It’s Parmeson with an “O” and He Left Oil and Gas for Elegant Wines

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.

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 and 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 and the week Tom came to work harvest set a pattern for several years to come.

Squirreling away vacation time while he worked his day job as an oil and gas engineer, Tom would head out to Sonoma County at every opportunity to don free labor at Acorn and later Mauritson where the Nachbaurs made a majority of their wine under the tutelage of Clay Mauritson.  Needless to say, Tom fell in with the right folks and his introduction to winemaking could not have been with more kind and knowledgeable folks.

A few more working trips and a couple pleasure trips with the family convinced Tom and Katie that Sonoma County and, specifically, Healdsburg, should be their new home. Katie immediately found a job in high tech in late 2012 and Tom and the boys were out in time for the start of school mid-term in 2013.  They all go to school in Healdsburg and now are 7, 10 and 12 with busy baseball and activity schedules.  The boys have made the transition well, Katie found a great job and now Tom Parmeson had 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 with 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 but he supplemented hands-on work with education at UC Davis and remote winemaking skills learned remotely from Washington State University where he learned to appreciate wines from the Northwest as well.

The first wine I tasted from Parmeson was Tom’s 2013 Pinot Noir from Wildcat Mountain Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast appellation.  This area that lies close to the San Francisco Bay 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 as was planted by Italian immigrants and its beauty endures today.

“To think that some of these vines were planted in the 1890’s 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.

Having his wines poured at Locals has changed the winemaking and wine marketing game for Parmeson Wines.  Getting his wines out in front of people to taste has been exponential in sales, exposure and appreciation.  Anyone lucky enough to stop by Locals during Barrel Tasting Weekends has the chance to try Tom’s new Parmeson Rosé of Pinot Noir from the same Wildcat Vineyard.  A Cabernet Sauvignon from the Munselle Vineyard in Alexander Valley is soon to be released as well as a Parmeson Sauvignon Blanc.

Although the Parmeson family has integrated well into life in Healdsburg and Tom is making knock-out wines, he still keeps an eye on the Texas wine scene because, although the wines are spectacular here, there is no place like home (and it’s a fraction of the price to plant a vineyard!)

by Barbara Barrielle

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