Monday, December 3, 2012
Jim Law and Linden Vineyards in Virginia – A Profile, USA
Linden Vineyards - a 5,000 case winery and vineyard situated on the Virginia Blue Ridge, 65 miles west of Washington, D.C. - was the final stop of the TasteCamp Virginia Tour a few months ago. Linden Vineyards owner and winemaker Jim Law is something of god in the wine world of Virginia. Jim Law conducted a personal tour of his Hardscrabble site for us and led us through a tasting of his wines. TasteCamp 2012 clearly ended on a very high note.
For a general overview about TastCamp 2012 see:
TasteCamp 2012 in Virginia, USA – A Tour d’Horizont
Jim Law, with family help, purchased what was then an abandoned hardscrabble farm in 1983. The first 6 acres were cleared and prepared for planting. The 1985 planting included Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Vidal and Seyval. The first vintage was 1987 and the first release and opening of the winery was in 1988.
“In 2002 we built our dream crush/press facility that we believe will put us in the position to make great wines. New sorting tables and the gentler handling of grapes have already yielded wines with more purity and finesse” said Jim.
Three vineyards supply all the grapes used to make Linden wines: Hardscrabble, the estate vineyard, 21 acres surrounding the winery; Boisseau, 4 acres, 7 miles west of Linden, and Avenius, 5 acres, less than one mile north of Linden Vineyards.
An Ohio native, Jim is the owner/winemaker of Linden Vineyards and winegrower of Hardscrabble. He studied in Europe. 2 years teaching of agriculture as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zaire led to the desire to grow grapes.
Jim’s first vineyard job was in Indiana where he traded work for a place to live. He then got a real job in Ohio at Chalet Debonne where he learned the nuts and bolts of grape growing and cellar work. In 1981 Jim was hired to start a winery in the Shenandoah Valley where he fell in love with the area and viticultural possibilities. In the mid 1980s, while establishing Linden Vineyards, he consulted for other wineries and taught winegrowing at local community colleges.
Shari is Linden’s director and owner/winegrower of Avenius Vineyard. A New York native, she went to college in Virginia. Since 1989 Shari’s background in laboratories and management has made Linden a well-oiled machine. Along with all her responsibilities at Linden, Shari planted her own eponymous vineyard in 1996.
“I am always mindful that a wine’s first job is to complement a meal. Because of this I prefer wines that have good acidity and structure, with moderate alcohol.
My inspiration comes from Europe. The vineyards are my focus. Soil, site and micro-climate are more important than grape variety. We are winegrowers and our best wines carry the vineyard designation on the label.
Many of our wines are unfined or unfiltered. We work hard in the vineyard to get as much concentration from the grape as possible. We are non-interventionists in the cellar. The result is wine with more flavor and texture. This can be at the expense of sediment or haze in the bottle. This is a risk that we feel is worth the benefit.”
“Our vineyard practices are French inspired. For many years I traveled to California to learn techniques and philosophies in the vineyard. Eventually it became apparent that I needed to look east rather than west. In the non-Mediterranean viticultural areas of France, growers experience situations similar to ours here in the mountains of Virginia: diverse soils, erratic weather and a small scale. They have learned to micro-manage each site according to its needs. They have learned how to change vineyard practices as the growing season unfolds: hot, wet, dry, cold.”
Tasting Linden Wines
The visit ended with a tasting of Linden wines, led by Jim Law and Shari Avenius. Shannon Jones from Grape Occasions has provided excellent tasting notes, which you find below.
• 2011 Avenius Sauvignon Blanc: He loves this wine, even though in his 32 vintages, 2011 was the worst ever. This grape needed just three to four more days on the vine, but as the rains continued in September, they wound up picking in pouring rain to get it off the vine. We tasted that green apple acidity but he said it should be gone after three to four more months in the bottle.
• 2009 Avenius Chardonnay: This wine is the Chablis-style like he likes. 2009 was a great year for white. This one had a tropical nose and fruity white pepper taste.
• 2009 Hardscrabble Chardonnay: This wine came from the buds we first saw on the vineyard, the oldest vines. You could taste the complexity and depth coming through.
• 2008 Hardscrabble Red: 2008 was a classic red year. This combination of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 7% Petit Verdoux and 7% Merlot was full of cherry and cedar.
• 2008 Avenius Red: At 72% Petit Verdoux and 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, we heard from Jim, as the other Virginia winemakers we spent time with, about Petit Verdoux being a big grape. Because of that, it’s the only varietal red they do. This combination was caramel and red fruit forward.
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