Sweet taste of success

Published 3:01 pm Thursday, December 7, 2023

Summerwind Vineyard thriving after five years

Story by  Brandy Centolanza

This fall marks five years for the tasting room at Summerwind Vineyard. When it first opened to the public, the vineyard had five wines to savor; now it is up to 12. Its latest wine, a Viognier, first became available for consumption this summer.

Summerwind Vineyard, located at 71 Eagle Nest Lane north of Smithfield, is owned and operated by Allen “Al” and Kim Pugh and their daughter Meagan, who has been instrumental in helping run the establishment as the tasting room manager.

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“It’s hard to believe it’s been five years,” Meagan said. “We are lucky to be a family-owned business and that we are thriving. We are more successful than we anticipated and that makes us all so happy.”

She credits the vineyard’s dedicated staff as well as its flavorful wines for the success.

“We wanted to make sure first that our product was good,” she said. “If you have a good product and you have a good staff, those are things that keep people coming back.”

Kim agrees.

“Our employees are great,” she said. “We get a lot of compliments about our staff and how they interact with our customers, how they are very friendly. We have a lot of hard workers.”

Summerwind Vineyard has roughly 11 employees, with additional workers hired seasonally during the summer. 

Though the tasting room itself is celebrating five years, Kim and Al have been experimenting with growing grapes and making wine since 2005 after they moved to the area from Pennsylvania.

“I wanted to try growing grapes since we liked drinking wine,” Kim said. “Wine has always been my drink of choice.”

The couple soon started growing grapes commercially. For 10 years, they sold grapes to other wineries across Virginia, including Smithfield Winery, Williamsburg Winery, Holly Grove Winery and Tarara Winery.  In 2017, they started producing their own wine for Summerwind. The tasting room opened in October 2018 to great fanfare. The tasting room is run out of an old house on property adjacent to where the Pughs live.

“We’ve had such great support from the local community,” Kim said. “We have a big local following.”

Locals and tourists alike can enjoy their glasses of wine as well as various charcuterie dishes inside or outside on the grounds overlooking the water. The vineyard has an enclosed porch as well as a patio with fire pits for cooler temperatures.

“We were very fortunate during COVID because of our large outdoor space,” Kim said. “That saved us and continues to be popular.”

Among their top selling wines is The Warwick Squeak, a dry sparkling wine with some sweetness from strawberry and watermelon rind.

“People just love it, especially during the summer,” Kim said. “They also like The Pagan as well as The James, which is our sweetest. We started making it at the request of some folks who prefer the sweet wines.”

One of Kim’s favorites is the Cabernet Franc.

“It’s our lightest red and extremely versatile,” she said. “It is easy to drink in the summer but is also great to drink during the holidays. I also like the Merlot.”

Another popular drink at Summerwind is the sangria, which Meagan prepares fresh weekly for the taproom in various seasonal flavors.

“It’s a new flavor every week, and we always sell out of it,” Kim said.

Eventually, the Pughs would like to add on to their tasting room, as well as continue to expand their vineyards. Currently, there are about nine acres of vines. They recently planted a new grape varietal, a Chardonel, which is similar to Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc.

“I like talking to people about wine and the process of growing the grapes,” Kim said. “I also enjoy being out in the vines, planting them, watching them grow, and seeing what they turn into.”

Summerwind Vineyard also offers a variety of entertainment for guests. There is live music as well as trivia nights, bingo and yoga. The vineyard sees a lot of customers from Richmond down to Virginia Beach.  

The vineyard and tasting room are open Thursdays, 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Fridays, noon to 9:30 p.m., Saturdays, noon to 8 p.m., and Sundays noon to 6 p.m. For information, visit www.swvsmithfield.com.