Phew – we dodged a bullet. Remember my “winter” newsletter bemoaning the winter that never was? Well exactly on track, dear old Mother Nature graced us with bud break almost two weeks early. As I explained previously, that exposed us to two extra weeks of frost risk and although I swallow a bit hard when I say this, we have only ever had cold damage once in the last 17 years and that was in 2007. At that time, we had four days of sub-zero temperatures in late May. That was the year we made one of our very best Cabernet Franc Reserves, so there is always a silver lining!
Europe, including the UK, was hit hard with frost this year, the worst in decades. There is a German word that comes to mind, “schadenfreude,” the feeling of joy at the misfortune of someone else. It is not that I feel that, but I just wonder if there is a German word for “been there done that.”
In The Vineyard
The good news is we escaped the frost. The next crucial part of grape development is fluorescence, meaning flowering or bloom. Flowers flower for one reason: to get pollinated. That is why they look beautiful and smell even better. Pollinated flowers develop into the grape berry or as we usually call them, grapes. This is yet another critical time in the circle of life of the vine. The vines we like to grow, vitis vinifera, are actually hermaphroditic. That means that on the same plant there are male and female flowers that self-pollinate. The birds and the bees help, but for the most part they are not crucial to the pollinating process for the vitis vines. If the flowers are not pollinated, then berries are not formed and no one is happy. As always, the French have several words for this.
The first is “coulure,” as in “A particular variety of grape is subject to coulure.” Petit Verdot is a great example. The word comes from the French verb “couler” which means “to flow.” If you can imagine it, the flower caps seem to flow off the fruiting stem. In the U.S. the phenomenon is often referred to as “shatter.”
It all starts during flowering, when as a result of insufficient sunlight, usually rain and clouds, there is reduced photosynthesis and reduced carbohydrate production.
Fruit cluster before flowering
With sufficient sunlight, out come the flowers.
However, if there is insufficient photosynthesis, the floral caps, instead of falling off, stick to the berry, preventing emergence of the flower and hence pollination. The coulure or the flow relates to the falling off of the unpollinated flower caps.
As with all things French, verbs have different meanings in different contexts. The verb coulure can also mean “to be brought down or ruined,” which in this case means “as the caps flow off the unfertilized berries, so it will bring the wine grower to ruin.”
The other word that the aspiring wine grower needs to know is “millerandage.” Here, a picture is worth a thousand words. Millerandage or “shot berries” are also locally and much more figuratively known as “hen and chicks” or even as “pumpkin and peas,” or simply “shot” berries.
Those little green shot berries contain everything a winemaker does not want; they look mean and by golly they can make a wine taste mean. Those little green bad boys contain large amounts of green tannins that only add bitterness and astringency to the wine and completely throw the wine off balance. That is why we have sorting tables at harvest to sort out those mean shot berries from the happy, ripened grapes.
What then is the most important factor in preventing coulure and millerandage? Yep, you guessed it: the sun! Florescence is what we are going through right now. We call this period “fruit set.” If it is sunny we get good fruit set, if it is cloudy and wet we get coulure, millerandage and poor fruit set, simple as that.
That’s where we are in the vineyard – what else?
We have made a big step in getting our wines beyond Afton by establishing a working relationship with Emanuele Gaiarin of Siema Wines who is going to distribute Veritas to all corners of the world or at least the USA. We are still working with Chris Parker and New Horizon wines for our UK export to keep our presence on the International Market.
The Terrace – our new spot for selling gourmet sandwiches.
You may have noticed that we have made yet another leap forward in the catering world, offering a tasty selection of sandwiches, salads and sweet treats for sale on the deck.
Coleman is our Chef du Sandwich or Deli Chef and please pardon me if I say the sandwiches are DELIicious (groan). We have everything from brie to brisket, which taste best when washed down with a fresh Sauvignon Blanc or a fruity Rosé. You really should give it a try next time you visit. The Terrace is open Friday–Monday from 11-5.
Employee of the spring is our Event Manager Grace Jackson. She runs everything from weddings to Starry Nights. We regularly get comments thanking us for having Grace as our wedding manager. She has that genuine ability to enjoy what she is doing at the same time making everyone in the wedding feel special, especially the brides.
We all breathed a huge sigh of relief when Grace’s husband Charlie returned from a year-long deployment in Iraq and we know she did too. Welcome home, Charlie!
Charlie, Grace and their two fur babies
The Viennese Opportunity Ball was on March 11th. Yes folks, we did it in style! As “The Blue Danube” wafted through the evening so did the couples glide around the ballroom with practiced steps, whirling and twirling with gracious ease. We raised lots of money for the Nelson County Community Fund to distribute to the under privileged in Nelson County.
Members of The Nelson County Community Fund
Can you believe Starry Nights is next month? We are kicking off the season with Jimi Smooth & HitTime on Saturday, June 17th. Please note that the June Starry Nights is the third Saturday of the month, not the usual second Saturday. We are excited to add The Legwarmers to the schedule in August. Start planning your ‘80s costumes now! Click here for tickets.
Starry Nights Summer 2017 Lineup!
Isla and Chloe
Introducing Finnegan, Charlotte’s new puppy
When Chloe was growing up she used to suck her thumb. We tried everything and at last it came down to sheer bribery,“If you stop sucking your thumb we will buy you a puppy.” She stopped the next day! Not that Charlotte knew anything of this but it is so reassuring to know that human nature is so consistent – “If you stop sucking your thumb we will buy you a puppy.” Welcome to the family, Finn.
We took the grand-girls to London for Spring Break! We went to Buckingham Palace and The Tower of London, saw the crown jewels and The Lion King.
Their favorite part of the trip – riding The Underground
At a pub in London – my happy place
Well, that’s all folks. From all of us here at Veritas, where the men are all steadfast and the women are all resourceful, have a happy Memorial Day and a happy Fourth of July. Before you know it we will be getting ready for harvest!