Virginia’s Heritage wine

By Posted on Oct 18 2018 | By

Collaborative effort captures 400 years of lightening in a bottle

On July 30, 1619, the first legislature in the English colonies met and established a set of laws governing Virginia. The House of Burgesses set in motion events that shaped the democratic process, cultural diversity, historical traditions and the entrepreneurial spirit in the United States.

Yes, it was that important.

The Virginia Tourism Corporation will celebrate the four-century seminal event with numerous activities during 2019. But a select number of Virginia wineries have taken the lead in observing a segment of the watershed moment in American history.

The nexus for the industry’s involvement was a document emanating from the young government called Acte XII. It established a wide-ranging set of laws directing the growth and success of the new colony.

One section addressed the importance of establishing a commercial wine industry. Specifically, it read, “…be it enacted by this present assembly that every householder does yearly plant and maintain ten vines, until they have attained to the art and experience of dressing a vineyard…”.

To support the nascent wine culture, in 1621 King James directed that 10,000 grape vines be sent to the colonies. They were accompanied by eight French winemakers to ensure the success of the endeavor.

Alas, the early efforts did not take root in the state’s hostile climate that included heat, cold, humidity, insects and fungi. The delicate French grapes balked at being forced to work under such conditions and did not thrive.

Nonetheless, it launched a wine industry in Virginia that ebbed and flowed until the late 1970s when the cumulative experience of almost four centuries, coupled with scientific advances, catapulted Virginia into the fifth largest wine producing state in the Nation.

Today, the Commonwealth has over 300 wineries producing over a half million cases of wine annually and generating $747 million to the state’s economy. King James would have been proud.

Celebratory bottle
Fauquier County’s own Chris Pearmund recognized the state’s yearlong celebration as an opportunity to showcase the success of Virginia wine. Pearmund, 56, owns Pearmund Cellars, Vint Hill Craft Winery and Effingham Manor Winery and has been involved in opening numerous other Virginia wineries over the past two decades.

Virginia’s 400-year history will be celebrated far beyond just its contribution to winemaking in the new world. So much has unfolded in the state in the ensuing four centuries Pearmund knew he had to highlight the state’s role as the cradle of wine production in the U.S.

“I started the Heritage wine project two years ago. I realized no one was talking about the wine industry as it related to the birth of the state. If we were going to do something, we needed to get started,” said Pearmund.

If you want something done, ask a busy person. In this case, Pearmund appointed himself as the doer bee.

He developed the concept of creating a celebratory bottle of red wine that reflected the best the state had to offer. He reached out to a select number of quality producers asking them to contribute one barrel of their best red wine to the project. Sixteen wineries responded.

Back in his cellar Pearmund began blending the wines into a unique, full-bodied dinner wine. He aged it in Virginia white oak barrels for 16 months, designed a shaved Birchwood label and packaged the bottle in a presentation case.

“The entire effort was focused on Virginia components, including a mid-1800s machine that was used to make the presentation box in Richmond. We produced 10,000 bottles to commemorate the 10,000 vines that were shipped to Virginia back in the early 1600s,” said Pearmund.

Each participating winery has a supply of the wine that will go on sale the last weekend in September in concert with October’s Virginia Wine Month. The retail price is $59 a bottle and once sold out will not be reissued, making it a unique collector’s wine.

The 16 participating wineries are: Aspen Dale, Cooper Vineyards, Glass House, Effingham Manor, Ingleside, New Kent, Pearmund Cellars, Phillip Carter, Rappahannock Cellars, Potomac Point, Rosement, Naked Mountain, Narmada, Vint Hill Craft, Williamsburg and the Winery at Bull Run.

Nine of the sixteen wineries are in or border Fauquier County.

“The wine can be aged for at least 10 years. It’s a blend of 44 percent Merlot, 25 percent Petit Verdot, 12 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 10 percent Cabernet Franc and nine percent Tannat. It’s a big wine.

“The reason the wine exists demonstrates how the industry worked collaboratively and in unison to produce a wine representing the Virginia industry. We sold 20 cases to the Governor’s’ office for a dollar a bottle that will be used throughout next year’s celebrations,” Pearmund said.

The wine mirrors a Spanish Rioja Alta in style. Its focus is on dark fruits of black cherry, with spicy notes of cinnamon and vanilla on both the nose and mid-palate. An earthy and smoky texture of sweet tobacco, cedar and cherry liqueur presents on the finish. While drinkable today, its flavors will deepen with further aging.

For a full description of the wine, its production and an informative video pull the cork at http://www.virginiasheritage.com/


Published in the October 15, 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times. 

Categories : WINE ARTICLES