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 North Carolina for generations. As times have changed, farming families have often pivoted to adapt, transforming their land and businesses. The Zimmerman farm is no stranger to these changes. Thankfully a dream conceived across the Atlantic twenty-five years ago has advanced this family farm 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 Zimmerman (right), along 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 the land while Beatrice raised their five children and taught school. Junius Lindsay Zimmerman's cousin, Dr. Robert Ulysses Zimmerman, Jr. (1910-1947), resided nearby. Affectionately known as "Dr. Bob," he was the country doctor 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 early 1900s, the Zimmerman farm grew grains such as wheat, barley, and oats, which were then sold to Arcadia Mill. By the mid-1900s, the farm added typical North Carolina crops such as hay, corn, and sweet potatoes before later transitioning to raising chickens. Despite the Zimmerman farm being in the tobacco cash crop state of North Carolina, it never grew tobacco. Junius Lindsay Zimmerman proudly farmed the land until he was 90 years old before passing it down to his son, James Lee Zimmerman.
From the 1940s to 1970s, James Lee Zimmerman, worked for the U.S. 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. Typical farmhand chores for both boys included milking cows, tending to chickens, managing crops, and mucking out stalls. 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 coastal beaches. The brothers even learned how to drive using the family's 1950 Chevy (that is now parked in front of the tasting room!)
By the mid-1960s, the Zimmerman boys knew that the frequently tough, North Carolina farming life wasn’t for them and set their sights on higher education and travel. At age eighteen, each brother made the decision to leave the family farm and pursue their own dreams. James Lee, Jr. went off to NC State and brother, Michael would soon follow suit. With an acceptance letter to UNC Chapel Hill in hand, Michael Zimmerman was bound for new adventures. Suddenly unsure if the farm’s legacy would be passed down through his sons, father Lee told Michael with conviction, “You will never come back here, Michael.”
Despite fleeting moments of regret for leaving home, Michael Zimmerman was confident of his choice and enjoyed college life at UNC, majoring in international studies. During his junior year, the desire to travel grew stronger, so Zimmerman decided to join the Foreign Service. Unfortunately, the Foreign Service was going through a hiring freeze at the time, so his travel dreams were put on hold. After deciding on law school after graduation at UNC, he enrolled at Georgetown University Law Center located in Washington, DC. Thankfully, the U.S. State Department lifted their hiring freeze during his first semester in law school and Zimmerman was elated to answer the call to service (and travel!). After five intensive interviews with the State Department, he officially joined the Foreign Service in January 1970 at age twenty-one. He was excited to soon be off traveling the world -- eager to see where his new travels would lead him.
Discovering a Passion for Old-World Wine
Over a career of sixteen years, the Foreign Service stationed Zimmerman in various countries across Africa and Europe where he perfected his foreign language fluency skills in Spanish and French. He enjoyed experiencing new cultures and meeting new people. He even met Shirley Temple – the 9th United States Ambassador to Ghana (December 6, 1974 – July 13, 1976) – while on assignment in Africa.
When stationed in Spain and Sweden, Zimmerman quickly discovered the ease of travel to exciting neighboring European countries such as Italy, Portugal, and France. One visit, 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.
He discovered that the wines of the Rhône Valley were much more varied than other places he had previously visited in France. In the Southern Rhône, Zimmerman found distinctive grape varieties such as Roussanne, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and other lesser-known varietals used for blending. In the Northern Rhône, he discovered a unique tactic where red and white grapes (Syrah and Viognier) were blended to make wine. These grape vines were often inter-planted on many vineyards in the Northern Rhône, making for a unique combination when turned into wines. This was the only place in the world that makes such a combination. (A wine tradition he would soon hone 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.
The Rhône Valley was steeped in wine-making history that went back two to three thousand years. Its allure and uniqueness proved so captivating that Zimmerman couldn’t seem to stay away. He even 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 resonated deeply with him, remembering his own family farm back home in North Carolina. He was familiar with the devotion and passion that truly makes a family farm flourish. During his last eight years with the Foreign Service, his thoughts would often drift back home and to questions about the legacy of his own family farm.
From France to Family Farm
Upon leaving the Foreign Service in 1986, Zimmerman moved to Los Angeles, California and worked for a French food manufacturing company. In the early 1990s, he moved back to the Winston-Salem area to care for his aging parents who still resided on the family farm. After the passing of both parents in 1993 & 1994, Zimmerman saw that the family farm was destined for the auction block. That is unless someone in the family chose to intervene.
Unsure if the current track of farming grains and raising chickens would be enough to sustain the farm in the economic climate at the time, Zimmerman crafted a plan for the farm’s survival—wine. Why not take his passion for old-world French wine, combine it with the years of experience he gained during his travels abroad, and bring it all home to the family homestead? Acres of grape vines would certainly flourish where corn and grains once did. Although challenging, Zimmerman was up for it.
During this time, several other vineyards had begun cropping up in the state -- most notably, Childress Vineyards, located just down the road from the Zimmerman farm. Zimmerman soon met Childress' award-winning winemaker Mark Friszolowski--one of the best winemakers in the East Coast--and began learning more about the local wine business. Through Friszolowski’s vast knowledge and the knowledge of several other newly acquainted wine industry colleagues, Zimmerman felt as though he absorbed as much industry knowledge as possible to jump in and start his own vineyard.
Michael Zimmerman, 2008
In 2004, Zimmerman officially started his own vineyard solely to grow grapes and sell them wholesale to other local wineries in the area. His initial vinifera was two acres of Viognier, a rare white variety that originated in Condrieu, located in France's Northern Rhône valley, that traces its heritage back over 2000 years. From those two acres of Viognier, he began selling grapes directly to Childress Vineyards for their own wine production. Zimmerman later expanded his vineyard to eleven acres when he added several other varietals that included: Syrah, Petite Sirah (durif), Roussanne, and Grenache. Early on, he sold Viognier and Syrah grapes to Childress Vineyards but at this time, he decided that selling wine was more lucrative than selling grapes.
After numerous conversations with Childress Vineyard’s winemaker Frizolowski, they agreed to a new business venture: Zimmerman would continue growing grapes on his family land and Frizolowski would process future production into wine at Childress’ facilities under Zimmerman’s own label. This new arrangement ultimately forged an 18+ year grower/winemaker collaboration that thrives to this day.
Delighted to move the family farm in this new direction, Zimmerman named the vineyard after his grandfather, Junius Lindsay Zimmerman. The first bottles produced were Viognier, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Triomphe, and Second Leaf. Year after year, Zimmerman produced wine that consistently echoed the quality of those produced in old-world France.
To help drive business, Zimmerman built a tasting room in 2008. Designed by architect Don Ruth, the tasting room, shaped like a Swiss cross, is an open air concept that evokes an image of the Victorian era. The first guests were welcomed in the fall of that year and Zimmerman enjoyed sharing his passion for fine wine, commitment to quality, and love of the local land with locals and out-of-town visitors.
A Dream Becomes Reality
After 18 years of collaborating with Mark Frizolowski, Zimmerman is pleased to still be producing old-world French style wine that is truly exceptional. Consistently following in the footsteps of centuries old French wine-making heritage, Zimmerman prides himself on keeping the old-world traditions alive. He is honored to have brought these traditions home in the creation of Junius Lindsay Vineyard, located on the Southern Gateway Wine Trail of the Yadkin Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) – North Carolina’s first AVA.
As Zimmerman's father once used to tell him of the family farm after leaving for college, “You will never come back here.”
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. Eleven acres of grape vines are now nestled among forests and streams on soil that has been proudly farmed for over a century. Now in its third generation, this family farm has successfully adapted to the changing times and is preserved for future generations.
These Zimmerman farm roots genuinely run deep – even if the once sweet potato and grain roots have transitioned into grape vine roots.