Robert & PJ Rex
Proprietors - Deerfield Ranch Winery
Robert Rex is a true “Renaissance” man with a strong entrepreneurial bent. Besides possessing a great palate and talent for winemaking he is an accomplished chef, graphic designer, woodworker, and has the ability to figure out and fix seemingly anything. Robert celebrates his 51st consecutive vintage making wine with the harvest of 2023. He started in his garage in Berkeley as a home winemaker. When it comes to making fine wine. Robert says, “Winemaking is 60% cooking and 40% chemistry. Perhaps it’s also his perfectionism, scientific methods and attention to detail. In 1982 Robert and PJ Rex moved to Kenwood, in the heart of Sonoma Valley, to turn their hobby and their passion into a profession.
Robert put himself through at least one year of college working on cars, particularly Italian sportscars. PJ was driving a 1974 Alfa spider, which she still owns and he still works on. As a thank-you gift one Christmas, PJ gave Robert a winemaking kit. She knew he was a good cook and a chemist, and would be great at winemaking. She was right; his first wine, a 1972 Amador County Zinfandel, won the “Best of Show” at the California State Fair in 1974.
A native of Iowa, Robert grew up in L.A., moving to Berkeley in 1961 to study Chemistry at the University of California. At Cal, Robert joined a wine tasting club where he discovered his love for fine wines. He became a partner in Berkeley’s first commercial winery in 1976, where he met several of his mentors, including Andre Tchelistcheff, the father of the modern California wine industry. Winemaking remained an avocation until 1982 when P.J. and Robert escaped their city jobs to follow their dream of owning a winery in the Sonoma Valley. They have lived at their beautiful hilltop retreat, Deerfield Ranch, the birthplace of the Deerfield Ranch Winery, for 41 years.
While honing his winemaking craft, Robert planted vineyards, brokered grapes between growers, wineries and home winemakers. He helped develop the first oak barrel adjuncts, and a variety of procedures and products such as, flash freezing of varietal grape juice for winemaking in the off season, sterile juice production and bottling, soft drink development using wine grape juice, soft seltzer with the flavor of varietal wines, and Clean Wine® production techniques that produce wines low in histamines and low in sulfites, known to cause red wine headaches and allergic reactions. Deerfield is an incubator winery where, under Robert’s mentorship, new winemakers and wineries get started. Several of his mentees have become professional winemakers and owners of successful wineries, one of them, Michael Browne made the Wine Spectators number one wine in the world, twice.
Robert’s mother put him and his siblings on stage when they were kids. They learned to speak in public and entertain. Add that to Robert’s stellar knowledge of wine and winemaking and it makes for a most entertaining and informative lecturer, story teller, and teacher of all things wine and life. He is a super taster and remembers everything he tastes. His engaging and informative lectures are legendary and he’s been at it for 50 years.
The Winemaker’s Wife
Founder and Managing Member of the Deerfield Ranch Winery LLC, General Manager, CFO, Strategist, and Editor.
PJ was born in Newton, Iowa, a small factory town, 30 miles from Des Moines. After high school she moved to Chicago but left the next winter when her sports car got frozen in ice. Leaving the car behind, she headed for Berkeley, California, to attend the University of California, enjoy a better climate and meet a California Boy.
At Cal, she met Robert Rex, having completed high school in Los Angeles, told her he was from L.A. Robert, freshly out of Cal with a degree in Chemistry, owned tobacco shops and factory manufacturing gourmet pipe tobacco, was a lover of fine wine (a wine geek before the term existed), a business consultant to a startup winery in Berkeley, and worked on cars for family and friend. PJ was one of his clients with her 1974 Alfa Romeo Spider. As a thank you gift for fixing her car, PJ, gave Robert a wine making kit, knowing he was a good cook and lover of fine wine. This is how all this started, 51 years ago with a winemaking kit, and a bunch of books on how to make wine.
In 1982, Robert and PJ decided to turn their winemaking hobby into their profession. PJ was managing a trust department for a local bank and was ready for a career change. They found an old ranch compound on a magical peace of property in the Sonoma Valley, called Deerfield Ranch. They got married under the 300-year-old oak tree in the back yard at and have been there for 41 yeares. Robert turned a small horse barn on the property into their first winery. They opened Deerfield as a Bed and Breakfast and sold all the wine they made to their B&B guests. Their combined entrepreneurial spirit, business experience, and their enthusiasm to share their lives with others has turned whatever they have done into a success.
In 1994 they, with six family owned wineries, opened the first Co-op wine tasting room in the country in Kenwood. The Coop tasting room was an epiphany. They learned that if they let the general public know that they made great wine they could probably make a living doing just that. Having outgrown their 500 case winery at the Ranch, in 2000, they bought 47 acres of prime Sonoma Highway frontage property adjacent to the Ranch. They dug a 23,000 square foot wine cave where they age up to 2,000 barrels of wine for Deerfield and its clients. Since then the Deerfield Ranch Winery has grown from 500 cases per year to 8,000 cases brand and another 8,000 cases for other wineries and growers. The new property is as magical as is the original Deerfield Ranch. It has a beautiful forest, a unique wetlands habitat and wonderful views. It is a jewel of the Sonoma Valley and a perfect home for the Deerfield Ranch Winery. A highlight is is a magnificent Grand Room in the center of the wine cave, where in a club like atmosphere, guests lounge on couches, leather chairs and grand tables, taking wine tasting to a whole new level.
Behind every great man is a great woman. This has never been truer than at Deerfield Ranch Winery. PJ is the one who made it happen. She recognized Robert’s talent for winemaking and pushed him in that direction. With her marketing and business experience they make a perfect team.