As the saying goes, Chris Pearmund is a man in a hurry. However, the work, particularly the world of wine, government processes and the wine industry, just can’t keep up. Chris is in the process of opening Northern Virginia’s newest vineyard, Effingham Manor, in Nokesville, VA.
Building out the new processing and tasting facility and restoring the historic manor house are the easy parts. You see, Chris has had his hand involved in more than two dozen vineyard projects over the years, and intends to open one a year going forward. No, the problem isn’t that he isn’t ready to open, the problem lies within the Prince William planning processes that have slowed overall approval of this vineyard to a snails pace due to the “adaptive reuse of the historic property”. Chris hopes (fingers crossed) that eventual approval will translate into a mid-October debut.
Effingham Manor is a jewel of an historic place, encompassing about 16 acres (1.5 now in cultivation) with beautiful views and a handful of historic out buildings. William Alexander constructed the Manor in 1767. He was a great grandson of John Alexander, the namesake of Alexandria, Virginia. The site is currently on the National Register of Historic Places. The Manor house, located on a main north/south thoroughfare in Colonial times, was the resting post for many of the most famous founders of our Nation. In fact, there is still liv
ing evidence on the site – a Western Cypress tree given to the family by Lewis & Clark after their return from their western expedition.
Chris’ involvement with the vineyard means that this magnificent site will now be open to the public and preserved in perpetuity for all to visit and enjoy. On top of that, visitors will also be able to taste and take home some of the award winning wines (Effingham’s Rose was just awarded number one in the country for their Chambourcin-based blush) that Chris and the Effingham team produce. A win-win situation if there ever was one.
During @livemore’s visit to the site, Chris provided us a tour of the facility and offered up some great insights on his involvement in the Virginia wine industry as well as a look toward the future. As we said, Chris is anxious to push Virginia’s burgeoning wine industry forward, and FAST. Our brief conversation with Chris follows.
Q – You own and operate two other wineries, why Effingham and why now? What makes this winery different?
A – Effingham has fantastic history and potential and needs to be protected and should be made available to the
public as a resource. The winery venue in my mind is the perfect answer. The previous owners came to me about doing exactly this.
Q – With the growth of vineyards in Northern Virginia (particularly Loudoun County) do you believe there is still unmet demand, and why?
A – Virginia has opened 200 wineries in the last decade. There will always exist room for an exceptional team of winery management and award winning wines paired with a warm, inviting, comfortable atmosphere in an historical or particular setting. The bar has been raised for others to meet, and a minimum floor has been set to help in future success. Our national per capita consumption is less than half of Europe, lets raise a glass of wine and catch up to better foods and lifestyles we all can appreciate.
Wineries are increasing in popularity every year in the United States. Previously, wine makers rarely interacted with customers; much like you don’t expect to order a hamburger in a restaurant and chat with the cattle farmer. Only in the past decade, really, have consumers come to enjoy and expect spending time at vineyards and wineries, learning more about the wines they drink and how they’re made.
Comparing wine in the United States to Europe, we’re still fairly new at producing wine yet we are already the largest wine-producing nation in the world. Our per capita consumption, however, is only at about 50% of that of Spain or Italy. We have some catching up to do!
Q – You’ve been in the business for some time and are quite knowledgeable and are well respected by your peers. What is your assessment of Virginia’s wine industry and what is your opinion of its future?
A – Virginia has come a long way, and it still a teenager in its evolution of winery development for quantity and consistency, but has developed respected regional character. The agro-tourism side has done very well, but we need to bring our wines outside of Virginia to anchor our future. The state has been fantastic in making a path; it’s the wineries turn to make an investment in regional and national distribution.
Q – Is this it for you? Or do you anticipate growing your brand/operations further in the future?
A – I plan to keep going for at least another decade. Our goal is to continue opening wineries with a consistent management all with the similar operating systems, quality of customer service, top-notch wines but with distinct settings, scenery and story. The Virginia wine industry has a strong future when run like a business sector.
Q – And lastly, what’s your preferred wine?
A – My favorite wines are generally reds that have been in the bottle a few years, made by small producers. I am always on the hunt for the next expressive wine that I’m not yet familiar with be it bubbles, red or white. Mass produced food and wine has its place, but I enjoy the passion of expression and regional identity.