“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
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.
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.
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!
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 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.
After 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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!
Retired Bottle Washer
Rconteur and Dilettante