Friday, April 28, 2017

The Great Virginia Winery NOT on the VA Wine Map

The Notebook visited Linden Vineyards for the first time in nearly 10 years last weekend. Admittedly, we were a bit "put out" by our visit there last time. This was one of the first Virginia wineries we visited in 2002 or so, back when places like Oasis, Smokehouse, Farfelu, Piedmont, and Deer Meadow Wineries were still on the Virginia winery map (actually a leaflet back then...), and Philip Carter Winery was called Stillhouse Winery. We were unable to enjoy the deck during our visit in 2007, unless we joined their Case Club. Apparently we were not the only winery hoppers who were disappointed (based on reviews on Yelp and other social media sites). With so many other options near Linden (Fox Meadow, Philip Carter, Naked Mountain), we boycotted Linden, until recently. After all those years, we felt it was immature to have sour grapes (pun intended).

A word about Linden's owner and winemaker. Jim Law is one of the founding fathers of Virginia wine. Bio from their website: 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 1980’s, while establishing Linden Vineyards, he consulted for other wineries and taught winegrowing at local community colleges.

Linden is now a well-known establishment, and has opted not to appear on the Virginia Wine Map. And there are no longer signs off I-66 directing visitors to the winery. You have to know it's there. Not knowing what to expect, and wondering if we should even write about the winery on the Notebook (so they could maintain their "best kept secret" status), we entered the tasting room last Saturday, and were surprised at the number of visitors. And only a few case club members; many were there for the special library tasting. Since we knew Jim's wines were outstanding, we went for the regular ($8) tasting.

View from Linden tasting room:

On the tasting sheet that day were Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, both fine warm weather offerings, the Chardonnay especially wonderful with its soft pineapple notes, as well as rosé, Petit Verdot, and Claret, a Bordeaux-style blend similar to Meritage, and a perfect barbecue wine. No live bands, no bachelorette parties, no infants, no dogs - it was a nice change of pace. The weather was dreary but it made for some nice photo ops.

View from the deck at Linden:

Although we knew about the case club rule, we and other non club members were able to sit upstairs in a nicely appointed parlor room, with great views from both picture windows (vineyards on one side, mountains on the other).

All in all, the case club rule is a unique twist for Virginia wineries; if you're a member of another wine club, you may end up spending more over the course of a year than the one annual same-day purchase of a case at Linden. Doing so will give you access to the "club members only" deck. It was tempting to bring out the credit card and sign up. Maybe next time.

Because of the unusual (compared to most other Virginia wineries) nature of Linden, we'll paste the FAQ page from their website below. Cheers!

Why all the restrictions?

About ten years ago increased visitation to Linden pushed us beyond our ability to maintain the intimacy, atmosphere and genius loci that we strive to protect. I was put in a situation to either significantly expand Linden’s facilities and scope of business or to put restrictions on what we do. I chose the latter. We love to educate and tell our story. Linden does not aspire to be a wine bar or café.
Can we taste if we are not Case Club members?

Our regular tasting and cellar tastings are open to everyone. There are no restrictions on who can taste (except that you have to be at least 21 years old!).
Should we make reservations?

Reservations are not needed for the tour or tasting. Once you arrive you can make a reservation for the weekend Cellar Tasting.
Why not groups larger than four, can we split up our group when we arrive?

No. Linden is small and intimate. Groups overwhelm our space. We kindly ask that this limit be respected.
Can we bring a picnic?

Linden does not allow any food brought in from home including picnics on our grounds.
Are children allowed?

Children are allowed at Linden if accompanied by well-behaved adults. By law you have to be 21 years of age to taste wine. This is a pretty boring place for kids.
Do you have Wi-fi?

Linden is in a dead zone. There is no Internet access and very spotty cell phone coverage. This can be incredibly therapeutic, however certain individuals may experience mild to severe anxiety attacks so precautions may need to be taken. (Note from bloggers: This is absolutely true.)
Is Linden Dog friendly?

Dogs are not allowed in the winery or on the decks. Outside on a leash is fine.

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