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

Autumn at Veritas

Veritas Newsletter ~ Autumn 2013

I am a big fan of John Keats; it was he who wrote “To Autumn” not as many people think “The Ode to Autumn” and when it comes to Autumn I can never resist the opening lines of “Seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosomed friend of the maturing sun.” What is so meaningful, I have realized, is the sense of the inevitability of the seasonal nature of life that is so close to the wine grower’s heart. Autumn at VeritasKeats manages to bring in with such poetic beauty the evanescent spring; the clamor of summer, then the quiet gratitude of autumn before the inevitability of winter; the death that comes with gentle acceptance and peace. I never tire of reading this piece of peacefulness as the fruit is gathered in and all is well.

I have to admit that with my summer newsletter, “the summer that never was,”  I was ready to pack it all in but thanks to some quirk in climatological conditions the sun came out for most of September – just a bit late to ripen the whites but just in time to glorify the reds. What there was of the whites was good; there was just not enough fruit. Remember that “brush” we had with Jack Frost? Well, it turned out to be more of a swipe than a brush. It affected the flowering of the earlier breaking white varieties that were hit hard before the reds. So this year will be great for our red wines and just so-so for the whites which were about  30% reduced in volume.

Starry Nights

We’ve have had lots of “stuff” going on at Veritas since my last letter of gloom. Things brightened up not only with the sunshine for the grapes but also for our last Starry Nights Starry Nightsthat lived up to its name. We could actually see the stars in September unlike the previous three events that were more “Cloudy Nights” or even “Rainy Nights.” At the Abbey Road event, it rained pretty much the whole evening on over three thousand people! But, that is all water under the bridge now.

The end of September was marked by the Virginia Wine Summit held in Richmond to herald the beginning of October which is officially “Virginia Wine Month.” This is an event in which the Virginia wineries toot their own horns by inviting an internationally recognized wine critic to come to Virginia and extoll the virtues of Virginia wine. Last year we managed to get Steven Spurrier, who in wine circles is seen as almost a superhero with his success in bringing the French in line with California. This year we had Oz Clark, again an Englishman who is probably more well known in the popular press as a wine entertainer and entertain us he did! You can imagined how chuffed we were when he decided to taste the wines from our area at Veritas after the Summit. Add to that, he stayed overnight at The Farmhouse at Veritas, having dinner with the family and our two favorite winemakers: Jake Busching and Matthieu Finot (Jake and Matthieu are the other two of the collaborative wine ’3′).

Andrew, Chloe, Patricia, Oz, Emily and GeorgeThis was the morning after: Oz is the good looking guy between Patricia and Emily – George and I are there just to balance things out.

At the end of October we held the 8th annual Opportunity Ball, a fund/friend/fun-raiser that raises a ton of money for the Nelson County Community Fund. Lots of good people working very hard for the less fortunate of Nelson County. Believe it or not this was the first year that we actually got a picture of the committee as a group (not quite all the committee). Ed Stemmler would have been proud.

8th Annual Opportunity BallThe Opportunity Ball is a real laugh – I mean just look at Todd Rath (Shrek)! There were so many really fabulous get ups – don’t tell me Halloween is for kids!  Or perhaps that is the whole point,  it gives us all a chance  to be a kid again and that is not so bad and add to that having all this fun is also helping someone somewhere who just has not been so darn lucky as we all have been. Actually there are good studies to show that doing something to help someone on a daily basis is one of the ways to embrace “happiness”in your life. It certainly made Patricia and I happy to be able to use what we have created at Veritas to the benefit of Nelson County.

Autumn is that poignant time, when with the change of season there is that feeling of acceptance of all the frenetic work and worries that now dim in the prospect of the coming winter.

So it is with Patricia and I who, after forty one years of marriage, are able to accept that we have created something worthwhile in Veritas. That leads me to the perfect segue with the AP confirmed report that our youngest daughter Chloe has joined with the rest of the family and we can now truly say we are a family winery.

So Patricia and I have gone from this to this:

Andrew & PatriciaThese pictures were taken at the same church – it’s called St Barbara’s – originally a garrison church that was used in the Crimean war and brought back to the UK by the British army.

Via this…

George Emily and Chloe
and by now to this…

GrandkidsAnd now to all the folks in Aftonshire!


That’s it from the family at Veritas where all the women are good looking, all the men are strong and all the children above average.

Have a Happy Veritas filled Holiday and as Tiny Tim would say: “Happy Christmas to one and all!”

Andrew Hodson (Retired)