20 Most Admired Winemakers in North America

Vineyard and Winery Management Magazine

Jim Law

Linden Vineyards

Admiration can be won by producing great wines, and Jim Law of Linden Vineyards qualifies in that respect. Yet he is just as respected in Virginia winemaking circles for mentoring up-and-coming winemakers as he is for his chardonnays and Bordeaux-style blends.

Jim Dolphin of Delaplane Cellars, Jeff White of Glen Manor Vineyards and Rutger de Vink of RdV Vineyards are among those who worked at Linden before doing their own thing. A media visitor tasting of a vertical of Linden chardonnays and reds included three Law employees/interns; everyone benefitted from the conversation. Law, an Ohio native, served two years in the Peace Corps in the 1970s in what is now Congo. He returned home to work in a winery whose stock and trade was sweet wines. Wanting to produce drier wines, Law relocated to Virginia’s Blue Ridge and purchased a hardscrabble farm, planting chardonnay, seyval, vidal, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon in 1985. The first vintage was 1987, and the winery opened in 1988.

Only the chardonnay and vidal remain in the original, formally named “Hardscrabble” plot; red grapes are planted on the slopes above, and the nearby Avenius and Boisseau vineyards provide additional grapes. As old vines decline, Law replaces them, continually fine-tuning rootstock, clones, vine density, trellising and pruning, in an attempt to achieve fruit maturity while countering vine disease, humidity and pests. He’s in a state of constant experimentation and widely known to be ahead of the curve on viticulture and winemaking issues.

But as Washington Post wine writer Dave McIntyre wrote in June 2014, Law is controversial. “(He) is outspoken in his belief that wineries should strive to produce top-quality wine and not be venues for weddings or concerts, a view that has angered other winery owners. While he is often in the tasting room greeting customers, he discourages casual winery hoppers looking to get a buzz on by refusing large groups and reserving the winery porch for regular customers who buy at least a case of wine per year.

At 4,000 cases of wine per year and with the likes of Jancis Robinson endorsing his wines, Law can afford to stand his ground. “Jim is a pioneer now celebrating 30 years in a never-ending quest to make the best wine possible,” said McIntyre. “He and Luca Paschina of Barboursville are admired for producing a wide range of top wines in Virginia.