Elementary school is often a place where you meet your best friends — and we’re not talking about kids here. Parents are thrust together with other parents, forming friendships that often outlast their children’s. At Fall City Elementary School, it was three teachers who brought their husbands together, and now, years later, some really great wine is flowing from that connection.
Paul and Erika Ribary, Rob and Laurie Wesorick, and Chris and Wendy Stone hung out for years before starting Pearl and Stone Wine Co., based in North Bend.
“We were raising kids, drinking lots of wine, and always talked about how one day we wanted to do something in wine together,” said Chris, whose “day job” happens to be vice president of marketing and communications at the Washington State Wine Commission. Rob works at Microsoft, and Paul owns his own commercial construction company. They kicked around ideas for five years and were delayed a couple of times by the complications of busy lives.
Finally, at Paul’s birthday party, with wine glasses in hand, they all said, “You know what? Let’s make a little bit of wine and see how it goes.” In 2013, they bought some equipment, picked up some fruit from Two Blondes Vineyard, and hired wine consultant Chris Camarda (owner and winemaker at Andrew Will Winery) to steer them in the right direction.
“We knew enough to be dangerous but are smart enough to know what we don’t know,” said Chris.
The first wine they made was a Bordeaux blend called Wandering. They even considered naming the winery after it, but just before they sent in their paperwork, Chris woke up with an epiphany. P(aul) & E(rika) A(nd) R(ob) & L(aurie) and (the) Stone(s) = Pearl and Stone Wine Co.
“The name may be one of the only things we’ve all agreed on,” said Rob. That certainly wasn’t the case when they decided to make a white wine. The six of them blind -tasted more than 60 white wines over one weekend to try to narrow down their choice into first, a varietal, and second, a style. “We didn’t even come close (to agreeing),” said Chris, joined in knowing laughter by Rob and Paul. Instead, they made a rosé of Cabernet Franc called Unemployment Beach (named for the spot in the Snoqualmie River where teens skipping school like to hang out), which has garnered a cult following and sells out within a couple of weeks. Eventually, they did agree on making a Grenache Blanc white wine called Old Rickety — the first vintage will be released this spring, along with the rosé.
The rest of Pearl and Stone wines are red and fall into the Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc) and Rhone (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) blend categories. The wines are made at Paul’s house in North Bend, but they recently finished construction on a new space just east of downtown for production. Tastings will continue to be at Paul’s house until they find a suitable space downtown. “We love it out here. Some of us were born and raised here; we are raising our kids here. Everything about Pearl and Stone is local-focused,” said Chris.
To showcase their love of all things local, they’ve named the Bordeaux blends after mountains (Mailbox Peak, Resolution Peaks) and the Rhone blends after hiking trails (Boulder Loop). They err on the side of minimalist winemaking with little (if any) new oak barrels in their barrel program. As a result, the wines are fresh and fruit-forward, and showcase the best of what Washington has to offer. Relatively low in alcohol for Washington red wines, at 13.5 and 14.2 percent ABV, Pearl and Stone wines are elegantly balanced and perfect for celebrating after surviving yet another PTSA meeting.
“We’re not in this to make money tomorrow. We’re in this because we love wine, we love what we do, we love Washington wine. Maybe we’re building something for our kids, and that’s awesome,” said Chris.
Pearl and Stone Wine Co. is open from 12-5 p.m., Saturdays, at 43015 S.E. 114th St., North Bend; pearlandstonewine.com.