The mantra of success at Perennial Vineyards must be “If you build it, they will come,” because it surely isn’t “Location, location, location.”
The 10-year-old winery is in Bethlehem Township and surrounded by farmland. But those who find their way to Perennial quickly realize the bucolic setting is but a disguise for a sophisticated destination.
Appreciation of this charming contradiction is evident on the faces of first-time visitors as they walk over a gravel parking lot to a whitewashed barn, then step through the doorway. The interior decor is rustic grotto with notes of elegance and a Tuscany finish.
“We are in the middle of nowhere,” admits owner Damon Leeman. “We like to be the ‘find’ that people are happy to visit.”
When the crowds outgrew the original tasting room, Leeman added the current dining room, made from straw and stucco.
“We built it from straw bales from the farm. It’s real warm insulation,” Leeman said.
The dining room includes a small stage for musicians and a stone fireplace and a mixture of tall and low tables with stools and benches. Every seat is filled on weekends, especially in the summer, so call for reservations.
Leeman and staff take great pains to let visitors know the menu is simple and limited, both on their website and when you call for a reservation.
I think the warning is unnecessary.
The mantra followed here is “Do what you know, and do it better than anyone else.”
They do pizza, and they do it very, very well.
Some pizzas have a traditional bread crust, others have a light, flakey phyllo dough crust. Toppings range from the expected — sausage, spinach, banana peppers — to the surprising — pancetta, artichokes, Brie.
Brie also is served as an appetizer, baked inside a flaky crust and brushed with honey. Creamy perfection, and large enough to share with three or four.
Perennial’s wine list includes something for every taste, with an emphasis on fruitier styles.
For white aficionados, there is a Riesling-esque selection called True North.
Those who prefer a drier white should try the signature Vidal Blanc, the primary grape grown on the property and winner of many awards.
The red wine list includes a barrel-aged Chambourcin, of which Leeman is particularly proud, with 100 percent of the grapes grown on his property.
I enjoyed the slightly tart Wine Dog Red. Leeman donates $1 for every bottle sold to the Murphy Foundation (named for his dog) to help area animals in need. But my favorite was the smooth, dry Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah blend, made with a grape from California, where Leeman’s brother is a winemaker.
If you’re not sure what to order, take advantage of the 25 cent samples.
We tasted eight wines before making a decision.
The crowd at Perennial, from the 20-somethings to the retirees, is casual and fun — even singing along with the entertainer when invited — but not rowdy.
If you visit during the summer, check out the beautiful patio behind the winery with a view of the main vineyard.
Leeman has 15 acres planted with vines so far, and plans to add two more. He also will be adding hiking trails to the 89-acre farm later this year.
Perennial, at 11877 Poorman St. SW, is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1 to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 1 to 10 p.m. For reservations, call 330-832-3677.