Over A Glass: Midnight Magdalena
Yadkin Valley, North Carolina.
Some call it the Napa Valley of the East. We prefer to call it North Carolina wine country. Rural Carolina with its twists and turns is host to numerous wineries and vineyards. Some of them are hidden gems while others have already hit their stride and are popular visits on the weekends.
Within the Yadkin Valley sits the Swan Creek AVA, an American Viticultural Area that plays host to seven wineries, located within three counties: Wilkes, Yadkin and Iredell.
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One of the latest wineries to open within Swan Creek is Midnight Magdalena Vineyards. It was Fall of 2016 when we happened to stumble upon this new winery and fell in love with its charm, personality and of course, wine. Driving along a country road in Jonesville, you come upon a long driveway as if going to visit friends or family as you approach the small, quaint, tasting house with wrap-around front porch overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains.
It was a perfect day for sipping on a glass of wine and a perfect day for our next Over A Glass with Jim and Tauny Zimmer – owners of Midnight Magdalena Vineyards.
As we enjoyed a tasting from both Jim and Tauny as our hosts, we engaged in conversation, and a couple of qualities immediately stood out. Passion, uniqueness and authenticity. They have a strong passion for the wines they produce and the story each one portrays. They have the desire and drive to try new things, in this case, planting grapes in North Carolina that have never been tried before. “One of our guiding philosophies has been authenticity – our tagline is Raising Authentic Wines. Central to our winemaking philosophy is a focus on authenticity – each bottle reflecting each year's unique growing season,” says Jim.
Having both come from corporate backgrounds, they decided to leave that world behind to start their next career in the wine industry. From their first visit to the Yadkin Valley, and more specifically, the Swan Creek AVA, they knew this is where they belonged. The people were friendly, both personally and professionally and they appreciated the young wine industry here with a lot of growth potential for new vineyards. The farmland was affordable and well suited for growing the grapes they desired. And so it all began.
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In 2010, they bought the land and began their new life as vineyard owners, and later, in 2013, they began planting the vines. Alongside them on this journey was their dog, Midnight, a black lab mix, who helped them in the vineyard and Tauny’s mother, nicknamed Magdalena. Sadly, both passed away in 2013 and to pay homage, the vineyard was named after them – Midnight Magdalena. In fact, you will see themes throughout their winery paying tribute in one form or another of their journey and their family.
Midnight Magdalena Vineyards thrives to set themselves apart from the masses by growing some grapes that are uncommon here to the state. “When choosing what vines to plant, we thought about how to differentiate our wine selection from what we saw many of the other wineries offering. First off, we do not have any sweet or fruit infused wines – all of our wines are dry” says Jim.
The winery already features a Corot Noir (a hybrid grape developed at Cornel University) and has planted Moschofilero for the future. The Moschofilero is a Greek varietal that bears comparisons to Traminer or Muscat wines. They also plan to grow a Tempranillo, a Spanish grape; Zweigelt, an Austrian red grape and Madeleine Angevine, a French white grape. Currently, they also grow grapes that do well in the state such as Traminette and Merlot.
They first planted Traminette which was thought to be the signature white, while the Corot Noir would be the signature red. Midnight is the only vineyard in the Swan Creek currently doing a dry-style Traminette on a consistent basis whereas no one else in North Carolina has yet to try and produce the Corot Noir. “We chose this grape because the wine it produces shares a lot of qualities with a Pinot Noir, a grape that is notorious for being difficult to grow except in cooler climates, but as a hybrid grape Corot Noir tolerates our heat and humidity very well” says Jim.
Currently, there are 7wines on the tasting menu: Riesling, Traminette, Rosé, Corot Noir, Merlot and a white and red blend. The Merlot won them an NC Fine Wines ShowCase Award in 2018 while the 2017 Corot Noir brought home a silver in 2019 and the 2017 Dry Riesling, 2017 Traminette, and NV Merlot all brought home bronze this year as well.
Related Story: 2019 NC Fine Wines Awards
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With some of their wines named as the varietal, others have names such as Midnight Moon Dance, Magdalena Rosé, Half Moon Rosé and Tapestry No. 1029. By law, all wines have to have a unique name if not named after the varietal. We asked the Zimmer’s how they decided on the name Half Moon Rosé … and the story goes something like this:
The vineyard was purchased on October 29, 2010. As a gift, Tauny’s sister purchased a gift online of a photograph of the night sky to commemorate this day. This photograph produces the location, day, year and what the night sky was at that time as well as the constellations and the phase of the moon. The moon on this day was a half moon. As they were brainstorming a name for this wine, Jim walked by the photo hanging on the wall one day and exclaimed “Half Moon Rosé!’ and the rest is history.
The Tapestry No. 1029, a red blend, has an intertwined story. The tasting room opened on October 29, 2016. The Zimmer’s explained that it is good luck to open a business on a new moon because the moon is empty and filling it represents what you want from your business. A unique fact that was new to us. There were two new moons in the month of October 2016: October 1 and October 29. The winery was not quite ready to open by the first, so they decided on the October 29. And with that the date connects them back to the day they purchased the land – October 29, hence Tapestry No. 1029.
Everything has a story and life brings us full circle, it is only fitting that the Zimmer’s have created a unique tasting bar that incorporates their first bottles of Merlot and Riesling, cut in half, and Tauny’s mom’s favorite wine glass as part of a poured material that incorporates recycled materials.