Top Pick Winery

In the Wine Light – Linden Vineyards

In the Wine Light – Linden Vineyards

In the Wine Light is Linden Vineyards. On our return from our trip to the Finger Lakes this summer, we made a couple of stops in Virginia.  Our second stop was at Linden Vineyards in Linden.  

We first visited Linden Vineyards in October of 2019.  We had tasted Linden’s wines previously at an American Wine Society Conference in 2015.  Owner Jim Law led a session on “Site Specific Variations in Wine”.  During this session we tasted Chardonnays and Cabernet Francs from various Linden sites.

Hardscrabble Vineyard - Linden Vineyards - Linden, VA

Hardscrabble Vineyard – Linden Vineyards – Linden, VA


Linden Vineyards began in 1985 with the establishment of the Hardscrabble Vineyard.  This site, once an apple orchard, had long been abandoned.  Eight acres were planted with mostly grafted and propagated in-house from budwood obtained from the few local vineyards in the surrounding area. The first planting consisted of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Vidal Blanc, and Seyval Blanc as noted on Linden’s website.  The first commercial vintage was 1987.

There are currently 22 acres under vine across 3 vineyard sites:  Hardscrabble, Avenius, and Boisseau.  Avenius is a nearby site first planted in 1996.  Boisseau, a warmer site, is located in Front Royal, VA.  

Jim Law has been a well-respected member of the Virginia Wine community for decades.  That respect extends down to North Carolina as we have heard numerous people sing Jim’s praises.  Jim willingly shares his knowledge and expertise and is a mentor to many.

Barrel Room - Linden Vineyards - Linden, VA

Barrel Room – Linden Vineyards – Linden, VA

Winemaking Philosophy

Linden Vineyards has a distinctive winemaking philosophy.  A recent social media post described it as palate-based winemaking.  Extraction decisions are made solely on taste. They note that taste is somewhat subjective, so the try to discipline their tasting regiment by taking two samples every two days from each lot. In Linden’s library, one of the samples is tasted alongside a sample taken two days previously. They can then taste the progression of extraction. This procedure continues every two days until they decide to drain the wine off its skins.

Another key philosophy for winemaking at Linden is around where the winemaker spends most of his time.  At Linden Vineyards, the winemaker spends more time in the vineyard than in the cellar.  As they say, good wine starts in the vineyard.

Tasting – Chardonnay

Visits to the Linden Vineyards’ tasting room are by reservation only.  Our tasting appointment was at 11am.  Jen greeted us and got us started. We began with the 2018 Village Chardonnay.  This Chardonnay is a blend of all three vineyard sites and spent 10 months in neutral French oak.  The nose gave notes of roasted banana while the palate had crisp pear with some flinty undertones.  The acids were pleasing.

Next up, we tasted the 2016 Avenius Chardonnay.  2016 was a warm vintage.  Again, this wine spent 10 months in neutral French oak which showed on the nose.  Lightly candied pear dominated on the palate.  With crisp acids, this wine was full bodied and very enjoyable.

Tasting – Red Wines

After the whites, we tasted three red wines starting with the 2014 Claret.  A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (44%), Merlot (34%), Cabernet Franc (20%), and Petit Verdot (2%), this wine presented a gorgeous nose with aromas of violets, blueberry, and spice.  The palate gave roasted plums, figs, and a hint of spice.  The tannins were medium with a balanced acidity.

Next was the 2014 Petit Verdot.  Made of Petit Verdot (88%), Cabernet Sauvignon (8%), and Carménère (4%) and aged in older French oak, this wine gave a smoky, toasty nose.  The palate was rich with flavors of blueberries, tobacco, and black tea and hints of violets.  The oak gave a spicy undertone.

We finished the tasting with the 2016 Hardscrabble Red made from fruit from the Hardscrabble vineyard.  A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (56%), Merlot (41%), and Cabernet Franc (3%), this wine was aged in new and used oak for twenty-two months.  Blueberries, black plum, and violets danced on the nose.  Roasted black figs, vanilla, blueberries, and a hint of violets showed on the palate.  The tannins were bold with a long, pleasing finish.

Bottled Wine - Linden Vineyards - Linden, VA

Bottled Wine – Linden Vineyards – Linden, VA

Tour with Winemaker

After we finished our tasting, Linden Vineyards winemaker, Jonathan Weber, took us for a tour.  Jonathan has connections to North Carolina having studied at viticulture and enology at the program at Surry Community College.

We started on the crush pad, talking about the vineyard and harvest.  Typically grapes are harvested on day and processed the next.  Sorting tables a used to sort grapes saving the best berries for winemaking.  Recently, they have moved to more whole berry fermentation.  We ended the tour in the cellar further discussing the winemaking process.

View at Linden Vineyards - Linden, VA

View at Linden Vineyards – Linden, VA

Must Visit

If you are a serious wine enthusiast and haven’t visited Linden Vineyards, you should plan a trip.  We’re sure you won’t be disappointed.

We look forward to our next visit!

#InTheWineLight #VAWine

Posted by Joe Brock in In the Wine Light, Top Pick Winery, Wine, Wineries and Vineyards, 0 comments
Raffaldini Vineyards Tour

Raffaldini Vineyards Tour

Prior to the first ever #NCWine Bloggers Summit, Thomas Salley of Raffaldini Vineyards offered to host a behind the scenes tour and tasting for bloggers who were attending the event.  We graciously accepted Thomas’ offer.  This led to additional tastings that day in the Swan Creek AVA.









Our Raffaldini tour began on a cold Sunday morning at Raffaldini’s winery.  There was a bit of snow on the ground from the night before.  The mountains of the Blue Ridge were covered in snow.

Thomas walked us through some of the history of the estate.

  • The site was an abandoned farm and was one of around 60 sites looked at by the Raffaldini family during their search for vineyard land.
  • The data collected from scouting the land was used in the case for the creation of the Swan Creek AVA.
  • The estate includes 120 acres with about 36 currently under vine.
  • Over 30 different varieties have been planted over the year.
  • The current estate grapes are Vermentino, Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Sagrantino, Petit Verdot and Nero D’Avola.

Small Drying Room

Large Drying Room

Racks used for Drying Fruit

It was appropriate that our tour began outside of the Fruttaio Grande.  Raffaldini’s is known for the Appassimento process for drying fruit to concentrate flavors.  This leads to more complex and structured wines.

The racks used for drying were self made and each holds about 5 pounds of grapes.  The grapes are laid in a single layer.  The room is pre-heated to 85 Degrees with about 20% humidity.  Four to five days of drying removes about 30% of water from the fruit.  In a typical year, around half of the harvest is dried.  Raffaldini is one of the largest winery dryer of fruit in the US.

Large Tanks Inside the Winery










Raffaldini also uses a sorting table to sort the fruit harvested.  This helps remove green berry and other undesirable items.

Production at Raffaldini is around 6500 cases per year.

Large Oak Fermenter










Raffaldini is one of the first wineries in the state to us a large oak fermenter.  Currently grapes/juice spend about 30 days in the fermenter before moving to a barrel.  Eventually this will change as barrels are phased out for the more cost effective oak fermenter.

Large Barrel Room

Smaller Barrel Room










After all of this information, it was time to taste wine!  The first sample was the base wine for Raffaldini’s upcoming sparkling wine, Auguri (Cheers/Best Wishes in Italian).  This wine will be made in the traditional method, but it will use encapsulated yeast yeast during the second fermentation.  This means the traditional riddling method will not be required.  This wine is set to be released in August, 2018.

We then moved to the barrel room. We first visiting the larger room and then moved to a second room to finish our tastings.  We sampled 2017 Sagrantino with a bit of Nero D’Avola which had big gripping tannins.  Next was a co-fermented 2017 Petit Verdot and Montepulciano which was inky and dark as well as tannic.  Finally, we tasting a 2017 appassimento Petit Verdot.  It was stunning already!  Dark fig, cocoa and tart blueberry were the flavors.

Bottling Line










We ended the winery portion of the visit with a look at the bottling line.  Then we moved to the villa.  We made a quick visit out to the edge of the vineyard for a discussion of growing degree days and soil types.  Growing degree days is a measure that predicts when fruit will be ripe.  Raffaldini practices leaf pulling after bloom to provide as much sunlight for the grapes as possible.  This is common throughout bunch grape growers in the state.  Finally, we took a look at rocks in the vineyard.  The soil consists of schist mica and granite with a loam topsoil.  This is ideal for grape growing.

We concluded our visit with a private lunch and a tasting of current releases in the upstairs of the villa.  We want to thank Thomas and the whole Raffaldini team for hosting our group and providing this in depth tour and tasting.  It was much appreciated!

Be sure to go visit Raffaldini and see for yourself!




Posted by Joe Brock in Top Pick Winery, Wine, Wineries and Vineyards, Wineries and Vineyards, 0 comments
Baker Buffalo Creek Vineyard and Winery

Baker Buffalo Creek Vineyard and Winery

In North Carolina there are a number of wineries that are also considered century farms. Baker Buffalo Creek is fortunate enough to be on that short list.

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Posted by Matt Kemberling in featured, Top Pick Winery, Wineries and Vineyards, 2 comments
Junius Lindsay Vineyard

Junius Lindsay Vineyard

Set in the middle of their vineyard is the tasting room for Junius Lindsay.  The open air tasting room allows visitors to feel like they really are out in the vineyard enjoying a glass of wine.  One of the main perks of this tasting room is that there is often a nice breeze that will come across the grapes and will fill the area with the subtle sweet smell of ripening fruit.

Michael Zimmerman is the proprietor of the vineyard.  His estate wines are made in the Northern Rhône style meaning they are full of vibrant flavors and have a certain complexity to them that make for an enjoyable wine.  The nine acres under vine allow for Michael to run a smaller scale vineyard and really focus on the quality of his wines over the mass quantities some larger wineries produce.

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Posted by Matt Kemberling in featured, Top Pick Winery, Wineries and Vineyards, 1 comment