LEXINGTON — The land may look slightly different than it did when originally purchased by Junius Lindsay in 1896, but grandson Michael Zimmerman has continued the farming tradition.
“We grew grains and hay and eggs and grandpa in the ‘30s grew sweet potatoes, which was a big deal here,” said Zimmerman as he looked out over rolling hills planted with corn to one side and grapes to the other.
“Grandpa was born in 1864; the last year of the Civil War,” said Zimmerman, who chose to name his vineyard after the sire who made his growth on the land possible.
Zimmerman also credited his father’s input in Junius Lindsay Vineyard.
“My dad was a soil scientist and he taught us all about surveying and stuff,” said Zimmerman. Although he had help planting the vines, he laid out the vineyard himself.
The Junius Lindsay grapes were planted in 2004, produced the first year, and came from Château de Beaucastel via California in the early ‘90s.
Zimmerman chose the Rhône Valley variety after his international experience educated him.
“I grew up here, escaped when I was 18 and went to school,” said Zimmerman. “If you grew up on a farm, you’d know exactly what I meant.”
Zimmerman’s escape plan turned into 16 years in Africa and Europe as a part of the United States Foreign Service.
“A lot of that time [I] spent in France doing research, which is called drinking, and hanging around vineyards and fell in love with the Rhône Valley and Rhône wines and then I came back by way of California and settled here.”
Here is 11 acres at 385 Dr. Zimmerman Road in Lexington where all the varietals of the Rhône Valley — Grenache, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Roussanne and Viognier — are grown.
“What makes us different from most places in North Carolina is that we are all estate grown,” said Zimmerman. “Only about 10 percent of the places in North Carolina do that.”
It is also unique because of some of the specific grapes.
“Provençal style by law have to be at least 60 percent Grenache, and since were the only growers of Grenache in North Carolina and Virginia, we say this is the only authentic rosé you’re going to drink made here.”
Although the primarily dry wines were enjoyed by Charlotte-area residents Barry and Carol Blackwood, it was the Forget-Me-Not that Carol found most memorable.
“I don’t ever really like sweet wine, but this one tastes good to me,” said Carol, describing it as a good wine for lunch with the ladies. “It’s not too sweet. Not too heavy. It just barely kind of gets you. I think we could drink that at lunch without wanting to lie down. It’s good. It’s a nice one.”
“We don’t do bad wines over here. There’s plenty of other places you can go to for that,” said Zimmerman, jokingly as he discussed the similarity between North Carolina climate and that of Europe where the Blackwoods often visit their children.
“The Rhône Valley is one of the longest wine regions in the world so you’ve got climates that run all the way from the Mediterranean up to the Alps so you’ve got pretty much anything you want,” said Zimmerman.
He said the best way to grow grapes is to be an active farmer. “A lot of these places are owned in abstention,” said Zimmerman, explaining how being present to observe the weather helps gauge the potential crop.
“It is sad this year. A vineyard is tremendously expensive and this is the third bad year in a row for crops. The amount, the size of the crop is very small this year.”
Zimmerman blamed the extremely cold winter with the damage.
“It’s been one of the coldest January’s on record,” said Zimmerman. This is the third year in a row he can expect a smaller September harvest.
This barely allows the supply to keep up with the demand with about 95 percent of the 1,200 to 1,500 cases produced each year being sold on site; however, there are several additional locations including restaurants where Junius Lindsay wines can be found.
For more information including tasting room hours, go to www.juniuslindsay.com.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.