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Welcome to Château DeFay Vineyards!

In 2002, Jacques and Angie Defay decided to take a leave of absence from their consulting business in Falls Church, Virginia to start a vineyard and winery in Guatemala. Why Guatemala? According to Jacques it was the most beautiful country he had ever visited. First as a staff member of the Organization of American States and an economist for the Inter American Development Bank, Jacques had visited Guatemala on numerous occasions while conducting technical assistance projects and negotiating loans for the Bank. He had been in Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Chichicastenango, spent many days walking through the streets of Guatemala City and Antigua, and experienced the friendliness of the Guatemalan people. He had promised himself that one day, he would return and live in Guatemala after he had finished his international career. But he never dreamt he would start a vineyard.

That decision came later after various other failed attempts at farming in Guatemala. Jacques and Angie’s very first thought was to plant raspberries and export them to the United States. So they rented a car and set out looking for land in Parramos and Chimaltenango. Many months later, after numerous failed attempts at purchasing land, they gave up that possibility and widened their search to the area of Antigua. One day by pure coincidence, they stumbled on a beautiful piece of land in the area of Santa Maria de Jesus. The minute Jacques and Angie saw the land they knew they had found what they had been looking for and shortly after, purchased what was to become Finca Defay.

The only problem is they could not grow raspberries there because of the lack of water. Instead the land was perfect for coffee. At the time the government of Guatemala was looking at diversifying from coffee and was encouraging the planting of other non-traditional crops. Following their suggestions, Jacques and Angie decided to plant asparagus and pitaya. The asparagus loved the Santa Maria climate and soil and to this day continue to produce some of the best asparagus in the world. But the pitayas did not fare as well and had to be abandoned. One day as the Defays were sipping on a Merlot bottle, it occurred to them that they had never seen a Guatemalan wine and they wondered why not. After a quick search on the internet, followed by visits with Ministry of Agriculture officials and knowledgeable friends, the answer was simple. It cannot be done. The climate will not allow it.

Chateau Defay

This was the kind of challenge that Jacques was looking for. In no time Jacques and Angie became avid wine drinkers and were spending time in Bordeaux, Saint Emilion, Sauternes, Alsace, the Loire Valley in France, not to mention a large number of vineyards in Virginia. Their first attempt at growing grapes in Guatemala began in 2002. Perhaps you did not know this but transporting grape plants across borders is strictly regulated and nearly impossible to accomplish. But as Napoleon Bonaparte once said, impossible is not French. So after many months of trying, the Defays, finally were able to bring their first shipment of grapevines from Washington State, the only state in the United States the Ministry of Agriculture was allowing grapes to be imported from because it was free of the dreaded Pierce Disease, endemic in California.

From this humble beginning Finca Defay now grows more than a dozen varieties of grapes. Much has changed since those early pioneer days, but the excitement of winegrowing in a new region of the world remains just as strong. We continue to discover how to make our vines express themselves in ways that are unique to the conditions of soil, sun, wind, altitude found only in the terroir of Château Defay. Our wines have an intense bouquet and acidity that reflect the harshness of the climate from November to May and a softness that comes with the fog that crawls over the rolling hills from June to October. We believe that our wines will age well because of their acidity and texture and will acquire increasing minerality as they become older. Our goal as winemakers is to encourage our grapevines to express our Guatemalan terroir in each and every glass.

Please enjoy your visit at Château Defay.