by Fred McMillin
for October 27, 1998

 

Tony's Travails

1955—British-born Tony Peju (pay-zhoo) buys his way out of Azerbaijan, leaving with only $300 in his pocket.

1965—"When I fainted at lunch, I realized that this was not working out." Tony is working nights as an assistant theater director, and working days full time delivering flowers, in Los Angeles.

1970—Herta Behensky, his friend (and future wife) suggests he get into something he enjoyed almost as much as the theater: flowers and plants.

1979—The new business went so well, Tony bought a 30-acre ranch in Rutherford, sporting marvelous old Cabernet Sauvignon vines. with this choice Napa Valley location, success would be a slam dunk.

1984—Horrors! Napa Valley powers decide the Pejus are "not serious winemakers." "The Peju stainless steel tanks stand forlornly on a concrete pad" (J. Halliday's words).

1986—Without a winery, Tony takes his U.C.-Davis training and his marvelous grapes to another winery and creates the 1986 Peju Province H.B. (wife's initials) Vineyard Cab. When released, it will win a "Best of Region" at the California State Fair and a Double Gold at the S.F. Fair.

Peju So this story has a happy ending. A steady stream of subsequent awards made it clear that Tony is a VERY serious winemaker. It culminated, perhaps, in the very serious trade publication, Wine & Spirits, selecting Peju not so long ago as the Best Small Winery of the Year.

Consequently, it came as no suprise when my latest S.F. State (College of Extended Learning) class selected the following wine as Best of The Course against 39 rivals.


The Wine

1994 Cabernet Sauvignon, H.B. Vineyard, Napa Valley
Peju Province Winery, Rutherford, CA.
Tasting Notes—RICH, RICH, RICH. The Wine Spectator gave it a resounding score of 92, with a complex array of cedar, spice, black cherry and much more. The Wine Enthusiast scored it 94, with black currant, brown spice, and much more.
Contact—The office of Herta B. Peju at (800) 446-7358.
Price—$55


Postscript

Has the amount of Cabernet Sauvignon competition changed since Tony bought his vineyard in 1979? Well, California Cabernet acreage that year was about 20,000. Today, it is 45,000 and going up!

Note: For more about Peju Province, see the June 3,1998 WineDay titled, "A Colombard Wild Card."


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

 

 

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