Linden December 2021 Fireside Chat w/Jim Law

For years Linden Vineyards hosted special library wine tastings in November and December, where they dug deep into the cellar and brought out wines that dated back as far back as the late 1980s. COVID forced them to change things up, so instead they had a series of special “Fireside Chat” events. These included a tasting & discussion with owner/vintner Jim Law who poured an assortment of library wines, plus a few barrel samples and ‘mentor wines’ wines that served as inspirations to his own winemaking.

If Jim hadn’t become a winemaker I could see him as a teacher. He seems to enjoy the opportunity to impart his knowledge of wine and winegrowing to his guests. I suspect he keeps the price-point of his library wine lower than it could be so a larger number of people can enjoy them.

We did three flights of wines, each with four samples. Three were from Linden, plus a ‘mentor wine’. Jim explained that if you want to make great wine, you need to sample great wines from elsewhere. To nobody’s surprise he chose a Meursault (Chardonnay) and a Vouvray Demi-Sec, but his Bordeaux pick was enlightening.

Most Bordeauxs I’ve tried to be heavily dominated by Merlot or Cabernet (70-90%), despite their fame as blends. While Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, or Malbec may be there, they tend to be a tiny fraction of the whole. But his choice of a 2016 Branaire-Ducru (from St. Julien) was only 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot and dashes of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. This blend more closely emulates Jim’s winemaking, as his newer vintages rarely see a single grape exceed 60% of the whole.

As we started our first flight Jim took questions, ranging from how he got into winemaking (a dinner with his parents), to the 2021 vintage (looks like it will be good, despite late rain), to the future of Linden (hopes his daughter and son-in-law will take over eventually).

My favorite discussion involved his test vineyard. Climate change is very real, and he fully recognizes the vagrancy of Virginia’s weather won’t allow him to continue farming like he’s done in the past. While many wine drinkers tend to overly focus on Bordeaux grapes, he’s willing to embrace any grape that makes good wine.

He didn’t give a full roster of the grapes planted there but he did mention he has a row of Fiano he’s very happy with. In the future he’d love to try some of the new crosses and hybrids coming out of Europe, including Marselan (a cross between Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon).

As for the Linden whites, we had the Meursault, followed by a 2019 Village, 2013 Hardscrabble, and a barrel sample of the 2021 Hardscrabble. Stylistically the Meursault was different but I could see why Jim chose it.

The 2019 Village was still new and wasn’t yet integrated. Jim said it probably won’t be ready till next year. The 2021 barrel sample was almost like tasting raw cider.

My favorite by far was the 2013 Hardscrabble. This Chardonnay had great depth and color. I’m learning I’m really enjoying older Chardonnays, and this was definitely age-worthy.

For the reds we had Hardscrabbles from 2010, 2017, and 2020, plus the Bordeaux. 2017 was an outstanding year and it’s markedly improved from last year when I tried it. 2020 was of course young but interesting. 2010 was really enjoyable; it had more secondary characteristics but there was still fruit there. I was tempted to buy one at only $75 but showed restraint.

We finished with the dessert wines. If you like the Late Harvest get them – it seems like it’s getting harder and harder to make them.

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