Tasting at a Virginia Standard-Bearer

Fall is in the air in the Mid-Atlantic region of the country. Leaves are beginning to change, pumpkins adorn porches, darkness falls earlier, and there’s a chill in the air most mornings. October is also officially Wine Month in the Commonwealth of Virginia, which made a Saturday afternoon trip to Linden Vineyards particularly fitting.

After clearing the DC suburbs, the 60 mile drive out to Linden on Route 66 is a pretty one, with a landscape of rolling hills and old horse farms. The windy road up to Linden Vineyards sets the pastoral scene for the view that awaits from the deck of the winery, where outdoor tastings are currently being conducted by reservation. Tastings are $15 for non-members, which includes a flight of four wines. For our flights, we selected four whites and four reds.

By all accounts, these were among the best Virginia wines we’ve tasted. In particular, we enjoyed the 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, with notes of lemon and oyster shell. With a bit of imagination, sipping this wine easily transports one to the deck of a sailboat with splashes of salty ocean mist blowing through the air.

The other standout for us was the 2015 Claret, which had peaked our interest at a friend’s house a few weeks earlier. The wine is a blend of the winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot grapes, which are grown on three separate, nearby vineyards. The 2016 vintage was also delicious, but we found the 2015 blend to be a bit more complex with a touch of black pepper spice. Priced at $28, this was the best Virginia red we’ve had the pleasure of tasting to date.

Linden Vineyards is owned by Jim Law (profiled here by The Washington Post), who planted his first vines on the property back in 1985. Law is a bit of a legend in the Virginia wine world, having taught and mentored numerous area winemakers and being among the early crop of Virginia vineyard owners, the ranks of which have now grown to more than 300. As Law explained to Wine Enthusiast, he initially looked to California as a guide until around 2001, when, “All of a sudden the light bulb went off when I started traveling to Bordeaux,” which has an annual rainfall similar to that of Virginia.

And speaking of rain, with an eye on the northward moving remnants of hurricane Delta, some picking had taken place earlier on the day of our visit. This decision and others are tracked in the public journal Law keeps for those interested in the day-to-day quandaries that ultimately drive the taste of any given year’s flavors. After enjoying our tasting flights and an extra glass of wine each, we hopped back in the car and made a quick detour to Marshall, Virginia where we stopped in at one of our favorite snack spots, the Red Truck Rural Bakery. A slice of rum cake, some Halloween-themed sugar cookies, and some coffees were the perfect pick-me-ups for the drive home.

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