Sir Peter’s education and interest in wine was nurtured at his father’s side in Bordeaux and Burgundy, but it was at the Fairmont Hotel in California, while enjoying a performance by Peggy Lee, where the inspiration for Peter Michael Winery was born.
The chardonnay that Sir Peter and his colleagues shared on that fateful evening in San Francisco—and which later won the Judgment of Paris in a competition against France’s very best wines—was like nothing he had ever tasted before. The experience not only shifted his European point of view about great wine, but it ignited a passion in him to create terroir-driven wines of unsurpassed quality, as rich and singular as the California land itself.
Sir Peter’s search for a property in the Knight’s Valley region of Calistoga to build a family retreat and winery ended when he stood on the steep, rocky hillside of Mount St. Helena in 1982. At that moment, Sir Peter says, it was love at first sight. “When I looked at the creek, looked at the mountain, listened to the noise of the birds, I thought this is the most extraordinary place on earth. But I couldn't have imagined just how well it would work and how lucky I was to have found it.”
While the idea of a California winery project came as a bit of a surprise to Lady Michael (or Lady M, as she is universally known), it wasn’t long before she embraced Sir Peter’s enthusiasm, matching it with her years of experience farming their 1000 acres in Berkshire, UK with arable cereals and a pedigree South Devon Red breeding herd. Her keen interest in farming and animals afforded her perhaps the greatest appreciation among family members for the dedication and artistry required to develop the winery’s world-class vineyards.
An entrepreneur many times over, Sir Peter is the founder of Micro Consultants’ Group and UEI plc and the driving force behind a group of high-tech companies including Cosworth Engineering and Quantel, the digital special effects company for television and film production. The graphic-arts tool Paintbox is just one of several commercial applications his company introduced in its 20 years of operation. From 1989 to 1992, Sir Peter served as CEO of Cray Electronics, overseeing a turnaround of the technology company, and in 1992, Sir Peter founded Classic FM, the UK’s first national commercial radio station with an audience of 6 million listeners. Sir Peter was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1989 in recognition of his contribution to British industry.