This post will likely become too lengthy and complicated for some. So, let me put the bottom line up front.
At Quièvremont Vineyard and Winery in Rappahannock County, the product may be an exceptional selection of wines, but of much greater importance is the ‘truth’ behind how those wines come to be.
In vino veritas.
They say that ‘in wine there is truth‘ (in vino veritas). Unfortunately, that is said with the suggestion that perhaps too much wine has been consumed and one has become less guarded in what he says. I do not hold that view. I prefer to think that the real ‘truth’ to be found in wine pertains more to those dauntless souls who have chosen wine making as their life’s work – determined and dedicated men like John Guevremont and Karl Selzer. Assuming that my view is correct,* let’s continue on and ask the the important question.
* On the Serendipity Farmhouse website my view is always correct unless, of course, when I’m overruled by my dear Wife or Mr. Monte.
Quid est veritas?
“What is truth?” Or more precisely, “What is the ‘truth’ behind the wines produced at Quièvremont Winery?” There are many ways to frame the response to that question. I will merely answer it with another question. “How was it that John Guevremont, a 20-year Marine Corps aviator, went from piloting the A-6 Intruder on display at the National Air and Space Museum to becoming the owner and operator of a Bucher Vaslin JLB 5 Basket Press?
John answers part of the question himself on the Quièvremont Winery website. But my beautiful Wife and I have seen that there are many more aspects and ways to view the ‘truth’ behind the wines produced at Quièvremont Winery.
Veritas est adaequatio intellectus et rei.**
Here is one way we were able to view wine making ‘truth’ on an enchanting Autumn day last week. Immediately following the tasting of a new variety of wine at Quièvremont, we were invited to tour the wine cellars. This most enlightening tour illustrated the extent to which the ‘romance’ of wine making and the ‘rigid laws’ of chemistry and mechanical engineering must be brought into harmony if there is ever to be a memorable vintage.
Karl Selzer, the winery manager and vintner, described the wine making process and explained the functions of barrels, vats, wine presses, and pumps. He also delved into the mystery of the chemistry hidden in each glass of wine. We learned that there is no single ‘recipe’ for any variety of wine. Weather conditions, crop losses, and a myriad of other variables during a particular year dictate that the vintner must do his best with the ingredients he has at hand. Every possible variation must be considered and the potential impact on the end results must be weighed. – Thus, the vintner must measure, test, record all the factors, and keep his notebook close at hand.
Let me briefly depart from our tour for a moment so that you might understand that, even though wine is made with grapes, the art of wine making truly depends upon those aforementioned “dauntless souls” who make the wine. Beautiful Wife and I have seen firsthand how John Guevremont has handled distressing times. For example, this Spring, several late freezes devastated a large portion John’s vineyards. Simultaneously, his winery was beset by revenue losses due to shutdowns caused by the current pandemic. Instead of declaring himself a victim, John devised a strategy to help his family, his employees, and his community carry on through the hard times. Much of his strategy was business related, but two items stand out:
- Reality Farm, run by John’s wife Teri, produces high quality beef and dairy products. When many in Rappahannock County, including my Wife and I, couldn’t obtain these items elsewhere, we were able to order them on line and pick them up at the winery.
- When local schools were closed and learning could only be done on-line, John set up a WiFi hotspot so that students who had no other access to the Internet would be able to go on-line.
In short, no matter how difficult the times, John and Teri put faith, family, and community first. They are always there for others. That may explain how Karl, who started out by presiding over wine tastings and laboring in the vineyards, eventually came to be the successful vintner he is today. It was under John’s watchful eye and encouragement that this transition was brought about.
Now back to our tour. – Another ‘truth’ to be found in the cellars is the expense of investment in equipment, even for the most fundamental items. Take for example the cost of oak barrels like the ones pictured below.
On the left we have a high quality barrel by the French company Tonnellerie Baron and on the right we have a somewhat less expensive, near-equivalent quality California product by The Oak Cooperage. In both cases, the pricing of typically used wine barrels begins at close to $1,000.00 per barrel. We learned from Karl that the considerable investment in equipment extends to every aspect of wine making.
At this point, my dear Wife inquired how are the grapes pressed. She confessed to me later that she had envisioned the pressing as it was done by Lucille Ball in a memorable episode of I Love Lucy. Here again, Karl was prepared to demonstrate a ‘truth’ of wine making – the modern wine press. Not only did he demonstrate, he allowed my most sweet Spouse to try her hand at pressing the grapes. – From my point of view, she was a far more dignified presser of grapes than Lucy was.
Karl continued the tour by elaborating on the process and explaining the individual steps involved. The photos below show the means by which the newly pressed juice is moved from the press to an awaiting barrel. Then, after months of waiting with great anticipation, the wine is bottled and stored.
The wine waits in storage for the day it will be brought upstairs and revealed to many who have come from far and near to sample the new vintage. And that is where another ‘truth’ about wine making is revealed. – Wine brings things and people together. – For example, sometimes Quièvremont Winery will sponsor events where local caterers and chefs can provide tasty samples of their art and trade. The pairing of fine wine and just the right delicacy make for a most delightful afternoon or evening.
Now that my dear Wife and I have learned these ‘truths’ that can be found in wine making and the ‘truth’ about those who make the wine, we will never look upon the expression ‘in vino veritas‘ in quite the same way. – So, as we take in the view from the deck at the Quièvremont Winery, we say, “Santé et Bon Apetit!”
**St. Thomas Aquinas asserts “Truth is the equation [or adequation] of things and intellect“. – We have seen some of the ‘things‘ that go into wine making and have done our best to make them ‘equate/adequate’ to what we hold in our ‘intellect’.