Alan Peirson joined the Peter Michael Winery in 1983 and became responsible for managing the estate from very early on. A true Renaissance man, Alan was an art history graduate who would spend some twenty years working on almost every aspect of the property—designing, building, reforesting the land, planting gardens, and creating the network of paths that meander through the trees and along the restored creek. And, when he had the time and inspiration, creating art.

Right off, I perceived in him an artistic talent beyond his day job. Alan began to produce a wide range of utensils and ornaments that he gave away or sometimes sold and then started putting his talents toward sculpture, using materials from the ranch. I admired the permanence of sculpture and encouraged him not only to use his skills to add art to the landscape but also to establish an art-in-residence program to offer aspiring artists a place to create their art.

There are about sixty pieces of sculpture scattered around the garden and grounds of the Peter Michael Winery. I love them all and feel grateful for the time, talent, and imagination of those who made them and helped make us what we are. Visitors have the freedom to consider how they like them, too. I’m not at all creative in the pure artistic sense but feel that to have helped a few young artists get a leg up in a hard world is a tick in a box somewhere.

Totem by Alan Peirson.

My own interest in contemporary sculpture led to me becoming vice patron to the Royal British Society of Sculptors (RBS)—the late Queen Elizabeth II was Patron—as I attempted to lead this slightly quirky organisation into some sort of development programme. It’s a hard, difficult, and unrewarding life as a young sculptor who is unknown, unsupported, and without commissions to live on.

So, we started a competition for budding sculptors that required them to compete for a serious prize by submitting their concepts to a selection committee that included Lord Norman Foster and other well-known names to lend significant weight. It attracted high-quality entries, and we weren’t disappointed with hundreds of applicants, many of whom had fascinating ideas.

New York Man by Alan Peirson.

The committee opined, and we interviewed those we thought the best before they were given the opportunity to spend a year in California with a bursary and sculptor support from Alan Peirson, who doubled as artist in residence and ranch manager. This programme proved very successful. John Tinney was perhaps the most successful, having worked in concrete sculpture in California and then later set up a business of polished concrete kitchen surfaces somewhere in the West Country.