Veritas Newsletter ~ Winter 2016

Snowmageddon – Snowzilla – or the 2016 Veritas Winter Newsletter

#1 A Winter

Snow is friendly; it’s one of the “favorite things” from The Sound of Music.

–Snowflakes that stay on your nose and eyelashes

with silver white winters that melt into springs.

If nothing else, the kids had fun with no school for almost a whole week, which meant snowballs and snowmen followed by hot chocolate and snuggling up by the crackling, cozy fire. The snow came and went with no disasters, just good old winter fun.vineyard dog

Just like the kids, the vines love snow. It is actually quite comforting for vines; perhaps that’s where we get the expression ‘wrapped up in a blanket of snow.’ Snow almost feels embracing, you know – wolves and sled dogs bury themselves in snow to keep warm at night.

Snow is protective and also nurturing. According to folklore, snow actually adds small amounts of nitrogen to the soil, hence the expression ‘snow is the poor farmer’s fertilizer.’ It is true, but the amount of nitrogen is about 3-5 pounds per acre which if you are a serious farmer is not enough to matter. Interestingly, the amount of nitrogen in rainwater and snow has gone up since the atmosphere has become more polluted.

The winter thus far is off to a good start!

What news? Veritas Vintner’s Reserve 2013 won a Gold in the Virginia Governor’s Cup. We have had 7 “winter” lambs already this year (more on that later). As a result of the 2015 harvest, we are bottling almost 3,000 cases of Viognier compared with 850 last year!


Pruning started on time this year, January 22nd, which was St. Vincent’s Day (St. Vincent is the patron saint of wine growers). I really don’t know if this is true, but someone told me it was derived from Vin Sang – wine being the symbolic representation of the blood of Christ. The vines are typically hunkered down this time of year, wrapped at least for a while in their blanket of snow, reveling in their extra dose of nitrogen. We are getting ready to plant part of Bold Mountain. The soil has been ripped down to two feet using a J2 bulldozer in preparation for spring planting.


All is well in the cellar. Emily, Elliott, Paul and Jolie are working with our biggest harvest ever, taking our production for the first time to almost 20,000 cases of wine. Emily and the team have already bottled 1,700 cases of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier is next.

We have gone back to competing in wine competitions other than local ones like the Monticello Cup and the Virginia Governor’s Cup. This year we won a gold medal with our 2013 Petit Verdot in the San Francisco International Wine Competition. And speaking of international matters, our Petit Verdot that so far has won gold and best of Category in the Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition and a gold in San Francisco, has been chosen as one of the wines for Berry Brothers and Rudd’s private wine club selection in the United Kingdom. Now that might not mean a lot to most of the people in our wine club, but Berry Brothers and Rudd were distributing wine when Charles Dickens was writing A Christmas Carol and believe me, I have been to their main shop in St James’ Palace in London. I was expecting to see Bob Cratchet with a quill and ledger behind the counter, but instead there was a very pretty MW (Master of Wine) managing the till.PV VR WIDE


We have had a change of guard in the kitchen. Joel Walding, who previously starred as Chef de Cuisine at The Farmhouse from 2012-2014, has returned to Veritas as Executive Chef. A little background: Joel was born in Lafayette, Louisiana and grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada. Cooking was a daily ritual for his family, which ignited his interest in food. Joel took his first job at the age of fourteen working for his oldest brother in fine dining along the shores of the Mahone Bay. As he worked through the ranks of the service industry, his passion for the culinary arts deepened. Joel obtained his culinary degree from the International Culinary Academy in Houston, Texas, where he refined his technical skills and was inspired by rich, Southern flavors. He moved to Virginia in 2008 to be closer to family. He was the Executive Chef at Harvest Moon Catering from 2008-2012 before joining the Veritas family. He lives at Lake Monticello with his wife Kelly and daughter Savannah.

We are so happy for his return, and joining him is Emily Proutt as Sous Chef. Our culinary future is looking pretty darn hootin-tootin, son-of-a-gun good.

Executive Chef Joel Walding and Sous Chef Emily Proutt


Chef Andrew Shipman

Courtney and Grace (Grace was our featured employee of the month in the summer newsletter) have taken over weddings and events, which are booking up like mad. Speaking of employees of the month, the honor this season goes to Andrew Shipman, our down-to-your-boots and roots home-grown and proud-of-it Chef at The Farmhouse. Known to his friends as “Andy,” Mr. Shipman has excelled in his role at The Farmhouse. He is a true locavore and has succeeded in putting The Farmhouse on the map for five-star fine dining. Andy was the valedictorian of his high school class and since working with us he has married his lovely wife Lisa and is the proud father of his son Charles. We owe him a debt of gratitude for stepping up during the holiday season and maintaining the standards that we hold so dear.

More on the Sheep

The gestation period (pregnancy) of most sheep is 147 days with a range of 135- 159, so that means our winter lambs were conceived in September! This means that the male lambs born in the spring of 2015 were able to sire the lambs in September of 2015, resulting in our present crop of “winter “ lambs, which only goes to show that boys will be boys.sheep

The Masked Ball

#11Christine and Dennis Vrooman
Dennis and Christine Vrooman
#12 Chris and Janina Parker
Chris and Janina Parker

Valentine’s Day Winemaker’s Dinner

#13My Valentines
Patricia at the 2014 Valentine’s Party – still my favorite picture!

Breaking News- Parker Exports Wine to U.K.!

At a seminal event in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York, The Wine Advocate along with American Express produced a wine tasting entitled “A Matter Of Taste,” that allowed participants to taste iconic wines like Chateau Pontet- Canet (Pauillac), Chateau Haut- Bailly (Pessac- Leognan), Pingus (Ribero Del Duero), Hugel (Alsace), along with the owners and winemakers. Altogether there were 150 wines all with a Parker score of 90+. Chris Parker (no relation to Robert), who exports Veritas wines to the UK, and I were seen discussing matters with THE Robert Parker who signed off on Veritas.

#14 Me Chris and Robert Parker
Chris, Robert Parker, Me
#15 In Vino Veritas
Robert Parker’s “In Vino Veritas” Autograph
Andrew Robert Parker
Discussing wine with Robert Parker


The grandchildren are growing like weeds.

#17 The Grand Kids
Hailey, Charlie, Lydia and Amelia

New Website Debuts

Our newly updated, correlated, PG-rated, variegated, highly cultivated, and infinitely motivated website has launched! Check it out and let us know what you think.

And as they say at the end of Looney tunes –“That’s it folks!” Thank you for tuning in to the Veritas newsletter.

From all of us here at Veritas: See you in the spring, and can you believe it? Happy Easter!

Andrew Hodson

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