Linden’s Terroir Project

[terroir: the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography, and climate.]

Decades ago, a certain intellectual curiosity led me to Virginia to grow winegrapes. That curiosity has not waned. Initial plantings in the 1980s and 1990s where established with great enthusiasm, but without much knowledge or experience. I am now very familiar and even intimate with the soils and slopes on this small farm. These soils have great potential that was never realized because of fundamental mistakes in designing the planting. I’ve given myself a chance to try again by undertaking the painful process of removing vineyard blocks and replanting. This is all being done with the hope of achieving a better expression of the personality and quality of the terroir.

The truth will be in the bottle. If all goes well, the virgin harvest for this new planting will be the 2020 vintage. The official release date for the wine is set for Saturday, December 2, 2023. Mark your calendars (subject to change).

Not only do I want to share the wine, but even more so, I want to share the process. How does one go from a rough, stubby hillside to a finished bottle of wine in just six years? My plan is to update you via this newsletter. When something of interest occurs, I will write about it. The Terroir Project will be a narrative on the series of events that transform a piece of ground to a bottle of wine. Sort of like Netflix in slow motion. Here goes:

Last fall (2016) was the final harvest for the original vines. As soon as harvest was finished the vines were pruned down to stumps, trellis wires removed, then posts, and finally the vines themselves. This was a tremendously long and involved process from which, for emotional reasons, I recused my involvement.

Usually when winter sets in, the ground is too wet to work, but a dry spell in December firmed up the soil enough so we could work the land with tractors.

Our first job was to chop up all the vine canes that were left on the ground as a tangled mess. We use a flail mower that pulverizes long, spaghetti-like canes into tiny pieces that will break down into organic matter relatively quickly.
The next task also involved incorporating organic matter into the soil. Spreading twenty-four tons of chicken manure is not a job that one looks forward to. However the window of opportunity was obvious and we rallied to the challenge. The ground was still firm and able to support tractor and manure spreader. Just as critical, Linden’s tasting room was closed for three weeks during the holidays. Once spread, chicken manure is not organoleptically pleasing. Three weeks is about the amount of time the pungent odors need to dissipate. Chicken litter is ideally suited for rejuvenating an old nutrient depleted vineyard site, but the application timing can be tricky.