While in Portland, my husband and I stayed with my father and his partner Mary (and Nikki the dog), in Mary’s gorgeous craftsman bungalow. They’re both wine lovers and keep a respectable-sized cellar in their basement, wherein lie many gently aging bottle of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.
On this trip, we drank a lot more beer than wine, my husband having brought 4 liters of his latest homebrew, a double chocolate stout, for all to enjoy. Also, Portland has so many truly great small microbreweries that when I visit, I try to take advantage of being able to walk down the block and fill up the growler. (sighs) I fear Austin will never develop the beer culture Portland enjoys.
In any case, rather than opening any Oregon Pinot Noir this year, Mary pulled out a bottle she had been given as a gift: a wine from Virginia. I’ve never tried a Virginian wine, and in a kind of queer Xmas cultural mash-up, “Yes, Virginia” was all I could say!
On the palate, black pepper and cherry sit lightly; the structure is delicate and balanced between tannin and fruit. Very elegant and French in style, with a whispery finish of slightly green tobacco.
This was the perfect Late Christmas Afternoon Wine: like a P. G. Wodehouse novel, it was cheerful and frivolous in such a way as to make more serious things seem stupendously, revoltingly dull. Cheerio!
Veritas is a family-owned and -run winery, with Andrew Hodsen and his daughter Emily Pelton on the winemaking side of things and Patricia Hodsen on the grape-growing side. Son-in-law Edward Pelton works the PR angle, and youngest daughter Chloe is “chief executive vineyard mower,” when she’s not at university. The vineyards are nestled snugly at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Emily won the 2007 National Women’s Wine Competition with her 2005 Kenmar, a dessert wine made from Traminette. (Yeah, I had never heard of it either. You’ll remember Appellation America’s description longer than mine, so just click on the link.)
In addition to their lover-ly Cabernet Franc, Veritas does a Viognier, a Petit Manseng, and a dry sparkler made from Chardonnay and Cab Franc. They also offer a host of other red Bordeaux varietals.
Did you know that the chief goal of the Jamestown settlement in Virginia was to grow wine grapes? 17th century Colonial Virginia had laws that required settlers to plant 10 grape vines on their lands in order to make wine, and in 1622 there is record of Virginia wines shipped to London. The advent of tobacco farming in the colonies killed most financial backing of struggling New World wineries, though. For more detail about the history of viticulture in Virginia, check out Gordon W. Murchie’s article, Virginia, First in Wine.
Virginia wine culture and production seems to be really taking off, and if the Veritas Cabernet Franc is typical of the region, they’re bottling some fine old juice in the VA. As Bertie Wooster would say, toodle pip!