If you’re becoming familiar with the Virginia wine scene, odds are you’ve heard of executive winemaker Chris Pearmund and Pearmund Cellars. And that, my friend, is a good thing. Not only are they one of the most award-winning wineries in Virginia, they grow grapes or produce wines for other established wineries, including Vint Hill Craft Winery and the Winery at Bull Run. And if you’ve tasted Pearmund’s wines, it’s likely you’ve added some of their bottles to your collection.
The drive through Pearmund’s property is one of the first rewards of visiting. Open your windows or put the top down. The rows of vines, the flowers, the terrain of the hills. We’ve had more than one set of friends comment that the look and feel is reminiscent of outer areas of Sonoma.
The winery is situated on the Meriwether Vineyard, one of the oldest working vineyards on the east coast (40 years and counting), and is dedicated to 11,000 vines of Chardonnay or clones of Chardonnay.
The tasting room, barrel room, and winery are expansive. Even during harvest season, you’ll find plenty of elbow room, both indoors and outdoors. And feel free to bring the pooch. The grounds are perfect for a little game of catch with your furry pal.
With a wide wraparound porch and an abundance of Adirondack chairs facing endless rows of Chardonnay, you’ll want to hang out after the tasting. We tested them out–I’m surprised I’m still not sitting there.
But let’s be honest, you’ll be coming to Pearmund for what’s on the inside. Pearmund’s tasting room is packed with awards, on tables, in glass cases, even banners across the walls. As you dive into the tasting, you’ll soon learn why.
Our server, Kathleen, gave a tasting of ten wines and provided awesome insights into the backgrounds of each as she poured. Along with the Chardonnay vines growing right on site, Pearmund also grows Viognier, Riesling, Vidal, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Vidal at other Pearmund-owned vineyards. Kathleen also furnished a traditional pour of the Ameritage against an aerated pour, so I could appreciate the subtle shift in notes.
The $10 tasting included the following wines:
Whites: 2013 Old Vine Chardonnay, 2014 Viognier, 2015 Riesling, and 2015 Petit Manseng;
Reds: 2012 Merlot, 2013 Cabernet Franc, 2013 Petit Verdot, 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013 Ameritage (Bordeaux blend of 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 17% Petit Verdot, 14% Cabernet Franc, 7% Malbec), and 2013 Ameritage Reserve (blend of equal parts Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot).
Pearmund’s tasting is a delight, with not a timid wine on the list. But allow me to focus on a few. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a tough(er) sell on Chardonnays. Everyone’s palate is wired a little differently and mine makes me far more particular with Chardonnays than most other varietals. But Pearmund’s estate grown Chard breaks the mold with a well-rounded wine. Having spent eight months in French Oak barrels, it delivers wonderful proportions of oak, butter and honeysuckle.
Also recommended is the Petit Manseng, of which Pearmund is the largest producer in Virginia. This wine has wonderful layers, with distinct notes of vanilla and citrus on the nose, followed by peach and plum on the palate, and gentle ginger on the finish. Obviously, you could pair this with a variety of foods, but you might enjoy just sipping and enjoying the nuances even more.
I also particularly enjoyed the 2013 Ameritage, fruit-forward and rich, with lots of cherry and medium tannins. I purchased bottles of both the Petit Manseng and Ameritage for the home collection.
Also available was Pearmund’s Farm Use blend, whose varietals and percentages remain a mystery (well, not to the winemakers). And highly recommended by Kathleen.
You can certainly bring a picnic to go with your wine at the facility. But in case you didn’t, Pearmund offers a full choice of nitrate-free charcuterie, breads and crackers, cheeses, and other foods–and they have a pre-made pairing guide for you if you’re looking to enhance or highlight certain notes of their wines (example: the recommend Mountain Valley Cheddar, Greek Olive mix, and Proscuitto with their Petit Manseng–all available at the winery).
I had the pleasure of meeting winemaker Ashton Lough during the tasting. It is always fun to get the inside scoop and better understand what makes a particular winery thrive. Producing fine wines isn’t dramatically different from producing fine art or complex symphonies. And like any art, everyone’s approach is different.
I asked Ashton the biggest challenge of winemaking in the Virginia terroir, I assumed it was that classic spring hard frost that has everyone rushing to put their flowers in the garage. That turns out not to be the case. Ashton explained it is not the late frost (which can actually have some benefits) but rather excessive rain at harvest time, where the resulting warmth and molds can wreak havoc. Timing is everything, and requires less luck and more science and skill.
In any case, Ashton should keep doing what he is doing. At 30,000 cases per year, Pearmund has become a favorite among Virginia wine lovers year after year.
Pearmund’s barrel room is not only a wonderful escape from the summer heat, but a cozy place to open your bottle. What better way to relax than being surrounded by aged oak barrels and antique light fixtures.
Through the side of the barrel room, you can tour the winemaking operation. Witness where the glory is made.
Oh, by the way, the wines aren’t the only things winning awards at Pearmund. Their wine dog, Tug, has also won awards for Best Wine Dog. Meet this guy and you will agree, he’s pretty much everybody’s best friend. And heads up, he loves a good belly rub.
If you like your wine with food, I highly recommend Pearmund–it is a virtual picnic paradise. With oodles of tables on their patio and widely spaced fire pits across their park-like acreage, there is plenty of room to spread out.
For you romantic types, there is even a little wooden bridge over a creek that leads you to a more secluded area with light forestry and tree swings. (Guys: Don’t forget to bring the engagement ring. Or the Petit Verdot.)
The grounds are full of character, with huge wind chimes swinging from a decades-old tree and an old barn still utilized for their heavy equipment.
There is also a large pavilion on site used for various activities, not the least of which simply gazing out over the hills of vines.
Walking the grounds, you’ll find it easy to trace your steps along the magical trail that brought you to this wonderful winery. Forget the yellow brick road. I’d rather follow this one.
Pearmund is an easy drive from Washington D.C. (less than an hour) and a must-visit while you’re on the Fauquier Wine Trail. Find out why they are consistent award winners. Taste and believe.
Pearmund Cellars, located at 6190 Georgetown Road in Broad Run, Virginia.
Want to tour another winery with me? Check out my full list of winery and vineyard visits!