Thursday, December 22, 2011


I discovered the artistry of Chris Pearmund earlier this year when I bought a bottle of his wine in a Richmond liquor store while visiting Richmond on business. I was floored. Again, the great state of Virginia called my namme, so this time I decided to explore for myself Pearmund's series of wineries.

Pearmund is involved as the winemaker at three different wineries: The Winery at La Grange; Vint Hill Craft Winery; and Pearmund Cellars.

Chris explained to Virginia wine blogger John Haggarty how he got involved in wine.
"I worked at Clyde’s in Tysons Corner in the ’80s as their wine specialist and managed both the front and back operations of many other restaurants. I loved the concept of creating food with quality ingredients. The same concept applies to winemaking. I wanted to make myself more marketable by earning stripes in both the food and wine business. However, the restaurant industry is a daily repetitive grind while winemaking revolves around an annual production cycle. It’s hard to get burned out in the wine industry. There’s simply more variety, longer vision and less repetition. Once I entered the wine industry, I never looked back."

Today, he is a wine impressario.

Pearmund Cellars
I started with Pearmund Vineyards. Pearmund Vineyards is one of the closest wineries nearest Washington, DC, which is why I chose it first. Established in 1976 it originally hosted nine different grape varieties. Today they stick to chardonnay on the property, as they are the most successful grapes to grow with respect to this terroir. They have 15 acres and 11,000 vines of Chardonnay, cultivars or clones of Chardonnay to help increase the complexity of their wine. They also source from the premier vineyards of Virginia that specialize in one particular grape variety.

The winery is a classic looking winery, with a very large, open, spacious tastingroom, equipped when neccessary to hold a lot of people, but set up in the off hours with a large tasting bar, a check out counter, and a sitting area complete with small tables and chairs, a sofa, comfortable chairs, and a fireplace.

From the tastingroom, the barrel room can be view through a large set of glass doors. It is large, neat, and orderly, and lit by beautiful chandeliers. Impressive.

2010 Petite Manseng - I have found a new love. Petite Manseng is a grape primarily grown in southern France. The grape is grown primarily in the Languedoc, Juran├žon and Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh but has recently drawn interest in New World wine regions like California, Virginia and Australia. It seems to be follwong the path of Viognier. This is a distinctive dry, white wine with rich aromas of candied fruit, lemongrass, pineapple, spice and honey. This nose, much like Viognier, really explodes from the mouth of the glass. Again, like Viongier, the drinker might think the wine will be sweet, but instead is met with a ight, brisk, refreshing, clean, dry, white wine. Very, very pretty. A sensational wine. Loved it! Fantatstic!

2009 Viognier - My old love, whom I am still very much attached to - Virginia Viognier. This is a nice Viongier, with a love nose pear and ripe apple and honeysuckle slowly froth out of the glass. 100% malolactic fermentation

The reds were all gorgeous. Smooth and drinkable. Soft tannins. Really pretty.

2009 Merlot - Big fruit with a soft finnish. The grapes are from Silver Creek Orchards. On the nose there were dark cherries and dried cherries. A hint of vanilla. Some earth. Saddle leather. The fruit was big up front on the tasting, with soft tannins and low acidity. Really very nice.

2009 Cab Franc - For a true description of this wine, you'll have to refer to my post from April 2011. But that was 2008, this is 2009. But the profile is generally the same. A fruit bomb of a wine, this is one of the most expressive Cab Francs I have ever had. The tradition at Winery at La Grange continues. Dark raspberry, white pepper, and a hint of pencil shavings all on the nose. Dark raspberries and a hint of stewed dark fruit, with a beautiful mouth feel - again, low tannins, low acidity, big fruit. Incredible. Possibly one of the best red wines of the east coast.

2009 Armitage - This is a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Verdot. A lovely meritage-style wine. Excellent.

2009 Petitte Verdot - I love Petitte Verdot, so this was an easy one. Big, big berry profile - all dark. Lush. Intense. A dark, purple-ish wine. Nice tannins. Big flavor. Wonderful!

The Winery at La Grange

The winery itself is an incredible and unique venue. La Grange is a restored three and a half story red brick manor house built in the 1790s. With huge doorways and fireplaces in everyroom, the winery is a gorgeous labrynth of little cozy rooms, complete with arm chairs, sofas, and piles of board games. The Winery at La Grange is Prince William County's premier winery nestled at the foot of Bull Run Mountain.

In September 2006, it opened as a winery, thanks to an investment group led by Pearmund. With 5,500 new Cabernet Sauvignon vines and a new winery building, the winery is set to make its mark. Total production is about 4,000 cases and includes Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat, Norton and Merlot. The winery also produces Meritage (a Bordeaux-style blend), a sparkling wine, and port.

A path beset with greens on either side leads back to the winery and the barrel room. Gorgeous!

The tank room.
A few wine highlights from La Grange:

2009 Viognier - Again, one of my favorites. The grapes come from Hollins Farm. Made in Hungarian Oak, this highly aromatic elixir, was made in stainless steel, and then aged for six months in French Oak. Honeysuckle and lychee come fruit, also apricot and honey. But make no mistake. This ia a very lovely whie wine.

2010 Norton - Kline wrote Wild Vines, about the history of the Norton grape. This wine would amuse him. The grapes are a combination of Missouri Norton 77% and Virginia Cabernet Sauvignon 23%. Big, rich, and intense. A lot of spice. Not as gamey as many pure Norton's. A very nice wine, which shows this native rape can do somehting with a touch of blending. My favorite Norton! Very nice.

2009 Meritage - A melange of Cab Sav, Merlot, Cab Franc and Petitte Verdot, this is a wonderful deep red wine made 1/2 in American Oak and 1/2 in French Oak. This is a very well made Bordeaux-styled blend with plum and raspberry, and hints of dusty autumn leaves. Excellent.

General's Battlefield Red - Malbec, Cab Sav., Petitte Verdot, Tannat and Chambourcin. This is a wonderful, big, deep, hearty wine with incredible and intense flavors. It has been aged over a year in Virginia oak barrels made from trees grown just a few miles away from the winery on the historic site of the battles of Manassas. An absolute winner.

2008 Tannat - This is one of the biggest surprises of the visit. Tannat is a red wine grape, historically grown in South West France in the Madiran AOC and is now one of the most prominent grapes in Uruguay, where it is considered the "national grape". It is also grown in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Peru, and in Italy's Puglia region where it is used as a blending grape. In the US state of Virginia, there are small experimental plantings of the vine. These grapes come from a vineyard/farm named Honah Lee. This is a dark red wine with intense color and flavor. Its got huge dark flavors of deep respberry and cassis, with relatively low acids, and nice, classically structured tannins. An intense wine. I really liked this. A wonderful surprise!!!

2009 Snort - Possibly one of the best ports available on the east coast today. 23% Cab Sav and 75% Norton. The Solera system of blending 3 vintages (45% 2006, 45% 2007, 10% 2008) produces multiple layers of flavor, texture and depth. A lovely, lovely port, with big flavors, but not too sweet. Fantastic. Will age beautifully for at least 5 to 10 years.

Alas, I could not go to Vine Hill because it was not open while I was down there. Vint Hill Craft Winery was founded in 2009 by Pearmund and a group of savvy business executives and wine enthusiasts. These industry leaders are spearheading this exciting new concept in personalized winemaking; ensuring quality, success and sustainability. The unique state of the art “green” winery is located in historic barns at Vint Hill Farms Station, VA. The barn facility was once a secure listening station used by the U.S. Government from the early 1940s through the late 1990s.

Many ‘custom crush’ wineries focus on vineyards. At Vint Hill Craft Winery the process starts with, and is dedicated to, the art and craft of winemaking. The customers include thos who want to make wine for themselves, be it fruit from Virginia, or California or anywhere else. Some folks grow grapes, and want ot make wine from grapes grown on their land. Other want to buy grapes and make wines for their own restaurants or store. Other come to Vint Hill to get an education in winemaking. It's a unique business model.

Pearmund makes consistent, quality wine, with unique flavor profiles, and exceptional invention. And the customer expereince is always key, and unique as well. Chris has created a fascinating world of wine. And we're living in it. Ain't it great!

Winery at La Grange 2008 Cab Franc review and Pearmund profile:

John Haggarty interview: