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.
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. The 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.
To 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 there 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.