy. The industry really supported fellow beginning wine makers and side deals of grape buying at midnight on a Sunday 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 to get together, Robert married his high school sweetheart and PJ didn’t want to be perceived as the other woman. She wisely instructed Robert to date around and make sure she was what he wanted. Robert reluctantly did was he was told. And 10 years after meeting at Cal, they were officially a couple.
Serendipity takes 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 a house in Sonoma where they opened a B&B. Exclusively providing their wine to their guests, to enjoy during their stay, as well to purchase and take home. Not relying on the wine to be the primary revenue gatherer, but rather the B&B.
Back then wine making permits were a bit tricky to come by. So 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 Deerfield Ranch property and made it theirs. The property already had the name, so they kept it for their wine label. The mountain ridge view that is featured on many of their wine labels is the view from their home.
In 1996 they officially closed the B&B to focus on winemaking. Though they say there are still long time B&B goers that refuse to accept the B&B is closed and continue to come.
With several other boutique wineries, they opened Sonoma’s first co-op wine tasting room. This proved to be an excellent move and propelled the label to new heights and recognition. Deerfield Ranch’s own winery officially opened 3 years ago. A lengthy cave, roadway and building constructions project that lasted a bit too long and way over budget. But they survived the construction. And now, decades passed 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. The memories that you will make will last you a lifetime. If you are lucky, you might just catch one of winery events that Robert handcrafts his chocolate truffles for. 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. For the next 30 years to come…cheers.