I think one of the major reasons I enjoy Virginia is the way the monotony of life is broken up with of the ever- changing seasons –how the privations of winter are followed by the joy of spring. How the sultry summer dissolves into the rich warmth of autumn.
I am always thrilled when the dreary seemingly never- ending days of winter are crashed asunder with a host of golden daffodils. Life is confirmed as the grey dullness is trumped with the reawakening of verdant life. We watch as burgeoning greenness creeps up the mountains. If you get up with dawn, the air actually smells sweeter as floral aromas mix in with the bleating of the new lambs in the music of spring. The first clue for us is after the vines have been pruned they start to drip sap it is as if they are crying with joy signaling the beginning of spring. Then as prompt as your deadline for tax returns on April 15th the vines burst into life and life goes on.
If you remember in the winter newsletter I was bemoaning the severities of the winter weather and wringing my hands on the extent of damage – well for once we got it wrong! (joke). I must admit though I did say after the doom and gloom – “Mother Nature will be the final arbiter” and she is and was confirming Robbie Burns –“the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry” well the plans – (read bud damage) were totally awry as we witness blousy, blossoms of the future grape bunches filling the canopies.
Looking back on it though it was the coldest winter that we have experienced in fifteen years but I think that the reason we got away with it was because there was a long period of coldness leading up to the very cold events so the plants were not exposed to a rapid change in temperature. It is the rapid change from relatively warm to horribly cold that in the past we have witnessed to be the most injurious. Then there are the lambs – lambs, glorious lambs.
As the plant world is re-born the birth of our lambs brings joy to the verdant pastures. Sadly the days of Eudora and Euphoria are gone there are so many now that we have to resort to number identification and so many lambs – 25 this spring, that it is hard to keep count. We lost two, one was stillborn and one just did not make it. However there is, as there always is at Veritas, a story of survival against all odds and that is the story of Pet Lamb!
Just as the plants and the animals undergo rebirth Veritas is giving birth to new vineyards. Our Field Marshall Bill Tonkins with Alvino and his crew have planted almost six acres of vines – two of Viognier, two of Cabernet Franc and two of Chambourcin.
We are planting with rows that are 8 feet wide with just over three feet between the plants in the rows – that amounts to 1220 plants per acre – when we first planted there were 740 plants per acre. In thinking about the yield of grapes one commonly hears that the vines were cropped at 3 tons an acre. Remember that the less fruit a plant produces the higher is the quality of the wine from that plant – hence the age old struggle between quality and quantity – the higher the quantity, as a general rule the lower is the quality.
When we put the new plant in the ground it actually consists of two plants, one the rootstock derived from American grown vines vitis aestavalis that are resistant to all sorts of maladies and the scion – vitis vinifera from Europe that is sensitive to all sorts of maladies. The most important of these maladies is a pesky aphid called Phylloxera vastatrix which in the late nineteenth century devastated and I mean devastated the vineyards of the whole of Europe. It was thanks to the use of a resistant rootstock, developed by Charles Riley in collaboration with J. E. Planchon and promoted by Theodore Munson that involved grafting a Vitis vinifera scion onto the roots of a resistant Vitis aestivalis or other American native species that life returned to normal.
We deliberately use a thing called a “grow tube” – the grow tube insures that the plants grows straight up – toward the sun as a single trunk – without the grow tube the vine would develop many shorter trunks which is OK but makes it harder to develop the horizontal part of the vine that is the cordon.
We now have almost forty acres on site and with our lease of Ivy Creek we are up to almost sixty acres of producing vines. And look who is coming to help us in that effort!
Alvino Zurita -A Man of All Seasons
You know we like to honor our employees in the newsletter and this time we want to tell you about Alvino. You have heard me say with almost every newsletter – “the wine is made in the vineyard” – and so it is. Bill Tonkins our unflappable Field Marshall OBE – the Order of the British Empire – (but within the army community it stands for Other Blokes Efforts) and I know Bill will not mind me saying this for Veritas that the “bloke” is Alvino To quote the Field Marshall:
“Our champion in this effort has been Alvino Zurita. He has led our great team of vineyard workers for 7 years now and the vineyard and team go from strength to strength and the quality of the grapes get better and better. It takes constant and consistent engagement, a process of incremental improvement that Alvino has championed. He is the team leader, organizer, and recruiter of our vineyard crew to whom we owe a huge debt of gratitude. We are privileged to have Alvino leading this most important effort.”
In the cellar the 2014 Cabernet Franc and Viognier have been bottled much to the relief of many of our loyal customers. This is a relatively quiet period for the cellar crew – today we spent time going through barrel samples, blending and working through the best combinations of our reds to come up the future blends for Merlot, Claret that will be bottled this year and our big wines like the Cabernet Franc Reserve, VR and Petit Verdot that will stay in the barrel until early 2016.
Easter was early this year co-incident with school spring- break. We did an Easter Sunday brunch for over 200 people along with the chickens and the lambs. My favorite Easter treat is roast lamb with mint sauce and peas – forget Easter eggs. Here’s a picture of Patricia and I and Bill and Di – notice no kids-that’s because of Spring Break!
Almost as spring follows winter Mother’s Day follows Easter and yes we had our Mother’s Day brunch adorned with flowers and all the best Mom’s in the world. We were lucky enough to have Elliot’s Mum.
…and this is an important cross -cultural reference here – in the UK and in Singapore your mother is your Mum not as in the US where your mother is your Mom. So Elliot’s Mum- Maureen was born in the UK and currently lives in Singapore – a strong outpost of the British Empire- she was visiting to help plan Chloe’s and Elliot’s wedding in November and enjoyed being here for Mother’s Day. Did you know that Hallmark sells more cards on Mother’s day than they sell for Christmas!
The Farmhouse Retreat
We held our second The Retreat at Veritas in April to everyone’s delight Chloe organized it – Yoga (Lynsie), breakfast (Andy), hike and vineyard tour (Patricia) and wine tasting (Andrew). Chris and Janina Parker were able to join us – they help us with our UK sales, we met Lisa Morrow a ticket carrying sea captain and a couple of rocket scientists for whom we exceeded expectations. Lisa Morrow was so impressed with our Retreat that she invited Patricia and I to do a wine dinner at her marina Stingray Point Marina.
Patricia and I with Dennis and Christine Vrooman of Ankida Ridge went on a wine tasting tour of the Piemonte in Italy- we took along Bruce Zoecklein (Emeritus Professor of Enology) and Tony Wolf Professor of Viticulture at Virginia Tech together with Pascal Durrand Professor of Enology University of Burgundy just to make sure we didn’t miss anything- it ended up being to quote Bruce Zoecklein “being quite a wine and gastronomic marathon!”
Mark your calendars – First Starry Nights June 13th with Jimmy Smooth and the Hit Time Band. For all you good guys out there: Opportunity Ball Awareness Week is July 13-17th with Sponsor Appreciation Day on July 15th at Veritas.
As they say on Looney Tunes – That’s it folks- all the news from the Veritas family. Veritas where all the men do what a man has to do and all the women roll their eyes whilst all the kids are busy on their i Pads.