If I were a man of all seasons my favorite season would be Autumn.
I actually have a file entitled “Poetry and Thoughts of Fall.” That is no accident because of all the seasons autumn is the season of reflection, the season more than any other that tugs those heart strings not of remorse or regret, but of vulnerability. Autumn is the blazing evidence that everything has to come to an end. It is that fleeting moment of awareness, when one day the iridescent leaves, illuminated by the close bosom friend of the maturing sun are gone.
In the morning of dank mists and mellow fruitfulness the vines are left bare, the cordon wires dripping only with chilly drops of loss.
Wine has many parallels with autumn and the seasons of the year.
After an exuberant spring and sultry summer the rewards of labor are realized as we harvest the fruit that has ripeness to its core. Originally natural yeasts on the surface of the berries fermented the sugar laden berries into wine.
From that point on, it is just a matter of time: the time it takes for that vintage to mature into that complex, concentrated miracle that we call wine.
What is so fascinating to me is not only the panorama of autumn colors but equally panoramic, if you can use that word, is the panorama of autumn odors, smells, and yes, perfumes. As I walk to work, I am assailed with the most beautiful panorama of smells, from caramel, to toffee marmalade and ginger, everything you can smell in a good glass of madeira.
Madeira is a fortified wine the very essence of which is to age in barrels open to oxygen. A madeira is an endpoint in the life of any wine that has a high enough alcohol to prevent spoilage by bacteria that would otherwise turn the wine into vinegar.
The next time you want to sit by the fire an reminisce about the good old days — especially the favorite autumn ones — indulge in the aromas of a glass of Madeira.
Autumn this year has been unusually beautiful and unusually prolonged like a good glass of Madeira — the finish goes on and on and then it is gone.
Bill Tonkins and his mighty crew were able to bring in a record yield of over 400 tons of grapes. That’s not just Veritas estate vineyards, of course it includes grapes from all over including Ridge Run in Shenandoah, Silver Creek in Tyro and Clay Hill in Albemarle.
As always, Bill kept the fruit as clean as a whistle despite the relatively wet growing season that usually predisposes the grapes to molds like powdery mildew, downy mildew and black rot.
We had to endure two hurricanes this year, First Fiona and then Ian which put a definite damper on things. Ian was one of the largest hurricanes to hit Florida in recent history and it certainly left its mark all the way up here in Virginia. But as always, we hung in there (pun intended.) What I mean, of course, is that we left the grapes on the vines as the hurricanes drenched us with rain. In so doing the big risk is that the grapes absorb too much water and the resultant wines are dilute and lack flavor intensity. It is a gamble we have to take almost every year — whether to bring in the grapes before they are fully mature and thereby avoid disease and dilution, or to risk it and let them hang. And that’s what we did.
As you all know, fortune favors the brave and this year it paid off. Following the rains we had a lovely dry spell with balmy breezes that dried out the grapes allowing the Petit Verdot to come through with flying colors. The reason we take the risk of letting the fruit hang is to allow the tannins to mature. As tannins ripen they go from green and bitter to mature and brown. These mature tannins are softer, rounder, less bitter, and make for better wine.
So just between you and me, we are secretly hoping this will be a great vintage year for our flagship red grape Petit Verdot.
Once we have made the wine we lay it down to mature so that the wine develops flavor complexities that only come from aging. If I knew what it is that allows one vintage to age compared to the next I probably would not be writing this newsletter.
Four hundred tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt! Yes folks, Bill did an epic job in bringing in 400 tons but Emily, Elliott, and the cellar team did an even more epic job in processing the most fruit we have ever had to process without an actual physical expansion in our cellar capacity.
In the summer I bemoaned the fact that bottles were an abomination to the energy crisis. I have made little or no progress in finding an alternative to an actual wine bottle. We’ve looked at things like cans, pouches but to no avail. However, we have made some progress in regard to reducing bottle usage by gearing up to use wine kegs in the winery. Eventually, perhaps, we will be able to distribute kegs to restaurants that sell wine by the glass. As you can imagine, that does not represent a large sector of the wine consuming public. So right now, we are considering whether we should invest a whole bunch of capital in kegs and the equipment needed to service them, or do we just start with an established keg company that we rent the kegs from?
I will keep you posted.
I like to tell people about the members of our wine club.
Our wine club is dear to us because, over the years our wine club members have been the heart beat of Veritas. In 2020, the year from hell, when in addition to two devastating frosts our tasting room was shut down, our wine club kept us afloat. As our wine club members know, there is a lot more to the wine club than just the wine. Rona De Vito-Huntley, our Wine Club Manager, makes sure our wine club members not only get their wine but all the benefits as well. Rona has done such a good job at running the wine club that she is our employee of the autumn season. She has been with us for over a year now and if you are a wine club member you will have experienced her cheerful and always helpful attitude. Rona is truly one of the Veritas family she enjoys her work to everyone’s benefit.
Congratulations to Amanda and Jesse who to their great relief are winding down on the wedding season. 2022 was particularly intense because so many weddings were put on hold in 2020 that spilled into 2021 and 2022, I think we are at last caught up.
We tried a more casual approach to our Harvest Supper Series on October 28th.
Yes, folks the New Year’s Eve Masked Ball is back, but this time it’s not an N95 mask!
Our 50th Wedding Anniversary – talk about crazy, we decided to relive our earliest and most formative experiences by renting a campervan and driving to Acadia National Park in Maine — there and back in one week!
Let me tell you about my grandchildren.
I finish the newsletter with just a hint of optimism, remember an optimist is a person who is not aware of all the facts.
Have a Great and Loving Thanksgiving,
Raconteur and Eco-maniac