Summer 2017 Newsletter

Posted by on Aug 17, 2017 in Andrew's Newsletter | No Comments

Summer at Veritas

“Its summer now: the heat is on. It’s summer now all summer long.” -Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

“It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.” -Yogi Berra

Viognier Grapes

To me, summer is characterized by the awareness of interminable lengths of time induced by inactivity, as if it’s too hot to do anything. We grudgingly accept that we will just have to wait this one out and we might as well enjoy it.


So it is with nature, and for us of course “nature” means the vines, which are idled by the sun in the summer, waiting for the fruit to ripen. The amount of fruit produced by the vine is balanced by the surface area of leaves that will allow the plant to ripen the fruit. A “good” vineyard at harvest is not growing new shoots; you can easily tell by looking at the number of pale green leaves (new shoots are pale green).

Cabernet Franc Vines

It is the leaves that photosynthesize sugar using carbon dioxide, water, and energy from the sun. The sugar ripens the fruit, which makes the alcohol that makes the wine. And this is where one has to distinguish heat from light. During photosynthesis, chloroplasts that contain green chlorophyll absorb the high-energy, high-frequency ultraviolet part of the light spectrum. The infrared part of the spectrum is made of lower-frequency, lower-energy heat and heat is only good up to a point, especially if the leaf gets too hot.


To prevent overheating, water evaporates from small pores in the leaves called the stomata, a process called transpiration for a plant, perspiration for us. The hotter it gets, the higher the rate of transpiration. However, there comes a point when the plant cannot keep up with the rate of water loss and the temperature of the leaf increases. Once this happens, those little pores (the stomata) close, and the plant loses turgor and starts to wilt. Carbon dioxide cannot get to the chloroplasts and photosynthesis stops or as we say, “The plant shuts down.”

The loss of turgor is primarily a protective mechanism that reduces the leaf surface area. The leaves hang down and become parallel to the sun’s rays, thereby limiting damage to the photosynthetic system. This may seem all very theoretical but an understanding of plant physiology has enabled the early detection of water stress in vines using drones equipped with temperature-sensitive detection imaging.

Unmanned Arial Device

It really is humbling to witness how seemingly simple and alarmingly technological advances can circumvent expensive and cumbersome scientific methods that have been used in the past to understand water balance in vines, methods that are limited by simply sampling methodology. We can now look on high and in one fell swoop sample the leaf temperature of the whole vineyard.

Heat Sensitive Map

With the vines dressed in their white nets, looking like troops at a passing out parade, Bill Tonkins, our vineyard manager, who sits on the Virginia Wine Board, has really been knocking ‘em out of the stadium.  Not only has he been recruiting drone technology but also you may have noticed rows of vines with paper bags around the clusters. It is all part of an ongoing viticultural research project in which we are trying to figure out whether to shade the clusters or not. Bill is doing this work in conjunction with the University of Georgia and with the help of Tony Wolf and the Virginia Tech Extension program (Emily Pelton).

Bagged Bunches

So far this year it has been the usual up and downs with rather more ups than downs, especially in the last four weeks of blissful sunshine (although if anything, it has been a bit too hot). This is the time when the grapes go through what we call veraison, the time when the green, hard, acid-filled berries turn color. The white grapes go soft and yellow and the black grapes turn soft and black and from veraison to harvest the grape sugar increases as the acids fall.

Cabernet Franc at Veraison


As we finish up bottling the last of the 2016 wines so we prepare to gird up our loins for the harvest of 2017. Emily is busy cleaning the crushpad, which is always a sign of impending fruit. Elliott is flexing his muscles in readiness in the cellar and Lucas is frantically sampling the grapes in the vineyard. Crop estimates are notoriously unreliable and we always have to wait and see but even to the untrained eye things are looking good. Remember the optimist is the person who is not aware of all the facts!


We Welcome Jami Becker, Our New Events Manager

Seismic change in Events! Grace, whom we love and who has been with us for over four years, despite being made employee of the month (ha!), has moved on to bigger and better things. We are excited to welcome Jami Becker with open arms. She comes to us with a wealth of experience in the hospitality world. She has a BSc in Event Management from The Rosen College of Hospitality Management and studied in the École Hôtelièr de Lausanne in Switzerland and was a Florida Bright Future Scholar. She has worked for Charity Challenge, Wintergreen, Pippin Hill, Easton-Porter Group Charlottesville and South Carolina, and most recently was Tasting Room Manger at Early Mountain Vineyards that incidentally was voted “#1 Tasting Room in the Country” by USA Today. So it really does look like they got it right in Florida and we look forward to a future as bright for Veritas as it has been for Jami.

Vines and Violins

We worked with Erin Freeman and Julianne Akins of the Wintergreen Performing Arts Summer Festival to provide an afternoon of melody from the strings and melody from the wines. We did a wine and music pairing that worked to the satisfaction of the two hundred people who attended.

Vines and Violins in The Ballroom

The Farmhouse

Patricia has found another one of her favorite things to do and that is running The Farmhouse Retreats either as one day Mini Retreats or as The Retreat that lasts three days. The focus is mindfulness and yoga in the context of the vineyards, winemaking and wine enjoyment.

Yoga with a View

Our “New” CEO

George has been with us for 5 years and despite the fact that he has been with us that long I have never done a feature on him in the newsletter. George is our middle child, and with the way he makes friends you would think he was born in Nelson County.

George Hodson

George has a degree in Neuroscience from Emory University and worked in surgical devices before joining the family business in 2012.  He has turned what was a Mom and Pop undertaking to the next level as a viable company. Working seamlessly with his two sisters, they acquired Flying Fox Vineyard last year. He also serves as president of both The Monticello Wine Trail and Nelson 151.

Anytime you ask George how he’s doing he’ll tell you he’s “Living the dream.” A large part of that dream is his wife Tralyn, who in addition to representing Veritas wines in some of the best restaurants and shops in Charlottesville, raises their daughters, Hailey and Ameilia, as well as volunteers with the UVA Children’s Hospital.

George and Tralyn

The Virginia Wine Academy

Chris Parker and I will be teaching two WSET courses this Fall at Piedmont Virginia Community College. You can read more about it in this blog post, or check out our new website,

Chris Parker


Family Affairs

Patricia and I have been busy travelling the world!

We went to China and Tibet

I spent two weeks in Malawi perfecting banana wine at the Mslauchi Co-Op

The Grand-Babes on the Beach

Nine Atomic Blondes

Isla at 7 Months

Well folks, that’s all the news that’s fit to print at Veritas Vineyards and Winery, where all the girls wear legwarmers and all the men wonder why.

Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend and soon we will be falling into Fall,

Andrew Hodson
The Virginia Wine Academy