Veritas Newsletter – Summer 2014

Summer Vineyard at Veritas

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.”

We talk about “the summer of our lives,” thinking it is the happiest and most enjoyable stage of our lives. Remember when we were kids, the summer holidays seemed like endless days of freedom to play always in the sun, carefree; then it was gone, without a trace; only to look back on. It is almost as if we are unaware of being carefree until the carefree days are over.

“And summer’s lease has all too short a day”

Sonnet 18 William Shakespeare

Summer in the Vineyard
In the vineyard, summer is the time of veraison, a time when the grapes turn color from sour green apple to mellow yellow or damson black. From here on out sunshine is not everything, it is the only thing.

The more sunshine between now and harvest, the riper the fruit will be and the softer the wine. It is not so much about temperature as it is about sunlight. In fact, one of the reasons climates in places like New Zealand and Argentina are so favorable is that the grapes bask in cool sunlight – sunlight without stultifying heat. You see, heat associated with sunlight causes the grapes to over-metabolize, thereby using up the natural acids in the grape. The loss of acid equates to loss of flavor components. Altitude favors lower temperatures with a one-degree drop in Centigrade for every meter gained in height, so the higher the elevation, the better the intensity and the slower the rate of ripening.

Aerial View of Veritas

Regular readers of the newsletter know my old saw about why winegrowing in Virginia is such a challenge: it is the summer heat and humidity that are the greatest bugaboos. Hot, steamy conditions are the stuff that mildews thrive on so we spray and we spray and we spray.

Spraying the Vineyard

Then of course there are the birds that in the hot summer days will happily peck at the sweetening grapes to slake their thirst. And so it goes on, from birds to bears, to raccoons and turkeys, and then there are the Japanese beetles!

Vineyard Critters

The pictures above are from George’s Stealth Cam, a wily camera that is movement activated. He installed them to track deer and look what shows up! For George, Virginia is a sportsman’s paradise.

So up go the nets and up goes the cost of winegrowing.


Notice I am using the term “winegrowing” as opposed to “viticulture” or “grape growing.” Well it all goes back to that French word “terroir” that I keep harping on about (remember there is no one equivalent word in English).

Terroir is defined as a body of land whose natural criteria: soil, sub-soil, aspect and climate, form a unique assemblage of values that confer specific characteristics on the wines produced on that land.

Here’s the thing: it depends on how the grapes are grown and how the wine is made as to whether or not the wine expresses the terroir. For us, the expression of the terroir is paramount in giving our wine a sense of the uniqueness of our land. This sense of place is no better appreciated than in French Burgundian wines (not that we are trying to make Burgundian wines, but the principle is the same). It is only by years and years of experience with the land that a sense of the terroir can be gained. In Burgundy it has taken centuries of winegrowing to know how to best exploit the land to benefit the wine. We are getting there; we have at least a decade of winegrowing below our belts!

Enough of these musings, what news? We are on our last bottling for 2014. Of the 2013 wines we still have the 2013 VR and Petit Verdot in barrel to be bottled early in 2015. Emily is gearing up for the 2014 harvest that so far is looking good, except for some reason the crop is a little light in the Viognier and we are looking into it. We have had two light harvests in a row and usually Viognier is cyclical with a good year following a poor year.

Hey that’s winegrowing for you.

The Farmhouse

The Farmhouse business and ratings are booming and Chef Andy Shipman has been cooking local foods to rave reviews from near and far. He is joined by our latest addition to the Veritas culinary team who adds a definite Italian flourish to the repertoire of The Farmhouse cuisine.

Dear Mr. Hodson, My name is Cecily de la Peña, and I have just completed a one-year culinary arts certificate program at Apicius International School of Hospitality in Florence, Italy. The course focused on Italian cuisine, with particular emphasis on typical Italian products, traditions and regional preparations. Through my program, I also completed two wine courses, which provided an introduction to winemaking and tasting on both an Italian and international scale.

CecilyAfter Cecily graduated Magna cum laude from Boston College in International Studies and Political Science she completed her Certificate in Culinary Arts from Apicius International School of Hospitality in Florence, Italy. She joined us in early June. All I can say is: you should try her ricotta and lemon zest-stuffed French toast with warm berry compote, a taste is worth a thousand words.

Incidentally, recently I popped over to the Farmhouse and there, parked outside, was a vintage British MG TD. I cannot tell you how much I wanted to own one of these cars when I was at university. At one point there were three of these babies parked outside my flat – sadly, none of them mine.

Vintage British MG TD

Chloe, our Farmhouse Manager, is not only making our guests feel welcome and at home, she is also spreading her Yoga wings by teaching classes at the Farmhouse.

Yoga at The Farmhouse

Jill Shirey had a taste of her own expertise – she was married to Jay McKinley on May 31st this year. Jill Shirey is now Jill McKinley.

Jay and Jill McKinley

Jose and Alex who were recently featured in the newsletter have finally tied the knot. So Alex Cruz is now Alex Salazar and Joselyn, Rachel and Selena were the bridesmaids.

Alex and Jose Wedding

The Annals of Veritas weddings. Continuing in our series of the Veritas baby book, we are featuring Fred and Jill Olsson who were married at Veritas on the 18th of June, 2010. As you can see, yet another bonus of getting married at Veritas, such a beautiful picture of a newborn.

Jill and Fred Olsson



Bill and Di’s grand children are visiting which is only emphasizing how fast kids grow nowadays (is it the Internet or Facebook)? All the cuzzes (cousins) have been playing like cuzzes do. When I see the kids growing up so quickly it makes me think of that line by Kahil Gibran – On Children:

‘”They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself They come through you but not from you And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”


Tonkins Cousins

Hodson Cousins

I have given you yet another kaleidoscope of pictures from the Veritas clan where everyone, including the kids, is waiting for harvest to begin. Let the good grapes roll!

I hope you had a wonderful summer and you are not surprised when it is all over!


Andrew Hodson
Emeritus Winemaker
Retired Bottle Washer
Rconteur and Dilettante

Veritas Newsletter – Spring 2014


Vines - May 2014

Vines – May 2014

It is no coincidence that Easter and spring are inextricably linked to the rebirth of life–indeed Easter is the very celebration of spring symbolized in the Christian faith as the reincarnation of Christ. This is the time when after months of dreary winter we are reassured that the sun is actually still there despite doubts to the contrary.

The Hallelujah Chorus, still one of the most moving pieces of orchestral work in the entire orchestral repertoire that ranks up there with Beethoven’s 9th and Dvorak’s New World Symphony, celebrates rebirth. That is how it was this year when that winter of winter’s dragged out with endless storms and record-breaking low temperatures. Some vineyards in our area were hit badly, not just with crop loss but also vine loss. The dreaded winter-kill that we were warned about when we first planted usually requires temperatures below 0° F which we had on one or two occasions when that Arctic “wobble” made us all wobble at the knees. We managed to escape but we know of some vineyards that lost as much as 50% of their plants and that is seriously damaging to the survival of a vineyard. Ask me why we dodged that one and I will readily admit that I have no idea. You must have heard of the vineyards that flew helicopters over the vineyard to keep the air moving and invert the warmer upper layers of the atmosphere to prevent frost damage and in some cases it does. I guess my only suggestion is that the natural contours of our vineyard allowed cold air “drainage” as a mechanism by which we escaped- and escape we did – Hallelujah!

Bud Break 2014

Bud Break 2014

Today I am writing at a crucial time in the life cycle of the vine, the period of efflorescence, or the flowering of the vines. Remember that the vines we grow are vitis vinifera, a species of grape from the Old World that is self-pollinating – the plant is a hermaphrodite! So this is when pollination occurs and when the fruit is “set.” This is when we get a good crop if the sun shines and a poor crop if it does not. Plants need extra carbs at this point so pray for sunshine – just for the next two weeks.


Bill Tonkins, our ever-diligent Field Marshall, has planted 1200 replacement vines and after the harsh winter the prospects are good for decreased disease pressure.

Chef Jon

Chef Jon

Emily and the cellar crew (and by the way Paul Shaffer is still slogging away), have bottled Rose, Red Star and Vintner’s Reserve–the VR is yet to be released.

Jill is back into full swing with weddings and Jon, our Executive Chef, just last week worked a Farmhouse dinner, a 200 person wedding on Friday, a 120 person wedding on Saturday and a 175 person Mother’s Day brunch. Way to go Jon!

Judy Stiber

Judy Stiber

Judy Stiber, one of our tasting room managers, celebrated 10 years at Veritas despite back surgery and having to work with George.

Ray Isle, the Executive Wine Editor of Food & Wine, visited the area to taste regional wines. We hosted him for a dinner at The Farmhouse which was also attended by Gabriele Rausse, Luca Paschina, and Michael Shaps.

Another hallmark of spring! Last year we had 5 ewes – remember we named them last year. The one with the best voice we called Ewephonia, there is one girl who is so happy so we decided to call her Ewephoria, the one I adore the most I decided to call Ewedora and the first one we found we called Eweurka! Well they were bred last year so that coming into spring this year we had eight pregnant ewes and now we have thirteen – yes thirteen new lambs!

Lovely Lambs

Lovely Lambs

If you have difficulty putting a face to a name or a name to a face I would defy anyone to pick out their favorite. I have to say thank you to Brad Lawler who installed the solar system at our house as well as being a proud supporter of the Veritas wine club. He was so struck with last year’s newsletter about our names for the sheep that he and his office came up with names for our new boys and girls:

  • Lambo – soon to be Rambo – a particularly aggressive young lamb
  • Lambert
  • Lambakus – in honor of the solar installers – Abakus
  • Lamborghini
  • Lambpoon
  • Lambchester United
  • Alexlambster the Great
  • TriLambda
  • Lambrusco
  • Lamb dunk

I particularly like Lamborghini – he’s the fast one with Lambo being a close runner up.

The CAUSE of it all- Rambo

The CAUSE of it all- Rambo

Here is a great story of the charm and hidden powers of Veritas. Katie and Chris Langley would come to Veritas often and then Chris proposed to Katie at Veritas. Naturally they got married here and now they have a lovely baby daughter who was two and a half months when the first baby picture was taken and is now almost two! I am hoping to start a Veritas baby book for all those lucky brides who got married at Veritas. So to all those Mums who married at Veritas, please send in your baby pics and we can create a Veritas baby book.

The Langley Family

The Langley Family

David Graves

David Graves

Just as Jill Shirey was our top employee last season, so David Graves is our top employee for this season. And although Ruth rolls her eyes, David does deserve a special mention as being almost as valuable as Jill – just kidding. David has been with us from the get-go. He helped us put up our first building, then the tasting room, then the wedding facility, and he was the contractor for our Farmhouse extension way before it became a B&B.

You name it and David can fix it – we named a vineyard after him – wait for it – “The Graves Yard.” His daughter Megan graduated last weekend and,  like all Dads,  I know his relief! David is as constant in his ability as the Northern Star of whose true fixed and lasting quality there is none other in the firmament! (Julius Caesar)

Things To Come

Yes folks, the first Starry nights of the 2014 season starts June 14th- everybody pray for stars!


Family News

The girls are as lovely as ever as we go through Easter and Mother’s day of 2014.

Easter 2014

Easter 2014

AmeliaCharlotteAmelia was 5 in April and Charlotte 6 in June.

And as Walter Cronkite would say, “That’s the way it is on this beautiful day in spring.” May your fancy turn to things of love and happiness.

That is all the news from the Veritas family where all the children are above average and all the parents are paying for it!

Happy Fourth
Andrew Hodson
Retired Bottle washer, winemaker and dilettante

Veritas Newsletter – Winter 2014

Veritas in Winter

Veritas in Winter

What news? Well since the last newsletter it seems as if a million things have happened. So to get to the point this “newsletter” is going to be more of a kaleidoscope (from the Ancient Greek καλός (kalos), “beautiful, beauty”,[2] εἶδος (eidos), and σκοπέω (skopeō), “to look to, to examine,” hence “observation of beautiful forms”) of events – merely a collection of pictures that catalogue what we at Veritas have been up to in the last three months, with just a few editorial comments along the way.

Autumn to Winter and (soon) Spring!

Autumn to Winter and (soon) Spring!

Patricia and I went to France: first to Paris, and then with Christine and Dennis Vrooman we drove to explore Burgundy, ending up in the ancient city of Beaune, the heart, the very coeur of Burgundy, to celebrate the auction of wines at the Hospice de Beaune.

Patricia and Andrew - Paris 2013

Patricia and Andrew – Paris 2013

The Hospice de Beaune is an event that started in the sixteenth century and is as steeped in French history as the very wines we went to explore. We had a terrible time going from one Burgundian winery to another in search of the golden Grand Cru in the sky. So we soaked our way through most of the top spots in expectation of the Grand Banquet held at the end of the auction of wine that goes to benefit the Hospice. The Hospice is a hospital that was set up in the fifteenth century to look after the sick and poor – this was in the days 500 years ago when the poor and sick were looked after by the society of the time – this was just before the Affordable Health Care Act.

The Hospice de Beaune | The Vroomans & The Hodsons

The Hospice de Beaune | The Vroomans & The Hodsons

The auction was set up by the wealthy wine merchants to help pay for the sick in this wonderful building that stands today as an emblem of compassion and selflessness. In learning the history of this institution it really makes one think of how far we have come today in caring for the sick and the poor.

Well after that we were so full of compassion and warmth we just had to go out and celebrate at the Banquet held every year at the culmination of the auction. I have never tasted so many world class wines with dishes of the most wonderful French cuisine that your imagination could not even imagine.

In the hotel drinking Cremant de Bourgogne: – Dennis, Christine, Patricia and I – at 9:30 p.m. just before the banquet started!

In the hotel drinking Cremant de Bourgogne: – Dennis, Christine, Patricia and I – at 9:30 p.m. just before the banquet started!

And then it was Thanksgiving!

Hailey, George, Trayln, Patricia & Buddy (Trayln's Mom & Dad) and Ameila - who refused to look at the camera.

Hailey, George, Tralyn, Patricia & Buddy (Tralyn’s Mom & Dad) and Amelia – who refused to look at the camera.

December 6th 2013

So being footloose and fancy free Patricia and I needed some time to recover. The answer? A cruise to the Caribbean on the largest sailing ship that actually sails – up to twenty knots under full sail – The Star Clipper. The back story here is that at the 2011 Opportunity Ball we bid for this at the auction and with the aid of a few glasses of Scintilla we managed to secure this seven day cruise that we kept putting off. We even tried to give it to the kids, but alas it was either take it or lose it – so we took it.

At one point we even raced the sister ship called the Royal Clipper.

Here we are in Martinique – not drinking rhum agricole. Can you believe it – it is not even Christmas yet!

And then it was Christmas!

Andrew, Emily, Chloe, Patricia, and George

And then it was the Masked Ball!

Lynsie and Ioan

Lynsie and Ioan

Ice Storm

Ice Storm

Then we got the first chills of winter. It all started with an ice storm as the Polar Vortex wobbled and temperatures plunged. It was the very coldest that we have experienced in fourteen years in Virginia. We were worried about the vines not surviving temperatures of minus 17 degrees Celsius but fortunately it was a short polar blast and as far as we know we did not lose vines.

We survived the first blast so much so that the crew was able to get out into the vineyard to prune. Something we learned in Burgundy is that pruning does not get seriously underway until the Feast of Saint Stephen on January 22nd. So we dutifully took hot mulled wine out into the vineyard with our trusty crew of guys and toasted Saint Stephen to bless the vines in expectation of a wonderful vintage.

Toasting St. Stephen

Toasting St. Stephen

And then it was The Retreat!

And then there was Valentine’s…

Trayln and George

Tralyn and George

Jill Shirey

Jill Shirey

Special Thanks!

Special thanks to Jill Shirey, our Employee of the Year 2013-2014! A picture says a thousand words – here she is with all her well-deserved awards. Jill is one of a kind and we were lucky to find her. She is superb at what she does and what she does is to make everyone happy- from the brides to the bride’s mothers and even more impressively – everyone and I mean everyone that Jill has the pleasure of working with.

And more Special Thanks to the two people who have worked so well together at The Farmhouse: our new Chef and Gardener Andy and Leticia, who between them have caught the ball that Joel threw them and have scored and scored – just check with Trip Advisor! Andy Shipman actually worked with us briefly several years ago before deciding to take cuisine into his life along with his passion for everything that is natural and home grown. In addition to his wonderful talent for cuisine he has a bachelor’s degree from Mary Washington in American Studies.

Andy and Leticia - Power Duo!

Andy and Leticia – Power Duo!

Leticia is another one of those people that seem to gravitate to Veritas. She is full of smiles and energy- she sees things always as half full. She works tirelessly at doing just what Andy is doing and that is making our guests happy.

And the latest addition to the Veritas family – can’t go wrong with this one:



And to finish up, as I always do and why so many people enjoy our news from Veritas.

Les Enfants

Les Enfants

End of Story.
Post – Script:  March 17th, three days before the first day of Spring!

March 17, 2014 - almost Spring!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from all the folks at Veritas where all the children are above average and look out when they start dating!

Happy Easter and come on Spring!
Andrew Hodson
Emeritus: Bottle washer, Wine maker, Dilettante and Raconteur