This was the winter that seemed to drag on forever. I have to confess I was getting SADD (Seasonal Affective Depressive Disorder) but now I am GLADD (Grinning Affective Delighted Disposition) it’s over! After the ever-present sense of threat of survival, now we can spread our wings and fly to the promises of Spring.
The fact is, Spring is literally around the corner, and that is why I have to get this winter newsletter out. I usually manage to get it out before the clocks spring forward but this year I have to admit it was so cold I went into hibernation and I am still trying to wake up.
Many people have asked me how the winter affected the vines. Well it got pretty hairy out there when we got down to minus 19 degrees Celsius, (that’s minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit), just before dawn on the 19th of February. It was so cold that the vines can actually be killed by the cold – I am talking loss of vineyard plants! We can always take comfort in the fact that if the vines do not die then we will only lose a good part of the 2015 crop.
Not all vines are equally sensitive to “winter kill,” some are more cold hardy than others. For example, hybrids like Traminette and Chambourcin are vines that have more diverse genetic backgrounds and thus survive better than the European vitis vinifera, the grapes that give us Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Naturally, our most vaunted white grape, the state of Virginia’s own white grape Viognier, is one of the most cold sensitive. So to check out the Viognier after Freeze-ageddon we took a whole bunch of samples from our Viognier and did a bud count. To do the bud count, we take a razor blade, one of those old fashioned single bladed sorts, and carefully cut across the bud. With a healthy bud, one usually finds a nice, green central bud with surrounding secondary and tertiary buds. When there has been moderate damage, the primary bud, which is the largest and subsequently the most sensitive, turns brown and can be seen with the secondary and tertiary still nice and green.
The worst situation is when we cut across the bud and the primary, secondary and tertiary buds are all bright brown. We know from experience that certain positions on a cane are more sensitive than others. Typically the buds closest to the cordon or the primary cane are the ones that are most resilient. It sort of makes sense that the further out the cane you go the more likely is it that the bud will be damaged. To make matters more complicated, the amount of damage is also related to the size of the cane, and this is sort of counter intuitive because the thicker the cane the more likely it is to be damaged. The good guys are the thin, scrawny ones. As Darwin pointed out, it is not size or strength that determines survival, it is the ability to adapt.
So our Field Marshall Bill Tonkins took representative samples of different varieties of different vineyard blocks with canes of different sizes and we all sat down – Emily, Elliott, Bill, Patricia, and Chris Hill (our vineyard consultant since Veritas began), and cut buds in an attempt to evaluate how badly we had been hit by the freezing blast. I have to emphasize that these techniques serve more to appease our sense of helplessness than anything because when it really gets down to it Mother Nature always has the final say. Our guesstimates only served to confirm our worst fears. But remember, I am an optimist and as you all know, an optimist is a person who is not aware of all the facts. That was my excuse when I was practicing neurology because no one knows how the brain works, so I had to be an optimist!
Well winter is a time when the only thing happening in the vineyard is pruning, but Emily, along with Paul, Elliott and Jolie have been busy in the cellar bottling our 2014 wines. So far we have bottled the 2014 Sauvignon Blanc (this vintage has more complexity as the result of more clonal contribution from Toby’s field), good old faithful Red Star NV (non vintage), and the gems of 2013, Petit Verdot and Vintner’s Reserve. We will be bottling Viognier and Cabernet Franc on April 22nd, so hang onto your palates guys, the goodies are coming.
Since the Autumn Newsletter it’s hard to think that we have celebrated /survived Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day. Boy time flies when you’re having fun, or as they say at Frog’s Leap Winery, “Time’s fun when you’re having flies.”
The Masked Ball was quite an affair with lots of people having lots of fun lots of the time.
The Farm House
Di Tonkins, the anchor of the wine club, has weighed anchor and is now to everyone’s delight running matters at The Farmhouse and Chloe has morphed into co-Events Manager, working alongside Jill.
Chloe and Elliott
To our ultimate delight, Elliott proposed to Chloe and Chloe accepted, so we will be having a wedding in November to celebrate!
Bill and Di in Singapore
Like my dear wife Patricia, Bill and Di spent most of their formative years in Singapore. So Bill and Di went back down memory lane to the point that Bill forgot if they were still married, so to make sure they decided to renew their vows from 43 years ago. Yes folks, 43 years! A huge coincidence is that Elliott’s parents live in Singapore, so they were the witnesses – small world!
Here they are: the main reason most people read this newsletter is to see how these monsters are growing. This time we sort of got them off guard – this is the picture Patricia has on her phone – it has a lovely sense of their comfort with each other.
So folks, that’s all the news – I want to say “from Lake Woebegone,” but at Veritas we are not so much “Woebegone” as we are “Lovecomeon,” especially now that winter is over and Spring is around the corner. That is the news from Veritas, where all the women wear boots, and all the men pay for them.
From all of us here at Veritas, have a Wonderful Egg-Shaped Easter. Remember, “Happiness is Egg Shaped.”
Emeritus Bottle Washer
WSET Diploma Candidate
Raconteur and Dilettante