Pearmund Cellars up for saleBy
Fauquier County vintner positions himself for career shift
Tracking Chris Pearmund down can be a challenge. The man is seemingly everywhere as he expands his wine realm.
Case in point: This writer recently placed a call to the wine maven and after the eighth ring heard him answer with a groggy, “Hello?”
Did I catch him at a bad time? “No, no, it’s four o’clock,” he responded. Indeed, it was exactly 4:05 p. m. “Not here. It’s four in the morning. I’m in Beijing.”
Ooops. Sorry about that.
But the ill-timed call was not surprising. The peripatetic wine merchant is constantly on the move as he consults, buys or sells wineries at a brisk pace.
His latest move is placing his original business, Pearmund Cellars, on the market. The asking price is $5 million. The property includes his home, twenty-five acres of land—fifteen in productive Chardonnay vines—and the winery. He has tasked two real estate agencies with extensive experience in the Virginia wine trade to find a buyer.
And if the new owner wishes to retain Pearmund as a consultant, he will oblige.
In January, Pearmund sold a seventy-five percent interest in his Winery at La Grange in Haymarket to a major Chinese firm, Beida Jade Bird. “The sale was valued at $5.6 million and I retained 25% ownership. I currently run the operation as the managing partner,” he said.
Pearmund’s quest is to advance the Virginia wine trade beyond the state’s borders and believes China is one of the lucrative markets. But he’s not limiting himself to just Virginia wine.
“There is a growing class of wealthy Chinese who are interested in an upscale lifestyle, including wine. Annual per capita consumption in China is less than one liter. Europe enjoys a 35 liter consumption rate and the US an eight liter. China has a huge potential for growth,” he says.
To underscore his point, he recently sold a container of Washington state wine—14,400 bottles—to a wealthy Chinese businessman who intends to gift a bottle to each of his employees. Pearmund will ship the wine with a customized corporate label affixed.
Why his involvement in wine other than from Virginia? “I’d love to sell more Virginia product overseas but, frankly, there’s not enough of it. Over the last several years there’s been a five-fold increase in wineries in the state but only a two-fold growth increase in productive vineyards. There’s a looming shortage of fruit with a commensurate opportunity for growers,” he explains.
In the interim, Pearmund will shift gears and focus on both domestic and international sales of Virginia and other wines, primarily those from Washington State, where he has close ties with some of its industry leaders.
In addition, Beida Jade Bird has hired him as its consultant and spokesperson. The multi-billion dollar corporation is a high technology enterprise focused on the production of software and advanced technologies and has made a commitment to pursuing the wine trade. “The firm is eager to advance their wine business but needs resources to make that happen. I’ll be providing my expertise,” he says.
Pearmund explains his latest ventures were driven largely by Lyme disease he contracted two years ago. “I lost a year of productive work. Lyme robs you of both physical and emotional energy. I pretty much turned the operations of my wineries over to my senior staff, Melissa Stephan and DJ Leffin. They performed beautifully. When I began to recover my strength, I realized I didn’t have to manage on a day to day basis. It reduced my stress and opened doors to new projects,” he says.
One of those projects was attending the fifth annual wine show in Beijing where he was awakened by an inquisitive reporter. “It’s an amazing scene here. There are hundreds of wineries from around the globe pouring thousands of wines for Chinese buyers. Only five are from the US, and only one from Virginia—me,” he says.
With his vision extending well beyond the borders of the Old Dominion, will Pearmund be leaving the area? “I have no intention of moving out of Fauquier County. I’ve lived here since ‘84 and love the area and its people.”
By moving into international business, the former substitute school teacher and native from Great Britain is paralleling his father’s career, who is a senior vice president for a world banking association. “Not many people know my family is exceptionally successful. My father has been to China dozens of times over the last several decades. He’s pleased to see me make this move, especially with my focus on China,” he says.
And as for his health? “I’m almost fully recovered from the Lyme attack. I’ve been walking five miles a day here in Beijing, my diet is nutritionally sound and I’m still enjoying wine daily. I’m eager to see what I can accomplish in this new arena.”
Published in the April 27, 2012 edition of the Fauquier-Times Democrat.