In Vino Veritas


Growing Sauvignon Blanc in Virginia? We’d been told it was impossible because of the climate but here was a winery not only doing it but doing it very well. Here it seems vintages can be swelteringly hot and early (as 2010 was turning out to be), or cold, wet and late (and all else in between).


Perhaps less surprising, given Virginia’s aptitude for the variety, Veritas also make an excellent Petit Verdot. In fact it was partly their Petit Verdot that had brought me here in the first place; it was the star of a Virginian wine tasting the year before held by the Oxford Wine Company. I had always believed from the Bordelais that this variety was notoriously difficult to grow. It requires a certain boldness and courage to begin with but Veritas have been growing it since 2001. Not only that but they are making some really high quality wines.


Which brings us back to the question of how they are able to grow Sauvignon Blanc in Virginia? The vineyard is at 1300 feet which makes it much less humid and a drying mountain wind blows through nearby Rockfish Gap, making the vines less likely to rot.


The soil is made up of degenerate granite which also helps. Existing vines are being replaced by a more aromatic clone called Musque which has an intensely aromatic ‘New World style’.


At dinner the night before I had been seated next to the very affable Andrew Hodson, owner of Veritas. A leading paediatric specialist, he had moved from the UK with his wife Patricia to work in California many years before. After a very successful career as a doctor, Andrew and his family decided to take on a vineyard and Veritas was established in 1999. It is very much a family business: Patricia looks after the vineyards and Andrew and his daughter, Emily Pelton (National Woman Winemaker of the Year in 2007), look after the winemaking; son-in-law Edward Pelton is in charge of the tasting room and events. Their first vintage was 2001 and produced only 2000 cases; their present production is 12,000 cases.


Arriving on a bright, sunny morning in September we stood on the wide wrap-around veranda admiring the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. We were then gently ushered inside for a seated tasting which included some of their older vintages.

Veritas have 28 acres of vines, set out with an interesting array of grape varieties:


Chardonnay, 5 acres

Sauvignon, 4 acres

Traminette (with which they make a very attractive ice wine), 1 acre

Viognier, 4 acres

Petit Manseng, 1 acre

Cab. Franc, 5 acres

Merlot, 4 acres

Petit Verdot, 2 acres

Tannat, 1/3 acre

Malbec, 1 acre (not yet in production).


We tasted a comprehensive selection of Veritas wines: a rosé; 5 whites (a Viognier, two Chardonnays of differing styles and a very interesting Petit Manseng, all 2009 vintage); five reds showing different vintages of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot going back to 2002. All of the wines were at least very good and well-crafted and were beautifully textured and elegant in style. Here are a few comments on some of the wines which, for different reasons, really stood out.


The 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Reserve had a very good balance between classic SB aromatics without overdoing the herbaceous/green pepper aromas, but instead showed a more tropical passion fruit fragrance. On the palate, vibrant acidity was balanced by good flavour intensity and a fairly rich texture. (50% was in neutral barrels to give it a rich texture and mouth-feel).


2008 Petit Manseng (50g/l RS)

This was an interesting wine with a fragrance of quince and honey.

On the palate there was a delicious balance between sweetness and vivid acidity, green plum & quince notes contrasting with ripe honeydew melon flavours.


2002 Cabernet Franc Vintner’s Reserve – 18 months in oak.

The second vintage made here and drinking beautifully now. This was a real treat to taste and stood out for its supremely silky, melt-in-the-mouth texture, neither a big wine nor light, just beautifully poised and balanced. This is Cabernet Franc at its best with heady perfumed, violet notes as well as dark plum and cherry qualities to the fruit.


2008 Petit Verdot “Paul Shaffer 2nd Edition” – 60% Shaffer Vineyard and 40% Hodson Vineyard, 90% French oak, 10% American, 70% new 14 months – unfiltered. Paul is the cellar master.

This was a really stylish and well-made wine with a lovely richness and depth of flavour without being heavy, again showing a wonderful melting texture with very clean, pristine fruit and high quality oak, as yet a little prominent in this still young wine.


They make good sparkling wine too in collaboration with Claude Thibaut, 1200 cases in all – a white called ‘Bubbly’ and ‘Scintilla, a rosé ‘Mousseux’, both Methode Traditionale.


Photos © Steven Morris 2010 All rights reserved.


© 2010 – 2012, Susan Hulme MW. All rights reserved.

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