Tom and Katie Parmeson were living in Houston where much of their family is from when they began enjoying wine. Actually, Katie did while Tom stuck to beer until one day they decided to taste some very good wines. And, then they invited friends over to bring more wine and tasted even better wines.
History of Parmeson Wines
Many long tables of wine were consumed and many hangovers conquered when Tom began to understand the science and elegance of wine. A trip in 2005 offered a teaser to life in the Sonoma County wine country. When they visited the Nachbaurs of Acorn Winery, Tom audaciously asked Betsy if he could come help during harvest. Winemakers don’t usually turn down free help. In fact, the week Tom worked, harvest set a pattern for several years to come.
Squirreling away vacation time while working as an oil and gas engineer, Tom headed to Sonoma County whenever possible. He offered himself as free labor to Acorn and later to Mauritson Wines. At Maritson, the Nachbaurs made a majority of their wine under the tutelage of Clay Mauritson. Tom's introduction to winemaking could not have been with more kind and knowledgeable folks.
A few more trips convinced Tom and Katie that Sonoma County—specifically Healdsburg—should become home. Katie found a job in high tech in late 2012 and Tom and the boys moved mid-term 2013. All three boys—now 7, 10 and 12—go to school in Healdsburg and have made the transition well. With Katie set in her high tech job, it was time for Tom Parmeson to get down to winemaking.
As a newcomer, grape contracts can be hard to negotiate and, therefore, the best fruit is sometimes beyond reach. But, Tom had done time in the trenches and had the recommendations from Acorn—and Mauritson—and a bit of savings and was able to secure contracts on amazing Chardonnay from the Josephine Hill farmed by the Martinelli family.
The Parmeson 2013 Chardonnay is a spectacular expression of elegance with green apple and honeysuckle on the nose and flavors of baked apple and lemon drop candy in the mouth. Long, creamy finish with balance and acidity, this wine is perfect now but could age for a few years given its oak aging.
Much of what Tom Parmeson learned was on the job. He supplemented hands-on work with education at UC Davis and winemaking skills learned remotely from Washington State University. There, he learned to appreciate wines from the Northwest.
Sampling Parmeson Wines
The first wine I tasted from Parmeson was Tom’s 2013 Pinot Noir from Wildcat Mountain Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast appellation. This area lies close to the San Francisco Bay. It gets cool fog and warms up during the day increasing the Pinot Noir’s deep fruit profile. As Tom points out, “The secret to the success of this Pinot is its unique micro climate. Each morning a layer of morning fog from the bay blankets the vineyard. As the sun burns off the fog, the vines are met with a constant afternoon breeze.”
This is a memorable Pinot Noir with stewed cherries, spices and herbs on the nose and silky cherry flavors with richness in the mouth and acidity that balances into a long finish. Beautifully crafted for roast chicken or smoked salmon.
Rounding out the 2013 offerings from Parmeson is a spicy field blend from the Alegría Vineyard of Acorn Winery where Tom Parmeson began his winemaking journey. This is old vine Zinfandel planted by Italian immigrants and its beauty endures today.
“To think that some of these vines were planted in the 1890s is unbelievable,” says Tom. “In keeping with the original traditional of field blending, this Zinfandel is grown and blended with mostly Petite Syrah and Alicante Bouschet to give it very unique aromas and flavors.”
The dried cherries and currants on the nose with tones of white pepper and nutmeg and a bit of vanilla give way to fruit and spice in the mouth and balance throughout. A cooler climate makes this an elegant Zinfandel for pairing with steak and hard cheeses, maybe even a blue cheese sauce.
Getting Parmeson Wines
It has changed the winemaking and marketing game for Parmeson Wines now that Locals Tasting Room in Geyserville is pouring Parmeson Wines. More people are able to appreciate and taste them, leading to more and more sales. Stop by Locals during Barrel Tasting Weekends for a chance to try Tom’s new Parmeson Rosé of Pinot Noir from the Wildcat Vineyard. Parmeson will soon release a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Munselle Vineyard in Alexander Valley as well as a Parmeson Sauvignon Blanc.
The Parmeson family has integrated well into life in Healdsburg and Tom is making knock-out wines. But the family still keeps an eye on the Texas wine scene. Although California wines are spectacular, there is no place like home—and it’s a fraction of the price to plant a vineyard in Texas.
You can order Parmeson Wines and have them shipped to a number of states. Check online at Parmeson Wines for a list of states available for shipping and for details about visiting the winery.