Autumn 2017 Newsletter

Posted by on Nov 9, 2017 in Andrew's Newsletter | No Comments

Autumn in the vineyard

I tend to wax prolific when it comes to autumn and as I have written before, the word “autumn” conjures up much more of the season than the word “fall.” I usually quote John Keats in his majestic poem “To Autumn,” which never fails to emote after countless reads. So I start out this piece with the word “wistful,” a word to describe yearning for what has passed. We might be wistful that spring and summer have passed and yearn for times that are lost and will never be reclaimed. Then there is the word “maudlin,” a word from the bible that is a derivative of “Magdalene,” the prostitute who washed the feet of Christ at the cross with her tears as repentance for her sins. But maudlin implies a sense of false sentimentality often induced by too much alcohol. Then, of course is the very word “sentimental,” that implies being driven by emotion rather than logic or sensibility. So here I am feeling a bit wistful, but sensible enough not to call it maudlin or even over-sentimental.

For me, autumn is the grand finale, the fanfare of nature that precedes the bleakness of bone-aching winter. Autumn fills the senses with the glories of color as the leaves create a tapestry of visual delight. The chilly, early morning air fills the nostrils with heady, sweet aromas of herb and spice, sweet as a glass of Madeira as the autumn leaves finally and forever falls.

So what of the news? After all, this is supposed to be a newsletter!


All is safely gathered in ‘ere the winter storms begin. And yes, finally it has been a good year and a good harvest. There is no doubt that we dodged a couple of bullets, named Irma and Maria, and it is only now that the clouds are clearing from Matthew.

Our hearts go out to everyone in Napa and Sonoma and everyone in California hit by those horrendous wildfires. Remember last year we experienced wild fires that threatened Ankida Ridge, but nothing like the scale of what is happening in California. We have to count our blessings.

Our hardworking team on the last day of harvest 2017

Although Veritas sticks most of the time to time-honored methods of viticulture, we like to think that we are as innovative as modern technology allows. This is the first year using our new pneumatic leaf shredder. This bad boy works by blasting short bursts of high pressure air at the canopy and literally shatters the leaves that cover the fruit zone. In so doing, it makes it much easier for the crew to pick the grapes and because they get paid by the number of lugs they pick they get more money and we harvest faster, a win-win for all concerned.

Closeup of the shredder

The shredder attaches to the tractor

Before the shredder

And after!

Here we are in early November with the leaves still on the vines and for the most part they have only just changed into those blazing colors of autumn. The later the change in color, the better it is for the vines because green leaves photosynthesize, which means that the vines are still producing sugars that are stored, making the plants more resilient for the coming winter. Typically the leaves drop with the first frost, which I am sure is just around the corner.

Our wine making team from L-R: Lucas, Emily, Elliott and Seth

Seth, our harvest intern, has worked like a trooper through the harvest along with Lucas and Elliott. This is the first harvest in over 15 years that we have completed without the help of Paul Shaffer.

The Virginia Wine Academy

I’ve always been wary of the line from the philosopher George Bernard Shaw: “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” Then there was Woody Allen who said,“Those who can’t do, teach. And those who can’t teach, teach Gym.” And then, of course there was Albert Einstein who spent most of his life teaching who said: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

The Virginia Wine Academy: Andrew, Chris and Tracy

That is the underpinning principle of the Virginia Wine Academy. Chris Parker, Tracy Waldron and I enjoy the challenge of constantly improving our understanding so that we can explain the complexities of wine and spirits as simply as possible to our students. The backbone of the Wine Academy is teaching credit courses for qualification by the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) that you can find all details about on our website

Chris, Tracy and I met studying for the WSET Diploma. Tracy is located in Richmond and Chris will teach in the Reston area of Northern Virginia while I hold down the fort in Charlottesville. Once we have the teaching portion of WSET rolling there are lots of plans to expand into less formal educational experiences, the first of which is a tasting/educational seminar to be held at the Broadbent Selections office in Richmond on November 27th. Tracy will be taking the lead on tasting bubbles and because we have been making sparkling wine here at Veritas for over ten years I going to take the lead (not for too long) on the fascinating nuances of sparkling wine production.

It is also worth mentioning that Bartholomew Broadbent has agreed to be a member of our advisory committee as well as Steven Spurrier, one of the lead editors of Decanter and the famed organizer of the Judgment of Paris that was portrayed in the movie Bottle Shock.

Person of the Moment: Molly O’Halloran

Molly with her apple cider donut-loving son Peter, who just turned two

I am pretty sure Molly has been featured before in the newsletter but Molly, who has been with us since (almost) the very beginning of Veritas deserves a second laudation, if only for hanging in with us for so long. Do you realize that whenever I write a newsletter or article for The Grape Press it is Molly who makes sure of the grammatical correctness of my musings? When it is time to do payroll it is Molly who handles it. Likewise with liquor tax, income tax and any old tax that you can think of. Almost every vacation that Patricia and I have taken Molly has arranged for the phones to work, be it in China or in France. And most importantly, Molly makes sure the credit cards do not to bounce. Through thick and thin Molly has kept us afloat and for that we are forever grateful.


December will be here before you know it and we have two exciting events to look forward to. The first is our annual Sing-A-Long Christmas Caroling Event, which will be held on December 8th. Stay tuned for details. And then of course is our ever-popular and bubbly-filled Masked Ball to ring in 2018. Tickets are on sale here, but hurry, we always sell out!

Ringing in 2017 with our dear friends Dennis and Christine


After Isla, Chloe’s and Elliot’s daughter, our latest addition to the family is Finnegan, known his friends as “Finn.” He looks like a fluff ball and is the result of Australian polygenetic dog breeding he is part poodle, part retriever and part of something from Australia and despite that or more likely because of that he is an absolute love. He is Charlotte’s reward for graduating from thumb sucking.

Charlotte and Finn

Patricia and I just returned from ten days in Portugal. The tour, organized by Richard Hewitt of Vino Tours, was a huge success and unlike most tours of Portugal it did not feature the usual Douro where they have been making port for the British since the treaty of Methuen in 1705. We visited an up and coming wine region just southeast of Lisbon called the Alentejo. Everything you may have heard about Portugal is true; lovely climate, lovely wine outstanding food, and most of all lovely people who actually enjoy speaking their second language, English!

Santa Maria de Belem Lisbon

Our grand girls are growing so fast that when people ask me how old they are now I have to stop and think, so here they are in age sequence, starting with Amelia.

Amelia is 8

Charlotte is 9

Hailey is 12

Lydia is 12

And of course the wee bairn Isla, dressed up as Curious George for Halloween!

Well folks, as you can see, life is as eventful as ever at Veritas as the leaves of the trees explode with fiery color. Ahead lies Thanksgiving and then Christmas to soften the prospect of winter.

From all of us at Veritas, where all the women are happy and all the men make sure they stay that way, be well and have a wonderful Thanksgiving and Holiday Season!

Andrew Hodson,

Co-Founder of The Virginia Wine Academy
Veritas Emeritus Bottle Washer