I’ve been pleased to meet Jimmy Rosen and his wife Robin at the Wine Guild, who moved to Charlottesville from South Carolina almost a year ago and have been delighted to discover so many wineries with such fine wines in the Old Dominion.
Here in a guest column, Jimmy shares his tasting notes and other impressions from his visit to Linden Vineyards in August.
Linden Vineyards— to use corporate speak — clearly exceeded our expectations–no simple feat since we expected a lot except for the gravel roads which a city guy like me never anticipates.
Linden is not the place for people who relish Manhattan or Mexico City traffic jams with horns honking and locals snarling. We could sit at Linden on the porch for hours thinking great thoughts—if only we were capable of same. Fortunately, the lure of delicious wines saved us from confronting our own inadequacies to make like Albert Camus, so we spent most of our time indoors tasting wines at the informal wine bar.
We started off with 2 Riedel white wine glasses each and a healthy pour of 2021 Rose. At first blush (pun intended) the Rose came across as too cold and a mish mush (my tasting term) of competing flavors. When I asked about the components, my question was met with a shoulder shrug that was quickly overridden by another staff member who said it was a mish mush (my term not hers) of the cabs sauvignon and franc plus a long list of this and that which sounded like whatever else might have been available. Her honesty merits my honesty—the truth is, once the wine warmed a bit and opened in the glass, it was delicious. Definitely a food wine rather than a light quaffing beverage, this Rose could never be confused with a shrinking violet (‘he’s at it again!’). If you like what the tasting room mysteriously described as the “American style of Rose” (Huh?), this is a great choice and rates a BUY.
Next up— a comparison of 2020 and 2021 Rieslings—notable not only for how delicious they both were but also because of how they differed. If you like lemons, go for the 2021. But if steely flint is more to your liking, the 2020 wine is the Riesling for you. Both were balanced, both had real depth; they just were very, very different. In fact, the group wasn’t able to reach consensus with three votes favoring the 2020 and one vote favoring the 2021. To explain, the “group” consisted of Robin, me and a couple we didn’t know who were standing by at the bar. All four of us loved both wines; that said, Robin’s vote was the lone vote for the 2021. So I have to concede, her vote likely would carry the day. It’s a BUY for both vintages….with Robin’s thumb on the scale in favor of the ’21.
By now, Robin and I suspected that our first visit to Linden likely wouldn’t be our last. The wines and setting clearly were top drawer, with only the gravel road tempering (a tad) my enthusiasm. After we experienced the Chardonnays, my dislike for gravel went quickly by the wayside (!!).
The Chardonnay pours understandably didn’t include the 2019 Hardscrabble, as this is only available by the bottle. We did have comparative pours of the 2019 Boisseau and Avenius (both single vineyard suppliers to Linden). Frankly the Boisseau didn’t stand out; it’s a nice $40 bottle of Chardonnay among a wealth of others; not bad, not great, just sort of there for the drinking. A DON’T BOTHER rating.
The Avenius Chardonnay, on the other hand had the Wow factor that fans of Jim Law probably have grown accustomed to. Depth, acid, minerals, balance…it’s all there. Bring on the Dover Sole, Frites and Mushy Peas. Afterwards, no matter that your wallet is empty, the 2019 Avenius demands attention. It’s a DEFINITE HOW CAN YOU NOT BUY so I can’t imagine how much better the Hardscrabble might be or whether it’s just a question of different vineyard, different wine with both being exceptional.
On to the reds….
New Riedel red glasses for the only red wines on offer for tasting; comparative pours of the 2016 and 2020 Claret. The components of the 2 vintages differed only slightly in percentages with both wines being typical Bordeaux blends. At $40 the 2016 Claret might go nicely with a ribeye and was spot on in its prime drinking window. It was well balanced, had no hard edges and presented good value for immediate drinking at the price point. On the other hand, the 2020 was nothing out of the ordinary. If anything, it was too young to amount to much beyond potential. It was all red fruits and might never equal the pleasurable 2016; I’d bet against its ultimate desirability.
What happened next admittedly tempered my enthusiasm for the 2016 Claret. Our neighbors across the bar (whose credentials in my eyes already had soared with their keen appreciation for the 2020 Riesling!) purchased a bottle of said Riesling and a bottle of 2017 Hardscrabble red to enjoy with their lunch in the private, members-only dining area. Before leaving us at the bar, they offered to pour for us 2 generous tastings of the 2017 Hardscrabble (the proprietary name for Linden’s top estate red Bordeaux blend, usually around 60% Cabernet Sauvignon).
Comparisons can be damning. In comparison to the 2016 Claret, the Hardscrabble established there never, ever should be a comparison. In the Bronx the denizens might say, “Fuhgettaboutit!!!” While the Claret began fading in the glass, the newly poured Hardscrabble opened with Left Bank cassis and complexity and moment by moment added velvet to its allure. No California gusher, the Hardscrabble was the antithesis of the overripe hedonism made famous by Robert Parker. This is a wine destined to enhance rather than dominate.a meal. Okay, at $70 it “ain’t” cheap. That said, at $70 in today’s marketplace, it’s a steal. Rated a BUY+++ (note: Richard tells me 2017 was a very fine vintage for Virginia with long-lived red wines).
In conclusion, we liked Linden a lot. We have plans to visit again!
Meet Jimmy Rosen
Jimmy is a newcomer to Virginia wines, but he’s certainly not a novice about the worldwide wine industry. With more than 40 year’s background sampling many of the world’s most compelling wines, he has tasted privately with such luminaries as Angelo Gaja, Roberto Conterno, Charles Rousseau and Michel Niellon. He is a past member of the Commanderie de Bordeaux and has taught classes in Philadelphia for restaurants focusing on the customer’s perspective of fine wine. Jimmy brings a relaxed, casual approach to wine enjoyment.