Vintner, Prisoner, Soldier, Spy | Archway Publishing- $23.99
By Ron Kapon, Oenologist
I believe the first time I met Peter was in the mid 1960s where I operated a chain of wine & liquor stores in the Midwest. He did a German wine tasting for my customers in conjunction with his Chicago wholesaler. When I returned to New York City in the late 60s we became reacquainted at a Bordeaux wine tasting organized by his cousin the late Peter A. Sichel. Peter A moved the family business to Bordeaux in 1961 and was the co-owner of Chateaux Palmer and the owner of Chateaux Angludet, both in Margaux. I recently bought a copy of his biography- The Secrets of My Life (self published). The 94 years young Peter has always been my hero. In the 1980s Blue Nun Liebfaumilich sold over 1.3 million cases in the United States and propelled Stiller & Meara to even greater fame doing their radio commercials.
For those of you who are familiar with the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) in Langley Virginia, there is also the Culinary Institute of America, in several locations around the U.S. Peter was involved in both operations (The spy one was first known as the OSS when Peter joined it). Being a German Jew in the late 1930s Germany led to a fascinating escape plan by his parents to get the family to France and then England. Eventually the family settled in New York City and Peter joined the US Army in 1941. Because he spoke both German and French he helped recruit German prisoners of war as spies. Much of this hush hush work meant that Peter needed clearance from the CIA before publishing his book. That took many years and much redacting of his exploits. He also worked in Washington DC and in Hong Kong as CIA station chief in the 1950s. He resigned in 1959 and joined the family wine business.
The rest of the book discusses his involvement in the wine business, first with the importer Schieffelin, then the sale of Blue Nun and as part owner of Chateau Fourcas Hosten in the Medoc (since sold). I did not realize he had been married twice since I have known Stella Sichel for as long as I have known Peter. Married 55 years with two daughters- Bettina (part owner of Laurel Glen Vineyards in Sonoma) and Sylvia. His daughter Alexandra passed away in 2014 from breast cancer. She made a movie “A women like me” dealing with her terminal cancer. It is available on Netflix.
For more information or to buy any Peter M. F. Sichel’s books see below:
CLICK HERE TO SEE ALL OF RESIDENT INSIDER