Summer Newsletter 2016
One of the best things about going away is coming back. I am trying to understand my own feelings after returning from two months in France; is it merely the return to security and familiarity or is it a much deeper sense of belonging to what one has created? My kids roll their eyes when I come out with my adage that “success in life is not getting what you want, it is wanting what you get.” And what is it that we all want? For me it is a sense of inner peace – the absence of “if only I had—-,” the sense of if I had to it all over again I would do the same but with a lot more style and self-awareness.
Outside this morning is a picture book of order and creativity, of organized continual striving – so cliché – “the pursuit of perfection,” but you know it is what we have done and what we try to do every day.
This is a time of sitting back and relaxing whilst we watch the grapes ripen as the sun blesses us with sunshine. As the sugar content goes up, so do the aromatics and thus the attraction to wildlife – from rooks to raccoons. Part of Mother Nature’s grand design is to propagate the seeds of the grapes to ever-wider territory which is why the grapes are deliberately aromatic and sweet. As with most things of Mother Nature as she gives so she takes away. It is not only man that wants these sweet lovelies, we also have deer, birds, squirrels, raccoons and even bears competing for the fruit.
As the grapes become riper we have to combat those pesky varmints. We use nets to prevent deer and bird damage. Where we don’t put nets the grapes are literally decimated.
This is the time for the canopy to be fully organized, having just gone through shoot positioning and leaf pulling. As harvest approaches, the vines are pumping all their energy into the hope for future generations – the grapes, not the leaves and the shoots. You can tell when the vines are in balance at harvest because there are no pale green shoots indicating new growth.
Emily Pelton, our winemaker, and Bill Tonkins, our vineyard manager, sample fruit regularly to measure the chemical content like acid and sugar concentrations but also to taste the skins and chew on the seeds in order to carefully assess the rate of ripening. They do this in order to answer the question that is the most difficult decision in the wine grower’s year – When to Pick? There are two major considerations, the chemical composition of the fruit and what we call the physiologic ripeness. As the grape matures over time, the sugar concentration goes up and conversely the acids drop and the grape becomes “chemically” ripe. But if this occurs too quickly, the more complex chemicals like tannins and phenols have not had time to mature to what we call physiologic maturity, so the grape can be chemically ripe but not physiologically ripe. That is why we have to measure the chemical ripeness as well as taste for the physiologic ripeness and make sure they are both at the same point. A good example of this chemical/physiologic mismatch occurred in the early days of Chilean production of Carmenere, normally a smooth, rich wine. The early producers picked only on chemical numbers, not realizing that in Chile, the abundant, cool sunshine results in chemical ripeness before the fruit is physiologically ripe.
We are gearing up for harvest that routinely starts in mid-August. The first to come in is usually the Chardonnay, which we deliberately pick early for our sparkling wines, Scintilla and Mousseux. The next to come in is Sauvignon Blanc, followed by an early pick of the Chardonnay for Saddleback Chardonnay. When the Chardonnay is at its ripest, we pick for our rich, barrel-fermented Harlequin Reserve Chardonnay. Harvest usually starts in a well-controlled, organized way and then as different weather conditions develop, so do a multitude of factors that make for an air of organized chaos.
We’ve actually had more sunshine this year (3150 vs 3106 growing degree units or GDUs) than last year, despite the fact that we are picking almost 10 days later. We started with the Sauvignon Blanc, not our usual Chardonnay for sparkling – don’t ask me why!
What other news?
At The Farmhouse
We welcome Dan Zbiegien as the most recent addition to our talent-laden line of culinary chefs viz. Andy Shipman. Dan comes to The Farmhouse encrusted with talent, having been drizzled here from Boston. He graduated Culinary School in 2000 after which he moved to Cleveland where he worked with some of the city’s top chefs. He moved to Boston in 2011 and studied under a Le Bernardin-trained chef for 5 years. He went on to work with Chef Robert Sisca at Bistro du Midi. He moved to Charlottesville in 2014 with his wife Rebecca who is completing her residency in Neurosurgery at UVA. As with a lot of talented people I have known, cuisine is only one part of what many people express as art and true enough, Dan’s other talent is landscape painting.
Employees of the Season
Our first employee of the summer is Lucas Loan, our summer intern. Lucas is an example to us all in sticking to your guns. He came to us in 2010 as our “harvest intern” at the tender age of 21. He loved working here but alas, no room for a guy after harvest with no education. He went to Appalachian State University and got a degree in Enology and Fermentation Science and he is back working with us with bells on.
You can see from her smile that Barbara-Lyn (known to us all as BL, she says to just remember Bacon and Lettuce) is beloved by everyone who meets her. She comes to us with a background in administration and teaching English and has now been with us for four years. She went from complex compound sentences to now expounding on complex compound wines and always with a charming smile.
We finish up the Starry Nights 2016 season on Saturday, September 10th with Chamomile and Whiskey and Jim Waive and the Young Divorcees, as original as folk and country get. Click here for tickets if you don’t have them yet!
On July 13th, Veritas hosted the future staff of the new Wegman’s store due to open this fall in Charlottesville – the subject of course, Virginia Wine!
In Memoriam of Annie (Nancy) Ward, Elliott’s maternal grandmother
Elliott and Chloe and Patricia went to England to celebrate her life. Here is a picture of Elliott and Chloe on the beach at Bexhill-on-Sea where Nancy lived and where Elliott and Chloe first met when they were 5 years old.
Well thanks to Facebook, pretty much everyone we know followed Patricia and I through our peregrinations around France. From Avignon to Zitzenberg, we did ‘em all.
The Jura on the far east edge of France was our very favorite, a little village called Baumes Les Messieurs that was located in a ”reculee,” which is a blind valley caused by a geological fault line. In the second picture we are looking down on the village and the Monastery.
My niece Katie Hodson works for The Gates Foundation in Geneva and popped over to see us when we stayed in Voiteur in Jura.
Bill and Di suffered yet another British Invasion with the arrival of their two sons and six grandchildren.
Our first fledgling Hailey Grace went to camp on her own.
Then Nan (Patricia), Emily and Tralyn, knowing the girls had such a hard summer with having to go to the beach and camp, decided to treat the girls to a short stay at The Homestead.
Well folks, that is all the news from Veritas, now the wine resort of higher learning. Wish us luck as we go into harvest, the busiest time of the year.
Remember, as the saying goes, In Vino Veritas, which by the way was exactly how Pliny the Elder stated it in his world famous blog in Naturalis Historia AD 45.
From all of us here at Veritas:
Have a great Labor Day Weekend,
Andrew Hodson Dip WSET
No comments on the “Dip” please.