Veritas Vineyards & Winery is a popular spot in the heart of Central Virginia wine country. The first vines were planted in 1999. Over the past two decades, the Hodson family has created a thriving businss and a cozy getaway for visitors near and far.
Veritas has a beautiful rustic tasting room complete with cozy leather sofas and a crackling fireplace. The award-winning wines and breathtaking views are the perfect respite from a long week. The property is nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s a vibrant wedding destination and they also host the very popular Starry, Starry nights summer concert series. But did you know that you can also enjoy a luxurious epicurean yoga retreat at Veritas?
To learn more about the other side of Veritas we are talking with Patricia Hodson all about The Retreat at Veritas and the importance of unplugging from all the distractions of life to nourish your mind, body and soul with yoga, hiking, award-winning wine and fabulous food.
Andrew Hodson, owner of Veritas Vineyards & Winery in Afton, Virginia joins me in studio for this episode of Crystal Palate’s Wine Country.
Andrew & Patricia Hodson opened the doors to Veritas nearly 20 years ago. The operation is truly a family affair with each one of their children playing a vital role in the business (Listen to my interview with their daughter and Veritas winemaker, Emily Pelton). Veritas is one of the most beautiful properties in the Commonwealth complete with more than fifty acres of vines, a tasting room nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a quaint Farmhouse Inn and will soon be home to a new wine school. The family patriarch Andrew Hodson earned his diploma certification with the Wine Spirit and Education Trust (WSET) and is now an Approved Programme Provider (APP) with the WSET. He plans on launching the school in 2018.
On the show, Andrew discuss the school, his favorite wines and how he made the leap from a pediatric neurologist in England to a vineyard owner and winemaker in the heart of Virginia.
The day long conference on April 5 brought together some of the country’s leading wine experts, writers and critics with some of the best winemakers in the Commonwealth to celebrate the Virginia wine industry.
The morning kicked off with a Grand Tasting, featuring the Art of Whites. Five Virginia whites went head to head with its global counterparts in a blind tasting. The panel discussion was lead by Master of Wine Jay Youmans, who also serves at the helm of the Virginia Governor’s Cup.
We tasted through Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino, Petit Manseng and Viognier. Virginia did extremely well in all the blinds, but the big take away for me was the Barboursville Vermentino and the King Family Viognier. The Michael Shaps Petit Manseng never disappoints, nor does the Veritas Sauvignon Blanc, but the elegant, bright and mineral driven Vermentino from Barboursville was a real showstopper. It was tasted up against the La Spinetta Vermentino from Tuscany and was the crowd favorite for that match-up.
The Viognier fooled many in the room including myself and several of the panelists. Many of us thought the Virginia Viognier was from Condrieu, a world renowned area that produces Viognier in the Rhone Valley of France. Viognier was coined the signature grape of Virginia a few years back, but it’s been challenging for many winemakers to produce a consistent style and many have removed their vines and planted more reliable grapes. Viognier can also pose a challenge due to its lack of acidity in comparison with many other whites, making it a bit more challenging to pair with food.
However, when the perfect growing season culminates with the perfect terroir and a kiss of TLC in the cellar, Viognier can be an exquisite wine, as King Family and a handful of other Virginia producers like Jefferson, Chrysalis, Michael Shaps, Horton and Barboursville have demonstrated time and time again. Fox Meadow also deserves a mention for producing a Chardonnay that many mistook for a Sonoma Chardonnay. While Virginia is finally succeeding in establishing its own identity for the special place that it is, it’s certainly a great compliment to have your wine compared to some of the best wine regions in the world.
While the focus for many American winemakers has been on French varietals over the years, it’s really exciting to see what Virginia is doing with Italian grapes. While Luca Paschina, winemaker at Barboursville, has led this charge, a few other properties are taking notice and producing some exceptional wine with Italian flare. One of the most memorable wines of the day for me was the 2010 Nebbiolo from Breaux Vineyards. Nebbiolo hails from Piedmont, Italy and produces the powerhouse wines of Barolo and Barbaresco. Breaux has been working with this grape for more than 15 years.
The nose had the immediate telltale signs of Nebbiolo with it’s soft dried rose petals and rugged hints of tar. These aromas danced in my glass and mingled with notes of dried cherry, rhubarb, sweet spice, oolong tea, a touch of anise and orange zest. The velvety tannins and piercing, yet balanced acidity, had me longing for a big bowl of pasta carbonara or hearty bolognese, a hunk of bread and a bottle of this beautiful red. Can you say delicious! The 2010 vintage will be released to the public later this year.
Author of The New California Wine,Jon Bonné,served as the keynote speaker and talked about the incredible progress that Virginia has made over the past decade. He said Virginia is nearing an inflection point and that an important decision needs to be made on what Virginia wants its wine identity to be. He encouraged everyone in the room to stop comparing Virginia to Napa or Oregon or France and to celebrate Virginia for all it has to offer.
Diversity was a common thread throughout many of the panel discussions. It really is the diversity of not only varietals, but the diversity in microclimates and terroir that really make Virginia a special place to grow wine.
Matthier Finot of King Family Vineyards talking terroir with Benoit Pineau of Pollak Vineyards and Luca Paschina of Barboursville VineyardsFrom impressive Petit Manseng (both dry and dessert styles) to exciting Italian and Bordelais varietals, he applauded the experimental fringe and diversity of varietals being produced across the Commonwealth. Bonné closed with the following remark, “I hope 10 years from now, I see Virginia wine on wine lists across NYC and L.A. and if I don’t see it there, it would be an omission not to have it on those lists. When you reach that point Virginia, you have won.”
From learning about the different terroir and soil types of Northern and Central from six winemakers to a panel discussion on Uncommon varietals grown in the Commonwealth, the 4th Annual Wine Summit was a day packed with interesting dialogue and discussion about the depth of its wine portfolio. From light, crisp Albarino and Vermentino to Petit Manseng for the whites and the Bordelais varietals for the reds, Virginia is coming in to its own as a world class wine destination. Not to mention the beautiful landscapes surrounding our vines from the Chesapeake Bay to the Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s easy to see why Virginia is for Wine Lovers.
Governor Terry McAuliffe joined Secretary of Agriculture Todd Haymore for the closing reception. Governor McAuliffe applauded the success of the Virginia wine industry and had the audience laughing when he said, “think about it, Virginia really is for lovers, we have great oysters, we have great wine… I’ll let you put the rest together.”
There’s no doubt Thomas Jefferson would be incredibly proud of the success of the industry he so passionately pioneered more than 200 years ago.
I love using lemons and wine to cook with. The two combined provide a refreshing acidity to any dish and when you are going low carb, it’s all about packing a flavor punch. It’s easy to get bored with baked or poached chicken, so I spiced it up tonight a little with a Meyer Lemon Rosemary Chicken. I have found that almond flour is a great way to add a little texture to meat. You can use regular lemons, but I find Meyer lemons are a little sweeter and tend to pack more juice.
When choosing wine for this dish, you definitely want to stick with a white varietal and there are many that work. You want a wine that mirrors the citrus note and that has medium body. If you haven’t tried a Viognier, this is a great choice. Viognier is the official state grape of Virginia and is indigenous to the Rhone Valley of France. Viognier is quite unique, it tends to have the similar body of a Chardonnay, bright citrus notes of a Sauvignon Blanc and some of the floral aromatics of a Riesling. It’s a great choice when you are tired of the same old Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. It’s highly aromatic, but it’s not sweet. Keep in mind Viognier is difficult to grow and can become bitter when conditions aren’t perfect.
There are several other wines that would work quite well with this dish such as a nice Chablis, Pouilly Fuisse or unoaked Chardonnay from the U.S. Since I am a Virginia girl, I need to recommend the Chatham Vineyards Church Creek Steel Chardonnay. They use dijon clones and make a really great unoaked Chardonnay with vibrant acidity and nice minerality that may remind you more of a Burgundian style than a typical American Chardonnay. It also offers a great value at under $20 a bottle.
Recipe: Lemon Rosemary Chicken (Paleo-friendly)
4-6oz chicken breasts
2 tbsp. olive oil (plus more for brushing)
1 tbsp sea salt
1/2 tbsp pepper
1 tbsp Herbs de Provence (thyme, basil, savory, fennel & lavender)
1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup dry white wine (Viognier, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Unoaked Chardonnay)
2 meyer lemons (zest from one)
rosemary sprigs for garnish
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
Brush a thin coat of olive oil on the chicken, then sprinkle salt, pepper & Herbs de Provence on both sides of the chicken. Then dust both sides in a thin layer of almond flour to provide a little texture and nutty flavor. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan (oven proof) and sear chicken on both sides for 5 minutes or until golden on each side. This will help lock in the juices. Add juice & zest from 1 lemon and 1/4 cup wine to the chicken. Put in oven and bake for 25 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with rosemary and lemon slices.