Herta "HB" Peju
HB working in the gardens at the winery
Twenty-five years ago, Herta (HB) Peju helped her husband Tony transform a 30-acre parcel of land into a Napa Valley jewel Peju Family Estate Winery. Her handprints are everywhere, from Peju's exquisite gardens, to its flagship wine, the H.B. Reserve, picked from the Rutherford Estate's best fruit and named for her first two initials (Herta Behensky).
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.
HB was born in Austria but at the age of five, moved with her parents to Venezuela while her two brothers remained in post-World War II Austria. After spending 13 years in South America, she learned to speak fluent Spanish and made her way through the educational ranks, finishing high school with plans to attend medical school upon return to Europe.
In 1960, the family was reunited in Austria and HB had aspirations of attending medical school in Italy. But a fire at her Venezuelan school destroyed what were once her transcripts, making it impossible for her to be accepted to any European college. So she became an apprentice in a photo studio while preparing to make another enormous life change, she and her mother planned to immigrate to the United States.
In 1962, they arrived in New York City and settled across the country in Los Angeles shortly after. HB's first job in the United States was with a photo studio and then a dental office. While working, she earned a B.S. in the dental hygiene program at USC and helped her boyfriend Tony as the bookkeeper for his new floral business.
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.
Even with a staff in place, winery erected and entire family on board, HB hasn't missed a beat. In addition to serving as the winery's auditor, advertising representative and global marketing representative with eldest daughter, Lisa, she can still be spotted in Peju's gardens pruning, planting and preserving the Estate's acclaimed greenery.
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.