Peju Winery

Peju Winery

The Peju family has been making wine here in Rutherford for more than thirty years. We invite you to come taste and experience our Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Fifty/Fifty, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Provence, a proprietary blend of red and white varietals in our landmark tasting room tower. Experience our pristine gardens, unique food and wine events, library and barrel tasting. We have wine gifts, wine accessories and three different wine clubs, for both the occasional wine drinker and wine connoisseur.

The love of farming and a passion for wine brought Anthony Peju to the Napa Valley. A series of ideas - starting in his birthplace on the Caspian Sea, then France, England and eventually, Los Angeles - created their Napa Valley winery.

Tony Peju was studying film at LACC and UCLA when he met Herta Behensky (HB), his future wife. HB encouraged him to start the winery, and together with her help, a Mustang as a down payment, landscape companies, florist stores, buying and selling properties, looking all over Southern California for an appropriate 500 acre farm site - Napa Valley seemed to be the right place.

In 1982, they purchased 30 acres of land with the magic ingredient - location. Neighboring vineyards at Rutherford included Robert Mondavi, Inglenook and Beaulieu. Situated between Highway 29 and the Napa River, the acreage included a 1900-era house and rambling vineyards, some 60 or more years old, planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and French Colombard.

Looking to the future, Tony and Herta have introduced their two daughters, Lisa and Ariana, to the workings of the wine business. Both of the young women are immersing themselves in all aspects of Peju Province Winery.

HB and Tony, two idealists from Europe, had many dreams when they arrived in America, though owning and operating a winery wasn't originally an option. Timing and a series of events led HB to where she made her home, career and family in the heart of the Napa Valley. Owning and operating a winery turned out to be her calling and the Peju family's passion.

Tony and HB were married six years after their first blind date. Together, they expanded floral shops into a successful nursery business when Tony decided that their agricultural talents would be better served in the country, not in the bustling city. When the two acquired land planted to wine grapes in Rutherford, the family relocated and began to adjust to Napa Valley life.

The couple made their first vintage in 1982 and opened for wine sales in 1985. HB and Tony had only one full-time employee staffed to assist them at that time, Manuel Corona, who remains the Peju's right-hand man 25 years later. HB served as Peju's tasting room attendant, accountant, and marketing representative until the winery grew and more help was hired.

Today, Tony and HB own more than 450 acres throughout the Napa Valley and produce 35,000 cases of award-winning Estate grown wines. Her foundation has helped Peju retain more than 80 percent of sales directly to consumers from its Napa Valley tasting room. HB has found a home in the Napa Valley and is pleased that the next generation of Pejus, Lisa and Ariana, are committed to continue their parents' successes in the wine industry.

Sara Fowler joined Peju as the Winemaker in the summer of 2006, bringing a wealth of knowledge and creativity into the cellar. Sara's passion for Bordeaux varietals and knack for innovative blending make her the perfect fit to lead Peju's winemaking team.

Sara cut her teeth in the wine industry as a seasonal member of the Kendall-Jackson Winery staff during high school and college. The experience with Kendall-Jackson and mentoring from then Head Winemaker Jed Steele (Steele Wines) laid a solid foundation and taught her key winemaking concepts. Jed has since become an "inspirational character" within her wine industry circle.

But Sara was no stranger to agriculture. Her family has owned and operated a 400-acre organic ranch dating back to 1884. Though she initially studied Art upon entering the college ranks, Sara took a year hiatus from school and lived in Mexico on a sailboat where she reflected on a future career. She decided to redirect her passion, pedigree and expertise back into viticulture.

Upon returning stateside, Sara began to help her family plant wine grapes on their organic ranch. She took a very active role in their new venture and chose the varietals and rootstock, installed the drip tubing and eventually pruned the vineyard. At the same time, she also served as an Enologist Assistant during crush at Kendall-Jackson. From these efforts, Sara decided her new focus would be in the wine industry as a Winemaker.

As the keystone of Peju's wine team, Sara's commitment to excellence in the vineyard and in the cellar is extraordinary. In September 2007, Sara headed Peju's efforts to gain organic certification in the Rutherford Vineyard and she is overseeing the winery's sustainable farming efforts in the Persephone and Wappo Vineyards with organic certification goals in the near future.

"The Peju vineyards are excellent properties," Sara explained. "The diversity is extremely exciting. I'm enjoying having a hand in maintaining and enhancing the quality reputation of the Peju wines.".

When Tony Peju purchased the 30-acre “Stephanie Vineyard” in 1983, it had been producing wine grapes since the early 1900s, and some of the vines much longer. Originally planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Colombard, the fruit was sold to a number of wineries by the vineyard’s former owners.

Peju continued to sell grapes initially and continued to improve the vineyard through greater attention to canopy management, trellising and irrigation. He also changed the name to the “H.B. Vineyard”, the initials of his wife.

Ideally situated between Highway 29 and the west bank of the Napa River, the vineyard is part of the Rutherford Appellation, a six square mile region famous even by Napa Valley standards. Nearby are the historic vineyards of Inglenook (now Coppola), Robert Mondavi, Beaulieu, and Caymus. The Rutheford H.B. Vineyard soil is deep and well drained, formed by three alluvial fans which supply gravel and sand to the valley floor’s deep loamy soil. Water flows easily through the soil and drains to the river.

Rutherford is at the valley’s widest point and so has longer sun exposure and therefore a higher radiant value than other parts of Napa Valley. Despite the warm growing temperatures, the vines are cooled in the evening by the northern reaches of San Francisco (San Pablo) Bay. Cool night temperatures allow the fruit to ripen slowly, maturing tannins and balancing acids in the long growing season. Rain in Rutherford comes mainly in the winter months, 26-36 inches annually, filling the aquifers and reservoirs which are necessary in the valley’s irrigated vineyards.

It is perfect terroir for wine grapes. But even in such a grape paradise there can be problems. Like most of the old plantings in Napa Valley, Peju’s vines were originally planted on root stock not resistant to the devastating phylloxera louse. In addition, the old vines were coming to the end of their productive years and the blocks of Colombard were not the ideal varietal for Rutherford. In 1990 the decision was made to replant.

Tony Peju was making wine himself by then and winning gold medals and critical accolades. He realized the greatest flavors in his wines were coming from an original 5.5 acre block of Cabernet Sauvignon. These particular vines thrived in the Rutherford climate, producing complex and multi-layered wine with unique characteristics. He replanted primarily with cuttings from that block, now called the “HB Clone”, and complemented the vineyard by growing Merlot and Cabernet Franc, the classic Bordeaux blend.

Today’s Rutherford H.B. Vineyard is an outstanding example of Napa Valley viticulture. “Whatever we hope to achieve in the bottle begins in the vineyard,” says Tony Peju. “We are fortunate to have found this vineyard and its ideal conditions for our reserve wines.”

As the reputation of Peju and the winery’s location on Highway 29 proved to be good for business, demand soon exceeded supply. By 1995, Tony Peju was buying Cabernet Franc grapes from Juliana Vineyards in nearby Pope Valley. He liked the grapes and subsequently bought Merlot and Chardonnay as well.

“In 1996 a friend came to me with an offer to plant grapes on a Pope Valley property,” he recounts. “When I visited the intended site I saw a for sale sign on a property nearby, I learned that in fact there were two contiguous properties for sale and as it turned out I was able to acquire them both.”

Pope Valley is a section of the Napa Valley Appellation a few miles to the northeast of Rutherford and St. Helena separated from them by Howell Mountain and the Vaca range. It is higher than Napa Valley, colder in winter, hotter in summer and without the abundance of water. But the region has been producing wine and wine grapes since the turn of the last century.

“We named our new vineyard Persephone,” continues Peju, “after the goddess of Greek mythology. It is 350 acres at an elevation of 2,000 feet and was the last level, plantable acreage available. It has three feet of loamy topsoil in many places, then 4-5 feet of shale. And fortunately we have water, three ponds and two wells.”

The Persephone Vineyard enjoys the same careful attention to viticulture as the Rutherford Estate. Even with its proximity to Napa Valley, it feels remote. Winding roads through steep canyons lead to Pope Valley and the landscape is reminiscent of an earlier era in California history. Grazing land and ancient oaks still cover rolling foothills watched over by craggy mountain peaks. It is a terroir ideal for grapes especially under the demanding and watchful eye of Tony Peju.