A personal perpsective of life in our Virginia vineyard... Christine Wells Vrooman



Hello again, my friends. My, it's been a long, long time. I have missed writing in this space. Life got busy. A few months' lapse quickly became a year. That year quickly became two. Rather than sum up in generalities what has transpired since my last writings, I will hop right into the present. Those of you that have followed us on Facebook and Instagram over this time lapse have shared in our many joys, accomplishments, successes and occasional sadnesses.  And we have so enjoyed sharing this life with all of you along the way. 
So here we are, in the midst of our seventh vintage.  The experience of working as a family on this project we call Ankida is the ultimate satisfaction and joy, this #ankidalife. Working side by side in the vineyard and in the cellar with our son, Nathan, is every mother's dream. And now we have our daughter, Tamara, in the fold, heading up marketing in the southeast! In the cellar we are often joined by Nathan's adorable bride, and talented winemaker as well, Rachel, of Stinson Vineyards.  Dennis is here more and more now and we four can create quite a team in the cellar, winemakers extraordinaire, Nathan and Rachel, and two well-intentioned cellar rats, Dennis and me! How I will miss this unit of togetherness after crush is over. It is truly my favorite time of year now, alongside Christmas of course! And in the tasting room, my sister Cindy runs the show. It is a true family-run business. We are small, but mighty!

Harvest 2016! 

The Vintage of 2016

The spring freezes of April this year created substantial losses for many Virginia vineyards.  At that time it was still uncertain the amount of damage they would face. The bad news, many of them would learn they experienced up to a 95% loss of their early whites, such as Chardonnay.  We, too, would have faced such a loss if the freeze event had occurred a week later. There was no warm air to drift back up to us in this massive Polar Vortex.  We got as cold as everyone else, but because of our normally cooler temperatures our buds were still tight and our crop was saved. We will have another beautiful Chardonnay for you after all, again this year blended with the delicious fruit of our Amherst County neighbors, the Baldridges of Mountain Terrace Vineyards! 

For the Pinot Noir, I would venture to say this will be our best vintage yet.  What started out as a wet, cool summer, diminishing our hopes for a beautiful season free of disease pressure,  it all turned to golden sunshine and happiness about the time the fruit began collecting sugar late July. We had an August of sunshine with moderate temperatures. Remember, we are usually 8-10 degrees cooler than most lower locales in Virginia. We hit two days of 91 this year, our first days to hit 90 since 2014. It was perfect weather for ripening our pinot grapes. We covered the grapes with an organic clay called Surround to protect them from the spotted winged drosophila (SWD) fruit fly. This clay totally precipitates out and does not affect the winemaking at all. We had no fruit fly pressure this year. We were thrilled. We continue to experiment too. We have used our own native yeast  collected in the vineyard in one of our barrels and we also incorporated 25% whole cluster grapes in one of our fermenting t-bins.  We are encouraged with both of these undertakings.
The wine has just finished its primary fermentation and was pressed on Monday and is now in barrel waiting to go through its secondary fermentation that converts malic acid to lactic acid, the softer of the two. It is tasting so beautiful and rich already. Can't wait to taste the finished product 18 months or so from now.  It will stay in barrel till next summer, then age in the bottle for another 6 to 9 months. Then voila! A new vintage to enjoy. 
Sept 19!
All Hands on Deck!
A Winery Lamb!
We had a difficult lambing season this year.  Sadly, we lost two ewes, leaving behind a set of twins and a single lamb.  In addition, we lost one small lamb. This left us with a ewe without a lamb, and three lambs without a mother. With some coaxing and assistance (and persistence) the orphaned ewe adopted as her own two of the orphans, creating their own little family. The one female lamb took to the bottle right away and so we bottle fed her. She drank so voraciously, we nicknamed her Little Miss Piggy.  She grew attached to us and has become particularly fond of the little grandchildren, following them everywhere. She even made her way into the tasting room once, which was against the rules. It made the tasters laugh and play to see a lamb at ....a winery! Outside she must stay, but if lucky, you will catch her here. So some wineries have a winery dog or winery cat. We are proud to say, we have a winery lamb! We were grateful to have been able to find some beauty and redemption out of a sad situation. We invite you to visit and meet Little Miss Piggy. By the way, she loves neck and back massages!

And then there are the sad times...
Sometimes in life, we live through a stretch of unfortunate events, unexpected losses that leave us feeling empty.  The last couple of months has been one of those periods in life.
The end of July we lost both our Bella and our Boomboom  in the same week after brief, unrelated illnesses. And this week we were stunned and heartbroken to learn of the sudden death of a dear friend and outstanding vineyardist, Char Baldridge of Mountain Terrace Vineyard, the Amherst County vineyard from whom we have been buying chardonnay to add to the Ankida Chardonnay wines.  Below I offer my tribute to these souls so close to our hearts.
Char & John Baldridge
Mountain Terrace Vineyards, Amherst VA
Sept, 2016

For the last couple of years we have been working closely with John and Char Baldridge and have purchased their beautiful chardonnay fruit to add to ours. John and Char planted their vineyard in 1999 and the two of them have been ardent and dedicated vineyardists. We have spent countless evenings with them on their charming, welcoming log cabin porch, laughing, sipping wine and dodging the dozens of hummingbirds that visited their porch feeders. They have become the closest of friends. This past Monday Char passed away suddenly at home. As you can imagine, it is a shock for all of us, especially John.  Our hearts are with him and our memories of Char will live on, her lively step and hearty laugh, her many hats, her love of country and her life with John in the vineyard she loved. She was also a dedicated historian for the World War II 359th Fighter Group. 

Her final vintage of chardonnay is still fermenting in barrel as I write this. We have decided to dedicate our Ankida Ridge Chardonnay 2016 to Char Baldridge, whose energy lives on in all of our hearts and in the grapes she so tenderly raised.  To you, dear Char. You were so loved and will be so very missed.
And sad good-byes in our Ankida animal world

Boomer at his favorite spot


Bella came to us the year we planted the vineyard in 2008. I recall picking her up at the Charlottesville airport, a white,
fluffy ball of fur with two black eyes peering from inside her travel kennel. She came to protect our flock of sheep, and
would be trained by our first Maremma, our beautiful, regal Dan.  She learned her trade well. She was a loyal, devoted guard dog that loved her sheep, but also her family of humans, always walking close to us so we could rub her ears. She was a devoted mother of a beautiful litter and also to a little lamb rejected by her mother. Oh how we miss you, sweet Bella.


Back in 2006 we arrived at the cabin to discover a skinny, boney little black puppy with huge paws that bounced off the porch and then never left our side.  How Boomer, aka "Boomboom," ended up here, we'll never know, but he became an instantly loved little critter and was most at home here in the country, a mutt of who knows how many breeds. He grew and grew and grew, ending up to become quite a long-bodied, lumbering sort of fella. He was loyal beyond words. He was kind of heart, sensitive and generous. He would comfort me when I needed comfort. He waited for Guppie Puppy to drink before he drank out of the bowl, no matter how thirsty he himself was. How I miss him. He was as good as they come. Over the rainbow you are, dear friend. We love you, sweet Boomer.

Life is rich with such joy, much goodness and a natural beauty that touches our senses. Take a moment today, for Char and Bella and Boomer, and gaze at the clouds drifting by, notice the slow painting across the land of an autumn palette, listen to the rhythmical song of crickets chirping in the darkness of night as summer insects fade away.  Celebrate this beautiful life.
It is so nice to be back.



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