Sunday, February 15, 2009

Veritas Vineyards

Our first stop on the Monticello Wine Trail was Veritas Vineyards, located just southwest of Charlottesville at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Andrew and Patricia Hodson planted their first vines about a decade ago and opened the tasting facility in 2002 - selling wine from the 2001 vintage. They named the winery after the Roman historian, Pliny the Elder's statement: “In Vino Veritas” ~ “In Wine There Is Truth”. Their goal was to create high quality vinifera wines and with the assistance of their daughter Emily Pelton they have largely succeeded. And don't think that hiring your daughter is just another case of nepotism; Ms. Pelton earned a Masters in Enology at Virginia Tech and was recently awarded the Judges Choice Award at the 2007 National Women’s Wine Competition in California. On our arrival, Emily and resident sommelier Thomas Roberts escorted downstairs to the fermenting and barrel areas. Amongst large steel tanks we learned about the winery operations and their other goal of educating consumers on wine\food pairings through classes, private events, and weddings. Plus, these events are great opportunities to sell wine. During the discussion we also sampled their wines, starting with a Sauvignon Blanc - made in the Loire style. It was dry and crisp - nice for a varietal that we usually find as too weak in Virginia. We followed with a couple versions of Chardonnay and Viognier and what was exceptional about these wines is that we were tasting directly from either the tanks or barrels - basically the wines were only a few months old. The Viognier was most impressive - peaches and apricots - and its excellent character is why the previous vintage was awarded a double gold in San Francisco.

Moving to reds, we tasted from several barrels of Cabernet Franc, starting with a fruit forward version made from free run juice. There was no tannins in this sample - just cherry fruit flavors. We moved to two other barrels that contained wine made from grapes picked from the same vineyard lot - just a week difference. The wine was completely different - the first seemed fresher - some in our party smelled and tasted Violets - interesting for such a young wine; whereas the wine from the lot picked later was more tannic. Who knew that one week could create such a divergence in flavor. We continued with Merlot and Petit Verdot - the first solid, but the second exceptional. After only a few months in the barrel the Petit Verdot was already full bodied and spicy - no need to blend here - this is a single varietal. Emily also poured versions of their port-styled wine Othello where the Tannat and Touriga Nacional are fortified and aged separately. Finally we were lead into the sparkling wine room where amongst riddling racks we sampled their Mousseux - a dry sparkling style wine. The wine is an equal blend of Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc and is extremely dry - think dry raspberries - and very unsuspecting with the pink color.

What a fantastic start for our trip. Veritas set a very high benchmark that we would use to judge the other wineries. In the coming months, the Veritas wine making staff will need to determine how to bottle the wines we tasted. Some will be sold in the tasting room as 100% varietals, others will be blended to produce a Claret or Meritage. Partly science, mostly art - they will continue to sample the wines in the barrel until they can determine its final destination. We look forward to returning after bottling to sample the final result.

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