Wine-tripping around the Virginia
countryside can be an infuriatingly incongruous experience. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful, with
its rolling, verdant hills and rushing creeks. And you hear such great things about this winery or that one;
you arrive at the impeccably-groomed winery and sip – ugh, dreck. But
what makes each trip worthwhile is unearthing a gleaming gem of a winery –
which actually do exist out there, scattered across Rappahannock,
Faquier and Warren counties, as
well as areas outside Charlottesville. On the last little road trip B & I took
out to Rappahannock County,
we (as usual) made Pearmund Cellars our first stop. We always enjoy the genuine
friendliness and knowledge of the staff and, more importantly, the quality of
We tasted the 2003 Estate Chardonnay, 2003 Viognier, 2003 Cab Franc, 2003 Ameritage (blend of 5 classic Bordeaux varietals), 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003 Late Harvest Vidal and the 2003 Vin de Sol. Although there is a $2 tasting fee, our tasting guy Brian kept the wine flowing, offering us seconds of wines we enjoyed.
As a side note, I've heard that Pearmund's Riesling is excellent, but didn't get a chance to taste it because it was sold out. Our host said they will eventually have it again – and seeing as this visit took place quite some time ago, I'd expect that they'd have it by now.
Here are some favorites of the wines we tasted:
- The Estate Chardonnay was creamy without being overly buttery. Nice, easy drinking white with hints of pear.
- Neither of us are big Cab Franc fans (I usually find its not interesting enough) but this Cabernet Franc was quite complex. It's big, and lengthy
with good fruit, leather and a little spice.
- I'm not usually a Cabernet Sauvignon gal either (Pinot has been my favorite red long before Sideways, and I like elegant reds better than bulldozers), but some Cabs – such as the Abeja, for example, from Washington State, with its smooth tannins and lush fruit – blow me away. I don't think Pearmund's was quite as supple as that example, but it was much more enjoyable than I expected; powerful but layered, and not overwhelmingly tannic. When Brian handed us some dark chocolate and had us taste the Cab again, it tasted just like a chocolate-covered cherry. What had previously been a subtle note became bright, forward fruit. It was a neat trick. Not a wine I would drink everyday but definitely nice with duck or a big ol steak.
- Our next taste, the Late Harvest Vidal, can be found on the wine list at Firefly in the Hotel Madera. B and I are both dessert wine drinkers and ended up buying a bottle of this wine. I grew up near the Niagara and the Finger Lakes wine-growing areas, and have tasted many a dull, cloying ice wine from the region. I expected to find this similar but it was much lighter and a touch flowery with peach and
apricot fruit. It was simple and pleasant, and would work well with a fruit tart or a non-dessert dish like foie gras.
- The other bottle we bought was the Vin de Sol, made in the traditional Spanish style of being "baked" in small glass jars left in the sun. It's the Vidal varietal, and tastes a lot like sherry, but isn't fortified. Brian told us that traditionally (in Spain), each year after the wine is aged, the wine-makers hold a bit back from being bottled, and it gets added to the next year's batch, and so on every year. This way, the wine gets more and more complex as long as they keep making it. Pearmund employs this technique in making the Vin de Sol. The wine works as a nice digestif or even (as Brian put it) as an "adult iced tea." I'd never tasted Vin de Sol before, so I don't have much to compare it to. But I know I'm not all about most sherries. This was less heady than your typical sherry, with a smooth aroma and taste of dried fruit, nuts and a touch of caramel. I imagine retiring to the porch after a nice dinner with friends, bringing out a tray with glasses of chilled Vin de Sol, watching the late summer sun set while telling lively stories of the rebelliousness of our youths. Never mind that I live in a tiny apartment on 15th Street and I'm not even thirty. Not a porch in sight.
After tasting and purchasing, Brian
asked what else we were doing out in Virginia. When I mentioned I wanted to check out the
Epicurious Cow and some cheese-making farms, he called the E-Cow to check on
their hours for us and he let us know about a couple other things to do in the
area. He generously offered us a tour of the barrel room and the chance to
taste right out of the barrels, though we didn't have time. But we definitely plan
on returning to take him up on the offer.
Pearmund usually ends up being a stop on any wine tasting day trip that B and I take, and I'm regularly impressed by the quality of the wines and the winery itself. It's a quiet, low-key place that takes its wine-making quite seriously. It's on the way when you're heading out from DC to Rappahannock or Faquier counties, but if you can't make it there, they have wines on several wine lists in the area (including Mendocino, 2941, Firefly, Colvin Run Tavern and Ardeo). For a full list, or any other info about Pearmund, try their website; The Virginia Wine Guide (my favorite local wine directory); or Virginia Wine Country.
Open Daily, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Additional Hours By Appointment