Bon Vivant: (n) a person having cultivated, refined, and sociable tastes especially with respect to food and drink.

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An Afternoon at Linden Vineyards

Posted in: Bon Vivant, Virginia Wine, Wine Concierge, Wine Recommendations, Wineries and Vineyards

Linden Vineyards chardonnay

As a DC wine consultant, I’m often asked what I think about nearby Virginia wineries. To be honest, I haven’t always had an overly favorable view of the region. A visit to Linden Vineyards changed that.

Jim Law, the owner, is particular about promoting what a Virginia winery can and should be. I found the results of his philosophy and commitment to quality wine-making refreshing. In a region addled by notoriously difficult weather conditions, Law is committed to producing wines to be taken seriously.

Early Chardonnay grapes on the vines.

Early Chardonnay grapes on the vines.

Despite being in business for nearly 28 years, Linden’s vintners are constantly re-evaluating which varietals grow best on each site and adapt accordingly. They display an overt commitment to the French notion of terroir, loosely translated as a “sense of place.” Terroir is about respecting the land, and letting wine grown in a particular place reflect its unique characteristics.  There is a definitive old world sensibility to the wines produced by Linden Vineyards.

You won’t find Linden Vineyards in the Virginia guide to wineries, and they have a strict policy that limits groups to six people. There are no bachelorette parties, busloads of tourists, or even limos (which are prohibited) at Linden. Cell phones don’t work on the Hardscrabble property. The result is a tranquil respite that focuses on serious wines and a feeling of true escape from life’s day to day demands.

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When I met the owner, he came straight in from a day tending the vines, extending his calloused hand from sleeves of a wine splotched shirt. Jim takes bi-annual trips to France to taste and learn more about his craft. He’s less interested in the best vintages, but eagerly pursues knowledge about how French vintners contend with difficulties and challenging weather conditions- lessons that have served Linden well during the more difficult years.

Alison and Linden's owner, Jim Law

Alison and Linden’s owner, Jim Law

Linden Vineyard’s Director, Shari Avenius, gave us a behind the scenes tour of the property and explained that each of the winemakers on Linden’s three properties spend about 90-95 percent of their time outside tending the vines. She described wine growing in Virginia as, “riding the wave the whole growing season, you don’t know what’s coming next.”

Currently they’re contending with the region’s historic rainfall, as well as the emergence of the 17-year Brood II cicadas. According to Shari, the worst threat to the carefully tended vines is undoubtedly, “The H-word. Hail. We try not to say it.”

Long-time Linden employees, two of the cousins Chavez tending the vines.

Long-time Linden employees, two of the cousins Chavez, tending the vines.

Every vine on each of Linden’s three properties is tended to an average of 12 times before harvest- a testament to both the staff’s respect for their product and fickle Virginia growing conditions. It’s this type of vineyard vigilance that allows Linden to adhere to a policy of non-intervention in the cellar.

After touring the grounds and enjoying the reserve cellar tasting, we decided to forego another winery visit, opting instead to finish our afternoon on Linden Vineyard’s scenic porch with wine and charcuterie, a decision we didn’t regret.

After touring the grounds and enjoying the reserve cellar tasting, we decided to forego another winery visit, opting instead to finish our afternoon on Linden Vineyard’s scenic porch.  2011 rosé with locally sourced cheese and summer sausage.

2011 Linden rosé with locally sourced cheese and summer sausage.

While the coveted seats are reserved for the vineyard’s most loyal clients on weekends, members of the case club, the tables are open to all clientele during weekdays.

Linden produces around 5,000 cases of wine per year, and while they sell 95% of their wine on site, you can also find their products at high end restaurants and wine bars in and around DC. Visit www.lindenvineyards.com to learn more about their tasting room, reserve cellar tastings, case club, vineyard tours and more!

We enjoyed all of the wines we tried during the reserve cellar tasting, but couldn't leave the vineyard without these two standouts.  We look forward to enjoying the Bordeaux blend after some aging, as well as this late harvest dessert wine!

We enjoyed all of the wines we tried during the reserve cellar tasting, but couldn’t leave Linden without these two standouts!

For more behind the scenes photos, visit Bon Vivant DC’s facebook page!

What do you think of Virginia wineries? Let me know the good, the bad, and the ugly!

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There’s a saying in my family…

Posted in: Bon Vivant, Helpful Hints, Tried and Trues

“You don’t have to like it, but you do have to try it.”

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When we were kids, this rule was meant to encourage picky eaters to try new foods. But this lesson applies to wine drinkers, too.

People frequently ask me how to discover new wines, and my answer is simple: “taste them!”

One great- and FREE- way to find a new favorite is at your neighborhood wine store. Most in the DC area offer free tastings on Fridays and Saturdays. Just ask when the next one is the next time you stop by for that tried and true!

Not only are these tastings fun, they’re a quick, no-pressure way to taste several different wines for free. Wine experts offer samples along with a quick tutorial on what you’re tasting. You may not like everything you try, but you just may walk away with a new favorite!

What new to you wines have you recently tried and loved?

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