The polar ice cap is melting! Chicago has had no snow for the first time since Chicago was built! In Afton, it has been the warmest winter in 17 years!
Warm winters are treacherous times for winegrowers because they can mean early bud break and early bud break can break the bank. We are happy when it stays cold and miserable up to the end of March because the buds remain tightly bundled up and do not think of spreading forth until mid-April.
St. Vincent of Saragosa
Winter is the season for pruning. In Europe, specifically France and Croatia, pruning starts on St. Vincent’s Day, the 22nd of January. St. Vincent is the patron saint of vignerons (wine growers). Stories abound as to how he became the patron saint but the one I like best relates back to when St. Vincent and his donkey were wandering the countryside when they came upon a group of workers in a vineyard. Being the nice chap he was, he stopped to chat with them and whilst they were talking, his donkey chomped away on the shoots of a nearby grapevine, reducing the limbs to mere stubs. Later in the year, at the end of the growing season, the vines that the donkey chomped on bore the highest quality fruit. And so it was revealed that by cutting back on shoot growth, the plant’s energy was more directed at producing higher quality fruit. True or not, pruning is now standard practice and it takes hours of meticulous, painstaking work through the normally frigid months of winter.
In The Vineyard
Pruning allows us to regulate the form and the size of the vine, which helps in regulating the vigor of the vine. This in turn determines the quality and the quantity of the grapes that ultimately determine the quality and the quantity of the wine that we make. And therein lies the dilemma of the winegrower: the higher the yield, the lower the quality and vice versa; the lower the yield, the higher the quality.
Central to understanding the subtleties of pruning is understanding what the bud is. The bud is essentially the formed plant fetus, or the plant to be. It is next year’s growth and although it looks single it is comprised of three ‘true’ buds and a lateral bud.
Cross Section of a Bud
Those three buds are like the triple hydraulic systems in an airplane – if the first one fails then there are two more backups. The fruiting capacity decreases from primary to secondary and from secondary to tertiary. So when the first frost hits then out come the secondary shoots and then after the second frost out come the tertiary and after that, “Thank you for flying Lufthansa.”
Who would have thought that you could make so many mistakes when pruning a vine?
The painstaking job of pruning.
Employee of the Month
Emily Pelton – Virginia Wine Person of the Year!
Well the big news is all about our most highly intelligent and beautiful winemaker Emily. She would be the first to tell you that the fact that Veritas won two gold medals in The Governor’s Cup was the result of teamwork. But when it comes to gold medals in The Governor’s Cup, the real kudos comes as to whether or not the gold medal was one of the twelve highest scoring wines that qualify to be in the Governor’s Case.
These top twelve wines represent the best of Virginia wines judged by a selection of the best wine judges in the USA and are used as living proof locally, nationally and internationally of the quality of wine produced in Virginia. Emily and her team got not one but two gold medal winning wines in the Governor’s Case! And oh by the way, the gold medal winning wines were the 2014 Petit Verdot and the 2014 Petit Manseng – no petit achievement!
Emily and Governor Terry McAuliffe
If that wasn’t enough, Emily was named Virginia Wine Person of the Year for the work she has done as founder of the Virginia Winemaker’s Research Exchange (WRE). Emily loves to constantly question the methods that have been adopted in wine growing and wine making in Virginia. Her questioning is infectious and she loves to share her questions with her peers.The idea of exchanging research questions caught on like wild fire. The enthusiasm was such that the Virginia Wine Board awarded the WRE a research grant to continue its work and hire a full-time research fellow.
Can you believe that since our last newsletter we have held The New Year’s Eve Masked Ball and The Valentine’s Day Winemaker’s Dinner and Party? But wait for it folks, coming up soon by overwhelming popular demand is the return of The Opportunity Ball on March 11th, this time with a Viennese theme. There are still a few seats left, so call or get online so you too can glide across the floor to ‘The Blue Danube’.
After The Opportunity Ball, the next events we are hosting are our Easter Sunday and Mother’s Day Winemaker’s Brunches. And speaking of mothers…
New Mother Chloe with Baby Isla and Patricia
Introducing Isla Ward Watkins, my 5th Grand Girl!
In an age of ever-increasing technological complexity when we use QuickBooks to balance our checkbook, it is so refreshing to witness what is good-old common sense making a triumphal comeback as witnessed by our youngest daughter Chloe and her husband Elliott. They went to all the prenatal classes together, worked with a doula, and opted for a midwife delivery in the hospital. They were both aware and engaged and as they say in England, “Bob’s your uncle,” she had a natural delivery with no analgesics and despite my unease, even no IV! Remember in the U.S. right now an astounding one in three babies are born by C-Section.
The Grand Girls on my 70th Birthday
One of my constant joys is witnessing and sharing the growth of my other four grand girls and the reason why most people read the newsletter.
Forgive me for lavishing so much time on the family but with what is happening in our world right now I wanted to try and cheer up the readership. One cannot escape the fact that with recent political events we have all been woken up from what might have been a comfortable complacency; we have been forced to look at our true values. Remember, Veritas means truth, a fundamental concept under dire stress and a concept that must be upheld. So please drink Veritas, the wine of truth.
From all of us here at Veritas as we transition ever-optimistically into Spring, have a Happy Easter.
Raconteur and Dilettante
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