But the one winery that gives Horton a run for its money—and that, in fact, surpasses Horton in consistency over a full range of varietals—is Linden Vineyards, perched like a small, pristine jewel on a wooded hillside east of Front Royal. Winemaker and owner Jim Law creates wines that are unfailingly elegant, complex, and flavorful. Law believes in ripe fruit and in not heavily oaking his wines. The Linden whites—a riesling-vidal blend, several sauvignon blancs, and a seyval blanc—are all lean and intense, with delicate fruit. Law's cabernets, sauvignon and franc, are reminiscent of those made in California's Alexander Valley, with moderated fruit and good tannins. Law's next steps are to experiment more with Virginia oak barrels (most of the state's wineries use French or midwestern American wood), to make vineyard-designated wines, and to blend the petit verdot he has recently planted into the cabernets ''to provide complexity down the middle''.
In the end, Thomas Jefferson was right. It did take centuries—just over two, as it happens—for vineyardists and winemakers to learn how to make good wines from European grapes planted in Virginia soil. But now they seem to be on the right track, and they're producing wines of a variety and quality not even our First Connoisseur could have anticipated.