Hagarty on Wine | March 29, 2017
Keeping his eye on the grape
Owner of Linden Vineyards focused on fine wine
Jim law is a successful businessman and one of the most respected winemakers on the East Coast. One secret to his success?
The man does not own a cell phone.
In today’s hyperworld of communication it doesn’t seem plausible to run a business without the handheld device at the constant ready. Law, however, sees it as a liability not an asset.
“I am farmer and I spend most of my time right here,” Law said, referring to his 25-acre-vineyard located in Linden in western Fauquier County. “I don’t like to be disturbed when I’m out in my vineyard. In fact, I don’t like to be disturbed much at all.”
If that sounds a bit off-putting, fear not. Law is an easygoing, soft-spoken vintner who enjoys chatting with his winery guests on the subject of grape growing and winemaking. But he eschews the Virginia wine world of tour buses, weddings, entertainment and large party groups.
Law rises each morning at 4 a.m. and conducts business via email, exercises and is in his vineyard as the sun breaks over the ridges of his bucolic estate. The most important features of his vineyard is the shadow he casts on the vines and the rocky, well-drained but poor soil where grapes struggle to thrive.
It’s tough love wine growing that produces exceptional fruit and wine.
His business philosophy is, “You can make money so you can do what you do. Or, you do what you do to make money,” Law said. He subscribes to the former business model and his long list of award-winning wines attest to its success.
“We have to make money. We are a business. If I didn’t make money, I couldn’t do this. I can pay my people well and have a little buffer against bad times. That’s all I need. And that’s what I’ve got,” Law emphasizes.
Growing the industry
In 2001 Law created an apprentice program for teaching vineyard management and winemaking. While he met with some success a number of his students did not pursue a career in wine.
The business is demanding and fortunes are rarely made. The love of creating fine wine drives a career.
So he shifted his emphasis to the creation of a Journeyman Program.
He accepted individuals into the program who had previous experience in the industry and knew that hard work and dedication were prerequisites to success.
Several of Law’s trained winegrowers have gone on to garner reputations for producing some of the best wine in the Old Dominion; winemakers such as Rutger de Vink with RdV Vineyards; Jeff White proprietor of Glen Manor Vineyards, and Jim Dolphin owner of Delaplane Cellars to mention a few.
Law is particularly excited with a new crop of graduates who will soon be opening wineries in his area that reinforce his vineyard-first philosophy.
“These are people who are doing it right. Planting the vineyards, waiting till the vines are producing, building their winery, making wine from their grapes and opening a tasting room. “They are doing it the old fashioned way and I’m very excited,” Law said.
So is retirement in the cards for the 62-year-old winemaker? “Retirement is the day ‘I can’t’ and who knows when that will be. I do think constantly about a succession plan but the people are not in place yet. But it will happen,” Law said.
Accolades for Linden Vineyards
Since opening his winery in 1988, awards have poured in for the wines produced by former Peace Corps Volunteer Jim law.
On February 22, Law was yet again recognized for his contributions to the Virginia wine industry when he received the Wine Grape Productivity Tray at the US Wine & Beverage Expo in Washington, D.C.
The award is sponsored by the Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association (ASWA) formally known at the Vinifera Wine Growers Association. It showcases those individuals or organizations who have made major contributions to the sustainable growth and economic viability of the America wine industry with an emphasis on the 17 states along the Atlantic Seaboard.
In the early days of Virginia wine native grapes and hybrids predominated in the vineyards. However, 99 percent of the world’s best wines hail from a species called Vitis vinifera; think Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Gris and many more.
By encouraging Virginia wine growers to plant the popular vinifera grapes ASWA helped fuel the growth of the Virginia wine industry. Today, over 80 percent of all grapes grown in the Old Dominion are Vitis vinifera.
“I understand the award recognizes my speaking, teaching, writing and entertaining people who come through our winery and I’m honored to be recognized for those actions because I love doing that,” Law said.
Linden Vineyards is located at 3708 Harrels Corner Rd, Linden, VA 22642. Visit them at https://www.lindenvineyards.com/ to learn more about their wines and hours of operations.
Published in the March 2017 edition of the Fauquier Times Business.