Spring 2018 Newsletter
“In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. Spring is the season for love.” Locksley Hall, Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
To me, spring is the celebration of new birth as we gratefully awaken from the dark days of winter – a renewal that every year feels like a new experience.
Forget the disappointments of the past; this time it will be different. We wipe the slate clean and start anew. And what is truly amazing is that the whole experience is exactly the same as last year. The only difference is in us: we are one year older, but are we one year better? Are we one year wiser?
Or do we simply perpetuate what we learned in the formative years of our lives?
I think it was Robert Fulghum who wrote, “everything we need to know in life we learned in kindergarten.” The blueprint created not only by life’s experiences but how one as an individual dealt with those experiences sets the core of you as a person for the rest of your life.
Then as life proceeds different layers of our lives are cast off – the family grows up and leaves, the career that occupied 90% of one’s working life ends abruptly and fades imperceptibly into the distance. In the twilight of life one finds oneself in a more rare perhaps thinner atmosphere where perception is heightened by the very absence of so much white noise. The senses are more acute, colors are brighter, smells are stronger, the sheets feel softer, the peaches taste peachier. It is as if we see the world perhaps as a child does now with a greater degree of joy and acceptance – a reawakening that feels like the joy of spring.
In the Vineyard
This year, like every year in Virginia is an anomaly a bit like the anomalous year we had last year.
It was by and large a warm winter with no outlandish episodes of sub-arctic temperatures and more importantly no fiendish frost to wither the burgeoning buds of May.
But, and there is always is a but, we have had more than a challenging spring. There has been so much cloud cover and dreary, drizzling days of rain that our hopes for a good crop have been significantly dampened. In some areas of Virginia the rainfall has been worse than last year when we had close to 15 inches of rain in the month of May.
For Lord Tennyson, Spring may be about love, but if you are a plant, spring is all about the botanical equivalent of love: namely flowering and pollination.
We normally think of blooming daffodils, tulips and primroses when we think of spring flowers, but vines have flowers too though they are much less spectacular.
Fruit Set is a critical time in the life cycle of the vine when the flowers of the vines become pollinated. And given the conditions of this spring we have reason for concern.
The initial inflorescence (the flower bud) in a vine contains hundreds of flowers but not all flowers will turn into berries. In grapevines, a large number of flowers simply fall off in the two weeks following bloom. If the weather is sunny and dry many more flowers get pollinated and more berries will be formed. If there is cloud cover, wind and rain the flowers fall off before being pollinated – a process referred to as “shatter.” the French have their own term which is “coulure” that is supposed to describe a flow of flowers from the stem – Claude Thibaut explained to me that as lava flows so it has coulure.
Not many people know that the vines we grow – namely, vitis vinifera from Europe – are hermaphroditic:male and female flowers grow on the same plant. As a result, vines are self-pollinating and although vines do not need insects to pollinate there are good studies to show in organic and biodynamic vineyards pollination and fruit set is markedly increased in the presence a healthy insect population.
Apart from bad weather, there are a host of different factors that can affect fruit set including the specific grape variety. Petit Verdot, our flagship red wine is particularly susceptible to poor fruit set and we will see how the Petit Verdot fares under the conditions this year. There have been years when fruit set has been so bad in the Petit Verdot that there was insufficient crop to make the wine as a single varietal.
And it is not only this years’ crop that is affected; remember that a vine is a biennial creature and by that, I mean that conditions this spring affect not only this year’s fruit set but also the formation of buds for next year: 2019. What with the new growth of this years’ stems, leaves and flowers as well as forming the buds for next year the plant needs lots of energy in the form of sunlight at this critical point and that is just what we did not get – some varietals being more affected than others.
Yet hope springs eternal and battle-on we will.
In the Winery
This is the season when we are busy bottling. We have got all the whites from 2017 bottled (except Harlequin that requires more oak barrel aging than the other whites); we have Cabernet Franc and Red Star in the bottle. Merlot, Claret and our Wine Club Cuvee collection are scheduled for bottling in the next couple of weeks.
The Monticello Wine Trail Competition was held at Veritas through the auspices of the Virginia Wine Academy – Chris Parker and Tracy Waldron take a bow.
And the winner was:
Veritas 2015 Petit Verdot – Emily and Elliott and the whole cellar crew take a bow! Bill Tonkins our intrepid master of the vines take a bow.
A seismic shift in administration – Yes folks, our beloved Molly has retired from Veritas after 13 years of faithful hard work. Molly, the center point of pay-day, excise taxes and our Face on Facebook, has moved on with all our blessings and love. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Molly who was one of the founding members of the Veritas family. We wish her well.
Employees of the month.
The Virginia Wine Academy based here at Veritas opened in September of last year and in that time our tasting staff have taken the opportunity to take the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) awards in wine. Sarah Ponton passed Level 2 in the fall of last year with BL, Holly Gunderson, Jason Bennet, Doug Schneider, Terry Morris and Lisa Kraus passing Level 1 in the last six months. I think I would not be exaggerating to say we have probably the most darn intelligent and informed tasting room staff in all of Virginia.
Just as the buds bloom on April 15th and just as the flowers flower in May so Starry Nights starts on the second Saturday in June – Jimmy Smooth and the Hittime Band, July is the English Channel, August is The Leg Warmers, September is Chamomile and Whisky. We have a new set up this year, which seems to be a much better experience for everyone. We hope you will be able to join us at one, if not all!
I have to share with you that after almost 46 years of marriage my dear wife, Patricia the love of my life, decided now that we have cast off all the burdens of family and career to try her hand at painting. She started with acrylics but soon switched to watercolors and knowing how much George loves the wildlife and ducks in particular she decided to paint George some ducks for his birthday – and boom. These are few examples of what she has produced starting from scratch since George’s birthday last October. She still has not taken the art lessons I bought her for Christmas. Apart from Patricia raising her sheep, designing everything that is good about the Farmhouse and Starry nights I can’t imagine why she hasn’t had more time to paint. Maybe now she has found the ultimate medium to express her limitless creativity.
Maureen and Ray Watkins
We have known Ray and Maureen Watkins (Elliott’s Mum and Dad) a long time dating back over thirty years. The link was that Bill Tonkins (Patricia’s Father) was best friends with his neighbor Roy Ward. At the same point in time Bill had a five-year-old granddaughter called Chloe and Roy had a five-year-old grandson named Elliott. So, to make a long story short Chloe and Elliott fell in love and got married. When baby Isla came along we were lucky enough that Ray and Maureen, formerly citizens of the world, decided to relocate to right here in Charlottesville. Since then we have enjoyed many a Happy Hour and game of pool at the Farmhouse. Ray still seems to insist that he is undefeated.
I realized that we had spent so much time Oohing and Ahhhing over Isla that we omitted to introduce Ray and Maureen as the most welcome addition to the Hodson and Veritas family.
I think this is the one of the latest spring newsletters I have written with the first day of summer being only a day away. I have been hoping the gloom would lift and I am sure it will and that whatever the conditions Veritas vines will make the best Veritas wines.
Well folks that is all the news from Veritas where all the women are safe, and all the men are respectful.
Thank you for your interest and spending the time to read the spring newsletter.
Have a wonderful 4th of July,
Raconteur and Dilettante Retired.