Veritas Newsletter ~ Autumn 2015

Veritas - Autumn 2015

Every fall I think of autumn!
And boy has it been a fun time what with a bumper harvest, Chloe’s wedding and Molly’s baby. There is never a dull moment at Veritas.

I am a bit of a sentimentalist and I always like to set the tone with “To Autumn” by John Keats, published in 1819, two years before his death on Halloween in 1821.
It starts off:

Mist over the Mountains

“Autumn season of mist and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun,
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core.”

Autumn vines

I do not think there is any other time of the year when one’s senses are so scented with the season, when colors bombard the visual senses with explosions of golden yellow that fires the rustic leaves of sugar maple with the glory of autumn. Just get up before dawn and smell the air, sweets of caramel and honey whirl with damp richness of the dank forest floor. One can almost taste the air and drink the atmosphere. What is it that excites the senses so, that makes me, and I think many people so sentimental about autumn?

We are all human and as humans we are primarily visual creatures to which smell, taste and sound have helped us survive in our evolutionary “superiority” over the rest of the animal kingdom. Deep in the human brain there are circuits that link the primary senses to the fundamental centers for survival that also just happen to have major connection to emotion and memory. So autumn precedes a threat to our survival – winter, and that is why I think, “I miss you most of all my darling when autumn leaves start to fall.”


This year our grapes were full with ripeness to the core. The harvest, or what the French call “vendage,” (not to be mixed up with “cepage” which is the French term for a grape varietal) was abnormally good this year. The white grapes did the best with glorious, mellow fruitfulness. We brought in twice as much Sauvignon Blanc and almost three times the amount of Viognier than we did last year, completely and utterly destroying our confidence in predicting harvest yields (ref. 2015 Winter Newsletter). The reds, like the whites, were heading for glory and then along came Joaquin (the hurricane) with a few other depressive characters and what was going to be glory was snatched from us by a late season ten-day stretch of clouds and rain. We did what we have done in so many harvests before: we hit the emergency button and thanks to NOAA (National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration) and our brilliant, hard-working crew, we harvested over 50 tons of fruit in two days – that is a quarter of the whole Veritas crop.

The Crew - Harvest 2015

Jolie ~ our bubble in the cellar

It struck me as I was working in the cellar over the harvest that Jolie has been working with us so long I cannot remember when she started. I used to spend almost 2 hours every morning during harvest checking on the progress of the ferments by measuring the specific gravity and the temperature of the wine. We now have “Sven,” (named by Jolie) a tricky machine that can make the measurements just by placing a probe in the wine. So dear old Sven, like Jolie, has saved me a lot of laborious work in the cellar and for that I am ever grateful. Jolie is an integral and essential part of the winemaking team and she deserves credit for her long-standing devotion to her work.

Jolie Eves Thompson

Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association (ASWA):

I am beating our own drum a bit here but, in this very prestigious wine competition Veritas won a total of three gold medals for Petit Verdot, Viognier, and Vintner’s Reserve. Our Petit Verdot won “Best of Class.” Yes folks, that means Veritas has the best tested Petit Verdot on the Atlantic seaboard, all the way from Maine to Georgia.

Veritas Petit Verdot 2013

Molly had her baby!

After a few false starts Molly delivered her beautiful, bouncing baby boy Peter on October 31st weighing 5lbs. 7ozs. All of us shared in Molly and Andrew’s happiness.

Molly, Andrew, and PeterPeter

Chloe and Elliott got married

Chloe and ElliottSuperlatives aside, their wedding was fantastic, amazing, awesome, unbelievable and out of this world! The greatest joy was how their love spread to everyone at the wedding party. Everybody was in love and we celebrated that feeling to the best of our common English custom.

From the minute Maureen, Elliott’s mum, arrived from Singapore it was party time. Ray, Elliott’s Dad, arrived a couple of days later and then the “likely lads,” Elliott’s brother Matthew, and Alejandro, John, Tom, Dan and Will. Elliott was Will’s best man when Will got married in England and just for fun Will’s parents Tim and Ellen Jolly came along for the ride.

Our son George was Elliott’s best man and to ensure Elliott had a good send off from the land of bachelorhood George arranged a whole afternoon of skeet shooting. Matthew emerged as the champ, beating the socks off everyone. An afternoon shooting was followed by a stag night worthy of any stag (Elliott) I have known. It was only after that night that I knew for certain that Elliott was the man for Chloe.

Matthew, Elliott, and George

Maureen’s sister Linda and her husband Gareth came from England bringing Elliott’s maternal grandmother Nancy.


Now Nancy is the key to the whole story. Her husband Roy (Elliott’s paternal grandfather) was best friends, and I mean best of friends with Bill Tonkins (Chloe’s maternal grandfather) and you won’t believe this – I told you it was an unbelievable wedding, we have a picture of Chloe age 5 playing with Elliott age 5!

Bill Tonkins (Chloe’s Grandad) is the man in the foreground and his best buddy Roy (Elliott’s Granddad) is sitting opposite Bill.
Bill Tonkins (Chloe’s Grandad) is the man in the foreground and his best buddy Roy (Elliott’s Granddad) is sitting opposite Bill.


Well one thing led to another and Elliott decided that he wanted to study Enology at Plumpton College in England so with the family contact he came to Veritas as our harvest intern and the rest is history.

Grandkids at the Wedding
Grandkids at the Wedding


Chloe and her nieces
Chloe and her nieces


Amy Webb - Blue Ridge Floral Design
Amy Webb – Blue Ridge Floral Design


Father of the Bride ~ and the Bride!
Father of the Bride ~ and the Bride!


Mr. and Mrs. Elliott Watkins
Mr. and Mrs. Elliott Watkins


As I stated at the beginning of the newsletter there is never a dull moment at Veritas! Every one of us has worked and shared and worked and shared in the common good; not only the soil and the grapes but also in nurturing our own wellbeing. Chloe and Elliott ‘s love has brought us even closer together as a family as we realize how important we all are to one another.

From all of us at Veritas, have a loving Thanksgiving because just looking at the rest of the world we have so much to be Thankful for.

Andrew Hodson
WSET Diploma candidate
Raconteur and Dilettante
Bottle Washer Retd.

Veritas Newsletter – Summer 2015

Vineyard Vista, Traminette and Viognier

Of all the seasonal newsletters I find summer is always the hardest. Summer is summer; no bourgeoning growth of vines, no dripping drops of honey, no winter calamity, just good old sultry summer. I usually open the newsletter with musical lines like Eddie Cochran’s “There ain’t no cure for the summer blues,” or even the Bard’s “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day,” or Nat King Cole’s “Rolling out those lazy hazy crazy days of summer” or just take comfort in “Summertime and the living is easy” from Porgy and Bess.

For me, summer is a childhood memory. I can remember the longing for the summer holidays, the excitement on the last day of school before the holidays and then the bliss, the very idea of six weeks with nothing to do but play; no school, just freedom. Then before you knew it, it was over, those six weeks evaporating as fast as a water spill in the summer heat. And so it is with the grapes – the excitement of spring is followed by what seems like an endless summer and then it is gone and harvest is upon us – just like going back to school.

The news – it has been a good summer for the vines, the grapes, for Starry Nights and for the weddings. It is crazy how everything is so dependent on that lazy old sun which has nothing to do but roll around in heaven all day.

Veritas Vineyard

Summer in the Vineyard is quite busy with what we call canopy management. There are all sorts of different canopies that have cropped up over the years from many different countries. I would say there are as many variations in the types of canopies as there are types of grapes – indeed, some canopies are designed for specific grape varieties. VeraisonThe canopies require much work including leaf pulling, shoot positioning, and netting the vines to keep off the pesky birds. The basic principle of canopy management is to maximize the amount of incident sunlight on the leaves of the vines. Remember, it is the leaves that photosynthesize the sugar that enables the grapes to ripen.

Most of the sugar accumulation occurs during summer months and it is only after veraison, the period when the green, white grapes turn yellow, or the green, red grapes turn red that sugar really starts to build up. As you might expect, direct sunlight on the grape berries themselves does help in ripening but there is a down side: if the berries get exposed to too much sun too quickly, just like their human counterparts, they get sunburnt and that is not a good thing. Sunburnt berries cause the winemaker pain just as sunburnt skin causes human pain.

Burnt GrapesTo avoid sunburn we have to expose the berries early, like in early to mid-June. We have to leaf-pull to expose the fruit and to do that involves work, and more work in the vineyard involves more cost. In the good old days we used Alvino and his resolute and hardworking crew to do it by hand. Now we have a gizmo that attaches to a tractor and instead of a crew of eight guys leaf pulling for six days, we can do it now with one guy on a tractor in two days.

Depending on the weather, summer canopy management is crucial to optimizing the fruit for harvest. Usually we start in mid-August and harvest lasts until the end of October, but JP and Ashley harvestingthere are exceptions. In 2010 we were finished by the end of September and in 2005 we finished in mid-November. This year we are now two weeks into harvest and everything is looking good except Erica (hurricane) is going to make her rainy presence felt by the middle of next week. But you know we are used to dodging hurricanes and the good news is that we have had almost four weeks without rain, with sunshine and cool nights – but that could all change with the twinkle of the radar!

In the cellar, Emily finished bottling the last of the 2014 vintage on August 20th and at the same time brought in her first Sauvignon Blanc from Toby’s Field. We bottled a beautiful oak-fermented and barreled aged Chardonnay, our redoubtable 2014 Harlequin, along with Claret, Merlot and our sweet, sweet dessert wine, the honeysuckle rose Kenmar.

As I write this newsletter we are simultaneously bringing in the top meadow Sauvignon and processing Claude Thibaut’s Chardonnay for sparkling wine. So it’s all hands on deck as we rejoice in the work of the 2015 harvest. Don’t tell anyone I said this but it is looking pretty darn good.

Veritas Harvest 2015
Ewe News

We have gone from Ewetopia to Ewephoria! Remember Pet Lamb? Here she is three months later with the rest of the 38 sheep we have. We’re not quite sure of exactly how many we have because Patricia keeps falling asleep when she’s counting them.

Lambs galore!
Staff News

MollyMolly is preggers! The great thing about Molly is that she is loving her pregnancy. It is her first and she is happier and healthier than ever and we are all so happy for her.

Employee of the season – Grace Jackson. Grace hails from George Mason University and to quote Jill our Events Manager, “Grace has been our wedding wait captain for over two years now and has brought such fun and energy to the Events Department at Veritas! Everyone loves Grace.” ‘Nuff said!

Courtney Walsh is our new wedding intern and is also from George Mason University, Jill’s alma mater.

JP- Jean-Paul Martinod on the other hand is our harvest intern. He is a UVA graduate and though Emily (Virginia Tech) doesn’t hold that against him he has done stellar work. If he works as hard in his future in wine as he has for us he is going to go a long way.

Grace, Courtney and JP
Chloe has been promoted to Project Manager, seeing as every project she takes up (rather like her mother) is always a success. For proof just check out The Farmhouse at Veritas! Chloe’s birthday is August 31st so Chloe and Mom get a picture in honor of birth and birthing day.

Chloe and Patricia
Starry, Starry Nights…

have been starry with a record 4,320 people attending for Abbey Road in July. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! The Beatles cover band is always my favorite. All those lovely Beatles songs were deeply embedded in my brain as the Beatles accompanied me through every year of my university “career!” I have to admit that I am a true ticket-carrying baby boomer and proud of it! Next year I think we are going to try to diversify and get a contribution from the Rolling Stones (cover band of course).

The Opportunity Ball

Well the big news is that this year the Opportunity Ball is going to be held at Oak Ridge Estate! This will be the first Opportunity Ball in ten years not held at Veritas. The theme this year is “Off to the Races.” Fear not, Veritas is supplying the wine. Do not forget this is YOUR opportunity to help the underprivileged in Nelson County, your opportunity to care and share. So come on out folks, it is always a blast.


Patricia got us all a last minute cancellation at the beach in Nag’s Head in July so over a week we managed to get most of the family away to share a night or two.

The Kids at the Beach
Then Bill and Di’s grandkids – Robyn, Nathan, and Toby came to visit with their Mum Sue. We got a picture of them on the Mule just like last year – or not quite.

Patricia and I went “home” to the UK to visit relatives and to celebrate my oldest brother’s 50th wedding anniversary that we followed by a couple of days in a narrow boat on the canals of England. You can see from the picture, Patricia enjoyed working the locks.

Patricia working the locs
And finally I have kept the best for last; we had a photo shoot of the whole family, something we have been threatening to do for years. Don’t forget we are a family winery and it has taken this long to create an image of the whole family together.

The Veritas Family
Well folks, that is it from Veritas, the wine drinker’s winery, where wine runs in or on the jeans of the whole family.

Have a Labor free Labor Day!
Andrew Hodson
Winemaker Emeritus
Bottle washer Retired
Raconteur and Dilettante

Veritas Newsletter – Spring 2015

Spring Vines
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.

Spring Vines at Veritas

Bud in the vineyard at VeritasI 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.

Viognier flowers

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.

Lambs lounging with their mamas

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!

Patricia and 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.

New vineyards being planted at Veritas.

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.

Inside view of a grow tubeWhen 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.

New plantings with grow tubes

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!

Hello Kubutas!

Alvino Zurita -A Man of All Seasons

Alvino Zurita

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.

The Veritas Crew

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!

Di, Andrew, Bill, and Patricia on Easter

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.

Chloe, Elliot, Maureen, and Patricia on Mother's Day

…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.

Lisa and Patricia

Family Stuff

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!”

Christine, Andrew, Patricia and Dennis

Amelia, soccer girls, Charlie, and Emily, George, and Chloe

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.

Happy 4th of July!

Andrew Hodson
Raconteur and Dilettante
Bottle- Washer Emeritus