Veritas Newsletter – Autumn 2014

Autumn at Veritas
There is something about Autumn that is reflective, moody almost plaintive – as in

But I miss you most of all my darling
When Autumn leaves start to fall.”

There is finality to Autumn; the leaves are falling and at last the earth has given up the swollen gourds and dripping cider and now the barren stubble is left to the twittering of swallows as they prepare to migrate.

But it is OK – the reassurance is that we as humans are merely a miniscule part of that inexorable life cycle of nature that is a part of the universe of life, as we know it. As you all know I love to wax prolific about this time of year when we have the satisfaction of reaping the grape harvest, the reward of the year’s work.

Season of Mist
The 2014 harvest was the best we have had since 2010. Is this the effect of climate change? I think not, it is just the usual variability that we have come to expect.

This year we had a favorable spring with good fruit set followed by a summer that was fairly unremarkable except for the fact that we really had no bad weather. We had roughly 2,500 growing degree-days within our usual range. So what is a growing degree day? Vines will only grow when the temperature is above 10 degrees Centigrade (base temp.) so we calculate growing degree days (GDD) by working out the average temperature during the day – viz. T min. plus the highest temperature during the day T max, dividing by two and subtracting the base temperature: for example if the high for the day is 23 C and the low is 12C: 23+12/2 =17.5- 10 = 7.5 GDDs. Growing degree days are different for different plants for example corn requires more GDDs to fully ripen than grapes. The number varies of course, for different types of grapes typically – as you would expect red grapes require more than white grapes. This year we had more growing degree days than last year.

There were no hurricanes and no infestations of locusts and their likes – so it was more the lack of negatives rather than the overwhelming number of positives in the growing conditions for 2014.

A number of pundits have heralded 2014 as a great harvest year for Virginia but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. It is really too early to say, but we can be cautiously optimistic – the glass is always half- full as far as the optimist is concerned, half empty as the pessimist and for the engineer, the glass was not designed correctly.

We owe a debt of gratitude to our vineyard workers who every year work so hard in bringing in the harvest.

Hard at work during Harvest
We celebrated the end of harvest by going out for lunch with all the crew.

Harvest Crew Lunch
Red and white wines did equally well, more in quality rather than quantity as our yield was pretty much the same as last year but the fruit was riper. The Viognier is very promising and it is hard to believe that we are getting the Sauvignon ready for bottling in a couple of weeks – there is that life cycle again. 2013 VR and Petit Verdot will be bottled in early January.

Our cellar crew delivered as they always do with Paul Shaffer completing yet another harvest. He said his last was 2013! Paul volunteers himself selflessly, making sure that everything runs at just the right pace.

Brycen and Paul

Paul was aided and abetted by Elliott, Britain’s answer to Moet Chandon. We thank Brycen, our harvest intern, who is making his career somewhere in the wine industry – in which there are so many opportunities in so many parts of the world that it makes me wish I was young again – Hang on! Well perhaps not.

Emily, Chloe and Patricia
The Opportunity Ball

Yes folks, we completed the NINTH Opportunity Ball on October 24th and as I remember Tommy Stafford of Blue Ridge Life made the comment next to a picture of me saying –“Why is this guy having a Ball?” So you could ask why are we all having a Ball? The answer of course is “to Care and Share” and in so doing everyone had a Ball. Our thanks go out to everyone who gave so generously at the Ball and particularly the chairwoman of the Ball Ika Joiner and her right hand woman Diane Tonkins.

We had awards for the best costume and there were some pretty fancy birds – but American Gothic is my pick!

The Opportunity Ball

With the impending slow down our Kitchen is down – regulating for winter and Jill and Jill’s intern for the year Hattie are happy to complete the 2014 wedding calendar.

Jill and Hattie


Not much family news. Our grand girls continue to grow like vines reaching for the sun and just like vines they like to be stressed.

The Grandkids

Pet’s Corner

See Goose the black labrador grow!

Goose with Elliott and Chloe

Big Birthday!

Paul Shaffer, who by now is part of the family (you know, the guy on the Petit Verdot bottle), celebrated his 57th birthday (anyway that’s what he told us) with the cellar crew at the Farmhouse.

Paul's Birthday Dinner

The Masked Ball

Don’t forget the next event at Veritas is the Masked Ball – the tickets are going fast!

The Masked Ball at Veritas

Wines for Thanksgiving

There really is not any one wine that is a stand out to go with the turkey.  Turkey for the most part is fairly Cardbordeauxbland, there just is not that much flavor in the meat, so typically a white wine would be best to bring out the subtle flavors of the meat. You don’t want anything too aromatic, so in the Veritas line up Harlequin Reserve Chardonnay would be the pick. However because of all the ‘fixins’ – cranberries and marshmallows, an off-dry wine like White Star would do if you have the slightest of a sweet tooth. Quite a few foodies recommend a Riesling or a Gewürztraminer on the same logic of providing an off-dry wine. For those amongst us who crave a red wine, a light to medium-bodied red such as a Cabernet Franc or a Pinot Noir is the choice – of course there is no Veritas Pinot but Ankida Ridge just down the road from us would fit the bill. If you want to go outside of Virginia for your wine, Chianti or Beaujolais would also work. Try and stay away from boxed wine.

Season of Mist

Well folks, that’s all the news from the Veritas family, where all the men are manly and all the women are womanly and all the kids have iPads. Be thankful for so much of what we have – we are the lucky ones.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Andrew Hodson
Redundant Bottle Washer. Raconteur, Dilettante & Nelson County Celebrity

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