In 2008, Chris Pearmund received a peculiar call from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) asking for his help. Pearmund had 28 years of winemaking experience at the time, and the EDA wanted him to start a new winery. This one, they explained, would be on an old World War II era spy base in Virginia.
In 1942, the United States Army needed a monitoring system. It had to be close to the U.S. Signaling Intelligence Service’s headquarters in Arlington, Va., yet removed enough to pick up international radio signals, Smithsonian Magazine reports. The Army found a farmhouse 45 miles away in Warrenton, Va. They built a hidden base on the land and named it Vint Hill Farm Station, or, more simply, Monitoring Station No. 1.
The base became an important station during the war. It intercepted a 20-page message from the Japanese ambassador to Germany that contained information about where the Nazis thought the Allies would attack next. That information in the hands of the U.S. helped the Allies storm the beaches of Normandy.
Vint Hill changed hands numerous times over the years. After the Army, the CIA used the barn. The NSA took over after them. In 1993, it was finally time to end surveillance at Vint Hill, but it didn’t go out without a fight. Virginia congressmen wrote that those who wanted to close the base “may not be fully aware of these important classified functions,” the Washington Post wrote at the time.
Eventually the land ended up in the hands of the EDA. Finally, in 2008, the government was ready for help and turned to Pearmund. Today, the winery has a tasting room where spy signals were once intercepted. A brewery, cafe, inn, and The Cold War Museum are nearby. Vint Hill pays tribute to history with a red wine called “Covert Winework’s Enigma” composed of a “secret” blend.
You can try and unlock your own secrets at the tasting room every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.