Veritas Newsletter – Winter 2014

Veritas in Winter

Veritas in Winter

What news? Well since the last newsletter it seems as if a million things have happened. So to get to the point this “newsletter” is going to be more of a kaleidoscope (from the Ancient Greek καλός (kalos), “beautiful, beauty”,[2] εἶδος (eidos), and σκοπέω (skopeō), “to look to, to examine,” hence “observation of beautiful forms”) of events – merely a collection of pictures that catalogue what we at Veritas have been up to in the last three months, with just a few editorial comments along the way.

Autumn to Winter and (soon) Spring!

Autumn to Winter and (soon) Spring!

Patricia and I went to France: first to Paris, and then with Christine and Dennis Vrooman we drove to explore Burgundy, ending up in the ancient city of Beaune, the heart, the very coeur of Burgundy, to celebrate the auction of wines at the Hospice de Beaune.

Patricia and Andrew - Paris 2013

Patricia and Andrew – Paris 2013

The Hospice de Beaune is an event that started in the sixteenth century and is as steeped in French history as the very wines we went to explore. We had a terrible time going from one Burgundian winery to another in search of the golden Grand Cru in the sky. So we soaked our way through most of the top spots in expectation of the Grand Banquet held at the end of the auction of wine that goes to benefit the Hospice. The Hospice is a hospital that was set up in the fifteenth century to look after the sick and poor – this was in the days 500 years ago when the poor and sick were looked after by the society of the time – this was just before the Affordable Health Care Act.

The Hospice de Beaune | The Vroomans & The Hodsons

The Hospice de Beaune | The Vroomans & The Hodsons

The auction was set up by the wealthy wine merchants to help pay for the sick in this wonderful building that stands today as an emblem of compassion and selflessness. In learning the history of this institution it really makes one think of how far we have come today in caring for the sick and the poor.

Well after that we were so full of compassion and warmth we just had to go out and celebrate at the Banquet held every year at the culmination of the auction. I have never tasted so many world class wines with dishes of the most wonderful French cuisine that your imagination could not even imagine.

In the hotel drinking Cremant de Bourgogne: – Dennis, Christine, Patricia and I – at 9:30 p.m. just before the banquet started!

In the hotel drinking Cremant de Bourgogne: – Dennis, Christine, Patricia and I – at 9:30 p.m. just before the banquet started!

And then it was Thanksgiving!

Hailey, George, Trayln, Patricia & Buddy (Trayln's Mom & Dad) and Ameila - who refused to look at the camera.

Hailey, George, Tralyn, Patricia & Buddy (Tralyn’s Mom & Dad) and Amelia – who refused to look at the camera.

December 6th 2013

So being footloose and fancy free Patricia and I needed some time to recover. The answer? A cruise to the Caribbean on the largest sailing ship that actually sails – up to twenty knots under full sail – The Star Clipper. The back story here is that at the 2011 Opportunity Ball we bid for this at the auction and with the aid of a few glasses of Scintilla we managed to secure this seven day cruise that we kept putting off. We even tried to give it to the kids, but alas it was either take it or lose it – so we took it.

At one point we even raced the sister ship called the Royal Clipper.

clippers
Here we are in Martinique – not drinking rhum agricole. Can you believe it – it is not even Christmas yet!

Martinique
And then it was Christmas!

Andrew, Emily, Chloe, Patricia, and George

And then it was the Masked Ball!

Lynsie and Ioan

Lynsie and Ioan

Ice Storm

Ice Storm

Then we got the first chills of winter. It all started with an ice storm as the Polar Vortex wobbled and temperatures plunged. It was the very coldest that we have experienced in fourteen years in Virginia. We were worried about the vines not surviving temperatures of minus 17 degrees Celsius but fortunately it was a short polar blast and as far as we know we did not lose vines.

We survived the first blast so much so that the crew was able to get out into the vineyard to prune. Something we learned in Burgundy is that pruning does not get seriously underway until the Feast of Saint Stephen on January 22nd. So we dutifully took hot mulled wine out into the vineyard with our trusty crew of guys and toasted Saint Stephen to bless the vines in expectation of a wonderful vintage.

Toasting St. Stephen

Toasting St. Stephen

And then it was The Retreat!

Retreat
And then there was Valentine’s…

Trayln and George

Tralyn and George

Jill Shirey

Jill Shirey

Special Thanks!

Special thanks to Jill Shirey, our Employee of the Year 2013-2014! A picture says a thousand words – here she is with all her well-deserved awards. Jill is one of a kind and we were lucky to find her. She is superb at what she does and what she does is to make everyone happy- from the brides to the bride’s mothers and even more impressively – everyone and I mean everyone that Jill has the pleasure of working with.

And more Special Thanks to the two people who have worked so well together at The Farmhouse: our new Chef and Gardener Andy and Leticia, who between them have caught the ball that Joel threw them and have scored and scored – just check with Trip Advisor! Andy Shipman actually worked with us briefly several years ago before deciding to take cuisine into his life along with his passion for everything that is natural and home grown. In addition to his wonderful talent for cuisine he has a bachelor’s degree from Mary Washington in American Studies.

Andy and Leticia - Power Duo!

Andy and Leticia – Power Duo!

Leticia is another one of those people that seem to gravitate to Veritas. She is full of smiles and energy- she sees things always as half full. She works tirelessly at doing just what Andy is doing and that is making our guests happy.

And the latest addition to the Veritas family – can’t go wrong with this one:

Goose

Goose

And to finish up, as I always do and why so many people enjoy our news from Veritas.

Les Enfants

Les Enfants

End of Story.
Post – Script:  March 17th, three days before the first day of Spring!

March 17, 2014 - almost Spring!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from all the folks at Veritas where all the children are above average and look out when they start dating!

Happy Easter and come on Spring!
Andrew Hodson
Emeritus: Bottle washer, Wine maker, Dilettante and Raconteur

Autumn at Veritas

Veritas Newsletter ~ Autumn 2013

I am a big fan of John Keats; it was he who wrote “To Autumn” not as many people think “The Ode to Autumn” and when it comes to Autumn I can never resist the opening lines of “Seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosomed friend of the maturing sun.” What is so meaningful, I have realized, is the sense of the inevitability of the seasonal nature of life that is so close to the wine grower’s heart. Autumn at VeritasKeats manages to bring in with such poetic beauty the evanescent spring; the clamor of summer, then the quiet gratitude of autumn before the inevitability of winter; the death that comes with gentle acceptance and peace. I never tire of reading this piece of peacefulness as the fruit is gathered in and all is well.

I have to admit that with my summer newsletter, “the summer that never was,”  I was ready to pack it all in but thanks to some quirk in climatological conditions the sun came out for most of September – just a bit late to ripen the whites but just in time to glorify the reds. What there was of the whites was good; there was just not enough fruit. Remember that “brush” we had with Jack Frost? Well, it turned out to be more of a swipe than a brush. It affected the flowering of the earlier breaking white varieties that were hit hard before the reds. So this year will be great for our red wines and just so-so for the whites which were about  30% reduced in volume.

Starry Nights

We’ve have had lots of “stuff” going on at Veritas since my last letter of gloom. Things brightened up not only with the sunshine for the grapes but also for our last Starry Nights Starry Nightsthat lived up to its name. We could actually see the stars in September unlike the previous three events that were more “Cloudy Nights” or even “Rainy Nights.” At the Abbey Road event, it rained pretty much the whole evening on over three thousand people! But, that is all water under the bridge now.

The end of September was marked by the Virginia Wine Summit held in Richmond to herald the beginning of October which is officially “Virginia Wine Month.” This is an event in which the Virginia wineries toot their own horns by inviting an internationally recognized wine critic to come to Virginia and extoll the virtues of Virginia wine. Last year we managed to get Steven Spurrier, who in wine circles is seen as almost a superhero with his success in bringing the French in line with California. This year we had Oz Clark, again an Englishman who is probably more well known in the popular press as a wine entertainer and entertain us he did! You can imagined how chuffed we were when he decided to taste the wines from our area at Veritas after the Summit. Add to that, he stayed overnight at The Farmhouse at Veritas, having dinner with the family and our two favorite winemakers: Jake Busching and Matthieu Finot (Jake and Matthieu are the other two of the collaborative wine ’3′).

Andrew, Chloe, Patricia, Oz, Emily and GeorgeThis was the morning after: Oz is the good looking guy between Patricia and Emily – George and I are there just to balance things out.

At the end of October we held the 8th annual Opportunity Ball, a fund/friend/fun-raiser that raises a ton of money for the Nelson County Community Fund. Lots of good people working very hard for the less fortunate of Nelson County. Believe it or not this was the first year that we actually got a picture of the committee as a group (not quite all the committee). Ed Stemmler would have been proud.

8th Annual Opportunity BallThe Opportunity Ball is a real laugh – I mean just look at Todd Rath (Shrek)! There were so many really fabulous get ups – don’t tell me Halloween is for kids!  Or perhaps that is the whole point,  it gives us all a chance  to be a kid again and that is not so bad and add to that having all this fun is also helping someone somewhere who just has not been so darn lucky as we all have been. Actually there are good studies to show that doing something to help someone on a daily basis is one of the ways to embrace “happiness”in your life. It certainly made Patricia and I happy to be able to use what we have created at Veritas to the benefit of Nelson County.

Autumn is that poignant time, when with the change of season there is that feeling of acceptance of all the frenetic work and worries that now dim in the prospect of the coming winter.

So it is with Patricia and I who, after forty one years of marriage, are able to accept that we have created something worthwhile in Veritas. That leads me to the perfect segue with the AP confirmed report that our youngest daughter Chloe has joined with the rest of the family and we can now truly say we are a family winery.

Chloe
So Patricia and I have gone from this to this:

Andrew & PatriciaThese pictures were taken at the same church – it’s called St Barbara’s – originally a garrison church that was used in the Crimean war and brought back to the UK by the British army.

Via this…

George Emily and Chloe
and by now to this…

GrandkidsAnd now to all the folks in Aftonshire!

Family2

That’s it from the family at Veritas where all the women are good looking, all the men are strong and all the children above average.

Have a Happy Veritas filled Holiday and as Tiny Tim would say: “Happy Christmas to one and all!”

Andrew Hodson (Retired)

Viognier – one blog at a time

Hi Guys,

Sorry about the break – in my last post we were halfway through harvest and tomorrow marks the  last day –  Hallelujah! You can guess with harvest and a few other thousand things, I have been either working in the cellar or I have been too knackered to write. So we are back in business where I left off – doing an in-depth description of how we grow the grapes and how we make the wine.

I am moving on from Sauvignon Blanc to our next most favorite white grape which is Viognier.

Artistic Impression of a  Viognier cluster.

Artistic Impression of a
Viognier cluster.

What fascinates me about wine growing and wine making is the incredible diversity not only between different wines but also in the same wine from different corners of the globe. This could not be truer than with Viognier, the white wine varietal that Virginia adopted in 2011 as its signature white wine. Many people commented that it was a brave step for Virginia to take on a single grape variety that Jancis Robinson considered as almost going into extinction. At one point in the late 1980s,  there were a mere 82 acres of vines in the entire world, with resurgence in the Rhone Valley the Guigal family lead the way to popularizing Viognier in the form of Condrieu. The grape is now widely planted from the Rhone Valley it has spread to California, Australia, South Africa, South America and, thanks to Dennis Horton, to Virginia.

Photo of a Viognier Cluster

Photo of a Viognier Cluster

We have a total of  4 acres of Viognier that we planted back in in 2001. The first two acres were planted on the Wingfield- which is that field to the left as you drive into Saddleback Farm. We did a second planting of Viognier on the other side of the road more recently in 2010 of roughly two more acres and we have an acre at Ivy Creek.

Viognier is a finicky grape to grow as it just is not so robust and strong as say Traminette. The vines look anemic with sort of  yellowish green leaves  that are the first to show signs of nutrient deficiency or water deprivation. We spray the vines with what are called foliar (meaning “on the leaves”) nutrients that are, for many complex reasons, not available through the root system. We actually use an organic spray called “Nature’s Harvest” which smells terrible – and which is made up from kelp (aka seaweed). It provides all sorts of goodies that promote vine growth and there is no question that it perks up the Viognier vines. It is rather like putting on one of those skin patches for medication when you cannot take them by mouth.  You will read in the books a lot of reasons to not to grow Viognier: it suffers from early bud abortion and bunch stem necrosis but you know if you read all the bad stuff about any grape in the world you would never get around to  planting anything. That is certainly the case with Petit Verdot which has no business growing in Virginia.

An ariel view of Viognier

An ariel view of Viognier

 Ripe Viognier Grapes

Ripe Viognier Grapes

We have it planted east west on the left side of the road and north south on the right side of the road – the reason – experience or that is how we like to explain it.

VSP: Vertical Shoot Positioning

VSP: Vertical Shoot Positioning

We grow the vines on the simplest trellis system, vertical shoot positioning, known in the trade as VSP.  It is pretty much the trellis  system that we have used throughout our vineyards with all grape varieties. VSP is probably the most common trellis system used world wide – and the reason for that is that VSP is best suited to mechanical harvesting.

Picture of a young lady tending  a VSP trellis.

Picture of a young lady tending a VSP trellis.

I am sorry  but this is getting  pretty boring – at least I am bored, so it is time to switch topics and come back to Viognier on the next post.

I want to talk about Ralph, a dear friend of  Lisa McCade and her husband Dan. Lisa and Dan  designed our website. Lisa does the graphics and Dan does the techie stuff.  Many times I have said to people in the tasting room – “What brought you to Veritas?” answer – “you have the best website”. Lisa, Dan and our family had known Ralph since the early days of Saddleback Farm and the founding of Veritas Winery. We could always rely on Ralph being there for us in times of need. He was the sort of guy’s guy. He loved hunting and chasing women until like all of us he had to hang  up his gun and retire. Even in retirement he could be found on the Downtown Mall with that old country far away look in his eye. He was not one for idle chatter, with Ralph – what you saw is what you got. As far as achievements were concerned, he valued friendship over any degree from UVA or Virginia Tech – it did not matter to him – he never met a guy he did not like; he was a down to earth kind of guy who never forgot his country roots . He will be missed by all the people, and there were many whose lives he touched.

Ralph you will be missed.

Ralph_Home

RalphLilly_snow

          Ralph

Ralph

It is hard to follow a tribute to Ralph but keep tuned in for more of the on- going saga of Veritas Viognier when we will consider the nuances of how we make the wine, what it tastes like and what to drink with it.