Happy Benevolent Snow
It was this time last year when we started to hear about this novel coronavirus and it was this time last year that we were forced to shut down.
Our world as we knew it was turned upside down. The humdrum routines of daily life evaporated. It’s hard to imagine how a tiny particle like a virus could do that but it did. Here we are peering at the light at the end of the tunnel as states drop mask wearing rules and allow restaurants to reopen- the human capacity for infinite mindlessness never fails to amaze me.
Yes, we have had some financial help thanks to the first stimulus bill and like the Beatles we’ve got by with a little help from our friends, those friends being our loyal customers and of course our wine club.
Nasty Destructive Ice
It is not the strong who survive it is the ones that can adapt.
If you’ve been to the winery recently, you will see, what was the ballroom is now the tasting room and what was the tasting; that became our pop-up restaurant phase ii. At the moment phase ii is currently being repurposed to provide socially distanced wine pairings with our Terrace menu. Necessity is the mother of invention and to keep the home fires burning during this brutal winter. We have extended our brick patio in front of the tasting room to permit more people to enjoy our wines in the fresh outdoors in conjunction with our Igloos and outside heaters.
In The Vineyard
At least weather-wise we have had a decent winter; lots of lovely snow with days on end below zero. If you are a wine-grape grower these are all good things. The snow blankets the vines and provides a little boost of nitrogen and days below zero kill off many of our insect pests so all in all a good start to the year.
Talking of nitrogen in the soil, the Virginia Vineyards Association winter meeting this year concentrated on the importance of a “living” soil, the concept that healthy soil is teeming with microbial life. Life that includes bacteria, fungi, or even viruses. Like human beings plants can be infected by viruses, but not all viruses are pathogenic. We are talking now about organic and taken to an extreme biodynamic grape growing (viticulture.)
An outsider looking at biodynamic principles would think it is a load of hokus -pokus linking vine growth to the movement of the stars and burying cow horns filled with herbal potions.
There are increasing numbers of vineyards that are “going biodynamic,” utilizing these weird practices that were first espoused by Rudolf Steiner at the end of the nineteenth century. Indeed, some of the very highest quality wines and most expensive like for instance Romani – Conti are biodynamically farmed.
The explanation is not that these weird practices are the direct cause of increased wine quality; it is that in performing these practices the growers are taking obsessive care of their vines.
Another crucial factor is climate and biodynamic viticulture thrives in dry climates. Perpignan is the hottest driest city in France and is the capital of biodynamic viticulture. So you can imagine in Virginia with an annual rainfall of 36 inches there may be one or two organic vineyards, but I do not know of one biodynamic vineyard in Virginia.
“Biodynamic viticulture respects the fundamental mysteries of nature and the human soul. Excellence sometimes requires us to operate outside the shallow waters currently illuminated by science and wade into territory where formulas fail. “
In The Winery
Emily and Elliott Evan Chris Jolie – 5 members of the team 5 Gold Medals – Team Work!!!
Gold medals – Governor’s Cup:
Scintilla 2015 – GOLD
Sauvignon Blanc 2019 – GOLD
Momentarius (white bend) 2019 – GOLD
Cabernet Franc Reserve 2017 – GOLD
Petit Verdot 2017 – GOLD
Virginia Sparkling Wine Company
There’s gold in them old hills – just so we do not lose sight, Elliott Watkins Director of the Virginia Sparkling Wine Company
San Francisco International Wine Competition GOLD
San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition GOLD
Virginia Governor’s Cup GOLD
In Memoriam 1942-2021
Steven Spurrier, the best of the best of British wine writers was a big friend of Virginia Wine. He was best known for his championing of California wines against the top French Bordeaux in what was called “The Judgement of Paris.” He took a similar approach to Virginia where he generously claimed that “Virginia grows the wines I like.” We hosted a dinner for him here at Veritas entitled “My Life in Wine,” pouring the wines he chose as being emblematic of achievements in the International Wine markets.
Above all he was described as a gentleman’s gentleman. He will be sorely missed and as David Mcintyre notes “his influence will live on.”
The Farmhouse is booming.
Person of the month -Brandon Masters
Brandon Masters is feeling right at home.
I asked Brandon to write me a brief bio that I have done my best to summarize;
Brandon is from the University of Hard Knocks. He dreamed of becoming famous through his artistic culinary skills and worked his way up the hard way as chefs do learning skills from their mentors. He came to us having been the executive chef at Newcomb Hall at UVA.
His own words capture the character of the man.
“Now in my 20th year of professional cooking, I absolutely love being part of the team at Veritas and working with Chef Daniel. We put on a show for our guests every night painting plates and orchestrating a symphony of flavors and colors. The space that I’m given to be creative and express my own Moxy is a rarity in my personal experience, a rarity in our business. I currently live in Charlottesville where in my time away from the Farmhouse. I enjoy spending time with my two sons Sawyer and Finnegan, cycling, writing and performing music with friends.”
I always include a section on the family in my newsletters. I think the family news is probably the main reason people open the newsletter, that by the way after almost 15 years is still the most frequently opened of all our missives. However disappointingly I didn’t get much traction on my blog posts but that may have been a function of lack of internet access.
Thankfully we have all escaped the ravages of Covid19 and to my delight, all of the most vulnerable old fogies in our family have received full immunization (If you want to be really picky the word “vaccination” refers only to the use of vaccinia which is an Orthopox virus related to cowpox and smallpox).
So, I always feature our granddaughters of which I have six – all girls and the oldest is Lydia.
Lydia is as old as the newsletter -15 years, can you believe it!
She is an honors student who other than school work lives to row and she excels at that too!
Hailey is three months younger than Lydia and I hate to be repetitive, but Hailey is an honors student who other than school work loves to run and she excels at that too!
Charlotte is a free spirit. Now 12 years old, she insists the she is almost 13. She loves music – piano, singing, art and don’t forget gardening.
Amelia, known to friends and family as “Mimi,” will be 12 in April. Like Charlotte she enjoys life at school, on the LAX team and on the basketball court.
And then there are the weenies, and who knows how they will turn out, but if they are anything like their older cuzzes the future looks pretty bright.
Isla and Elsie Watkins
Thanks for spending the time reading my retrospective of this winter. This winter unlike last winter truly brought a degree of hope. Now that we have got back to respect for the truth, respect for Covid 19 and the vaccines that can thwart its devastating effect, let’s look forward to Labor Day!
In the mean time, from all the family at Veritas, have a Happy Easter and stay safe.
Patriarch, Bottle-washer and Dilettante Retired.