Our Roots Run Deep
Over 100 Years of History on the Zimmerman Farm
Farming has been a family business and a way of life in Davidson County for generations. As times change, farming families in North Carolina have often pivoted to adapt, transforming their land and businesses. The Zimmerman farm was no stranger to these changes. Thankfully a dream conceived across the Atlantic twenty-five years ago has allowed this family farm to forge into the future with new roots and new dreams -- keeping the family legacy intact.
Beatrice Estelle Evens & Junius Lindsay Zimmerman, circa 1945 (colorized)
Junius Lindsay Vineyard is named for owner & grower Michael Zimmerman’s grandfather, Junius Lindsay Zimmerman (left), who with his bride, Beatrice Estelle Evans (left), started the Zimmerman farm in 1896. Junius Lindsay Zimmerman was the proprietor of nearby Arcadia Mill and farmed while Beatrice raised five children and taught school.
Junius Lindsay Zimmerman's brother, Dr. Robert Ulysses Zimmerman, Jr. (1910-1947), also resided nearby with his spouse Mildred Doub Burton Hussey (1913-1975). Dr. Zimmerman, or affectionately known as "Dr. Bob", was the general practitioner for the local Arcadia residents. He is also the namesake for the famed "Dr. Zimmerman Road" which winds through the family property next to the vineyard as it sits today.
In the earlier years, the Zimmerman farm grew grains such as wheat, barley, and oats which were then sold to the Arcadia Mill. The farm also grew hay, corn, and sweet potatoes before transitioning to raising chickens.
From the 1940s to 1970s, Michael Zimmerman's father, James Lee Zimmerman, worked for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture's Soil Conservation Service Salisbury office, while his wife, Cornelia Frances Sink Zimmerman, and their two boys, Michael and James Lee, Jr., tended to the family farm.
Michael Zimmerman, along with his brother James Lee, Jr., spent their days taking care of typical farmhand chores such as milking the cows, tending to the chickens, managing the crops, mucking out stalls, and other common farm duties. For fun, the brothers would play croquet in the yard and each year the Zimmerman family would take a trip to either the North Carolina mountains or beaches. The brothers even learned how to drive using the family's 1950 Chevy that is now parked in front of the tasting room.
When each brother turned eighteen, they set their sights on college: James Lee, Jr. going to NC State for civil engineering and Michael Zimmerman going to UNC Chapel Hill for international studies. After feeling a strong desire to travel, Michael Zimmerman decided to take the Foreign Service exam during his junior year at UNC. Unfortunately, the Foreign Service was going through a hiring freeze, so Zimmerman decided to go to law school at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.
Thankfully, the U.S. State Department lifted their hiring freeze four months into Zimmerman's first year at law school and Zimmerman was elated to answer their call to service, soon to fulfill his dream of traveling the world. After five intensive interviews with the FBI, Zimmerman officially joined the Foreign Service in January 1970 at age twenty-one.
Discovering a Passion for Old-World Wine
Over a period of 16 years, Zimmerman was stationed in various countries across Africa and Europe where he perfected his foreign language fluency skills in Spanish and French. He even met Shirley Temple, 9th United States Ambassador to Ghana (December 6, 1974 – July 13, 1976), while on assignment in Africa.
When stationed in Spain and Sweden, Zimmerman enjoyed the ease of travel to neighboring European countries such as Italy, Portugal, and France. While traveling throughout France (Burgundy, Bordeaux, and more), he quickly fell in love with French wine, particularly the wines of the Rhône Valley located in Southern France. With two to three thousand years of rich, wine-making history, France soon became the perfect backdrop for Zimmerman's new passion for old-world French wine.
Zimmerman discovered the wines of the Rhône Valley were much more varied than other places in France. The Northern Rhône was the only place in the world that blended red and white grapes together: Syrah and Viognier. The grape vines were often inter-planted on many vineyards in the Northern Rhône, making for such a unique combination in wines. (He would soon carry this wine making tradition home when making Junius Lindsay Vineyard's Triomphe wine!)
Tournon sur Rhone and Tain l'Hermitage, two river towns and Vineyards on the Hills of the Cote du Rhône Area in France.
In the Southern Rhône, Zimmerman discovered Roussanne, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and a several lesser known varietals used primarily for blending. He worked part-time for several vineyards, learning the old-world history, culture, and traditions of each vineyard family -- some with a five, six, or seven generation wine-making history! These family narratives, each with a rich, stringent history, resonated deeply with Zimmerman. He knew first hand about the devotion and passion that flourishes in family farms.
These extraordinary life experiences in France would bring about new ideas for the Zimmerman family farm and ultimately afforded vital hands-on knowledge of old-world wine making Zimmerman would later bring home to North Carolina.
From France to Family Farm
Upon retiring from the Foreign Service in the late 1990s, Zimmerman moved back home to the family homestead with a dream of bringing life back to the farm. He believed a vineyard would be a natural transition for the old Zimmerman farm as several other vineyards began cropping up in the state -- most notably, Childress Vineyards, located just down the road. By 2003, Zimmerman got to know Childress' award-winning winemaker Mark Friszolowski (one of the best winemakers in the East Coast). Zimmerman started to learn more abut the local wine business, meeting many colleagues in the local wine industry who would later prove tremendously helpful to his early vineyard career.
In 2004, Zimmerman officially started his own vineyard with an initial vinifera of Viognier, a rare white variety that originated in Cote du Rhône, located on France's Northern Rhône river. This varital traces its history back over two thousand years! From those two acres of Viognier, he started selling grapes directly to Childress Vineyards for their wine making. Zimmerman later expanded his vineyard to eleven acres as he added several other varietals that included: Syrah, Petite Sirah (durif), Roussanne, and Grenache. Zimmerman continuously sold Viognier and Syrah grapes to Childress up until one year -- almost three weeks to harvest -- Childress informed Zimmerman that they no longer needed additional grapes as their inventory was full. This abrupt, new development would require Zimmerman to do some quick thinking regarding what to do next with a full crop of grapes.
After numerous conversations together, Zimmerman and Frizolowski reached a new business deal: Zimmerman would grow the grapes on his family land and Frizolowski would be his winemaker. This new arrangement forged an 18+ year grower/winemaker business relationship which grew into an exceptional collaborative affiliation that thrives to this day.
With this arrangement, Zimmerman felt that his dream to start his own vineyard had the strength to move forward under his own brand. Grapes harvested on the Zimmerman farm were soon processed at nearby Childress Vineyards and bottled under the Zimmerman Farm label. The first bottles produced were of the 2004 Viognier... [first bottles? Viognier?]
The wines produced were incredibly rewarding as was his new business, which he later named in honor of his grandfather, Junius Lindsay. Zimmerman was delighted to move the family farm into this new direction, knowing he would not have to sell his farm. The goal of preserving the farm for future generations was now a satisfying reality.
In 2008, the tasting room was built -- designed by architect Don Ruth and constructed with an open air concept. The structure evoked an image of the Victorian era of a century ago with its shape of a Swiss cross (a completely symmetrical cross). The tasting room's high elevation intention would allow for expansive vineyard views and its westward facing structure would bring prevailing west winds inside for constant airflow. Vinyl curtains and portable heaters were later added for comfort in the colder months.
After 17 years of growing and producing wine in North Carolina, Zimmerman is pleased to be producing old-world style wine that is truly exceptional. He has consistently followed in the footsteps of centuries old French wine-making heritage and prides himself on keeping the old-world traditions alive. Zimmerman is honored to bring these traditions home in creation of Junius Linsday Vineyard, located on the Southern Gateway Wine Trail of the Yadkin Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA).
As Zimmerman's father once used to tell him of the family farm after leaving for college, ”You will never come back here, Michael.”
Though it took several decades, Zimmerman is proud to have proved his father wrong as it resulted in the preservation of another piece of North Carolina history and farm heritage. These Zimmerman farm roots genuinely run deep -- even if the once sweet potato and wheat roots have transitioned into grapevine roots.