Graff entered the Navy after graduating from Harvard. In 1964 he was released from the service and tasted wine made from Chalone for the first time. He immediately saw the potential of the property. Soon after, Graff purchased 160 acres in the rugged hills east of the Salinas Valley.
He used French oak imported from Burgundy and careful malolactic fermentation to make one of California’s benchmark Chardonnays. At the 1976 Blind Tasting in France, Graff’s 1974 Chalone Vineyard Chardonnay ranked an impressive third in the white category.
As the Chalone Group acquired other properties, Graff tried to maximize the quality of each. He was later a co-founder of the American Institute of Wine and Food. Tragically, he died in a plane crash in 1998.