Q&A with Jordan Harris of Tarara Winery
Today's Q&A session is with Jordan Harris, winemaker and General Manager of Tarara Winery, located just north of Leesburg, nearby the small village of Lucketts. Tarara Winery is nestled on a beautiful 475 acre farm property that’s bordered by the Potomac River. Jordan came to Tarara Winery in 2007 from Canada, where he was an accomplished winemaker in the Niagara region of Ontario. With great customer service behind the bar, picturesque scenery, and award-winning wines, Tarara Winery is one of the most popular wine destinations in Loudoun County. This Q&A will give you some insight into the winery and why you should forge a relationship with this producer. Read on and enjoy, friends.
Winemaker Jordan Harris of Tarara Winery
Dezel: Is there a special bottle that initially got you into wine? If so, tell us a little about that experience.
Jordan Harris: I first got excited about wine working in a restaurant as a bus boy. The first wine that got me excited was the 1991 Masi Costasera Amarone della Valpolicella. I remember it being a complex beverage with massive weight showing lots of dried fruit character. My friend who let me try it ended up being the best man at my wedding, go figure.
Dezel: In your personal experience, how does growing wine grapes and making wine in Canada compare to growing wine grapes and making wine in Virginia?
Jordan Harris: There are several similar characteristics with Northern Virginia and the Niagara Peninsula in regards to pressures growing grapes. They are both quite humid which makes mildew the biggest target of both. The big difference with viticulture is that Niagara tends to be about 5-10 degrees cooler allowing grape varieties like Riesling and Pinot Noir to get the hang time they need, but they struggle ripening Syrah, Cabs, or Viognier like we can here. Winemaking is different for me because there I was trying to tame the ripping acids that give their Riesling and Pinot great character, here I have to concentrate on the tannins and flavor development.
Beautiful Shadow Lake at Tarara Winery ~Perfect Spot for a Sip!
Dezel: Many winemakers tell me they came to Virginia “for the challenge.” Has it been challenging?
Jordan Harris: Yes and no. It is challenging everywhere, just for different reasons. I like wine-growing in Virginia because there is incredible potential and differing terroirs all across the state. To make the best wines takes attention to detail wherever you are. I do not believe we are at any disadvantage nor do we have more challenges in Virginia in comparison to anywhere else.
Dezel: Tell us a little bit about today’s Tarara Winery. What’s new?
Jordan Harris: We are getting more focused. We are better examining the vineyards and varieties we use. Therefore we are narrowing the number of wines we make and concentrating on the vineyards to express the wine best. We are also not trying to force grape varieties and styles that do not suite or match our ultra-premium approach.
Dezel: As a winemaker, tell us a little about your wine style and winemaking philosophy. What can Virginia wine lovers expect out of a bottle of Tarara wine?
Jordan Harris: I am not sure I have a set style. My goal is to best express the vintage, the vineyard and the variety as it relates to that vineyard. Since making wine in Virginia I have found my Reds to be more structured asking for some bottle age or great food pairings and my whites to be softer, fuller and more aromatic and they should be consumed younger. That was the opposite when I was making wine in Canada. In vintages like 2007 you could expect Tarara wines to have massive structure, body and fruit. In vintages like 2008 you could expect something with more complex aromatics, yet also more approachable today.
Jordan pouring Tarara's finest @ DC Food & Wine Festival
Dezel: You are one of the few and first Virginia producers to move their entire portfolio to a screw-top enclosure system. What compelled you to do this? In your humble opinion, is it better for the wine in the end?
Jordan Harris: Our wine is about what is in the bottle and using screw-tops is the only way I can assure you will receive what we intended. Corks cause that lovely taint showing moldy newspaper or dank basement aromas and finishes with the taste of crushed aspirin in a percentage of their wines. Screw-tops also maintain a consistency with bottle age while gaining complexity whereas bottles with cork closures will show more bottle to bottle variation after several years. If the best part of a bottle of wine is opening it, it is a bad bottle of wine. I guess what I mean is, in my humble opinion screw-tops are better for the wine. It is not really new anymore, it just has not been adopted strongly here yet.
Dezel: What are your favorite food and Tarara wine pairings? Help us out here so we can try these at home.
1) Steak and Frites – Meritage 2007
2) Fields of Athenry Lamb Sausage – Syrah 2007
3) Oxtail Ragout – Cabernet Franc 2007
4) Rare Sesame Crusted Tuna – Viognier 2008
5) Local Rockfish w/lemon butter – Charval 2008
Wine is meant to be shared with food and friends.
Dezel: What do you consider to be the best thing about the Virginia wine industry as well as an area the industry can improve in?
Jordan Harris: We have such incredible potential to make the best Rhone varieties in the USA. We are a three hours drive from one of the most wine sophisticated cities (New York City) and one hour from a close second (Washington DC) in the world. We need to be more confident in Virginia’s ability for quality grapes and be more innovative and sustainable.
Dezel: Besides your own wines filling your wine glass, tell us some other local and global selections you thoroughly enjoy – region or producer specific is fine.
1) Glen Manor Sauvignon Blanc 2007 or 2008 – Virginia
2) Delaplane Cellars Syrah 2007 – Virginia
3) K Vintners Ovide 2003 –Walla Walla
4) Pax Wine Cellars Walker Vine Hill Vineyard 2002 – Russian River
5) Georg Breuer Riesling Terra Montosa 2001 – Rheingau
6) Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage 2005
7) Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2003 – Niagara Peninsula
8) Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 – Margaret River
9) Bodegas Muga Rioja Reserva 2004
10) Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo 2007 – Toscana
Dezel: Any new wines or events at Tarara this spring that we should know about?
Jordan Harris: June 12th is our second annual Fine Vine…Just say Viognier event. There is a tasting panel (we are not included in the panel) of sommeliers, wine writers, wine aficionados, etc that select the top 5 Viogniers they taste from Virginia. All Virginia wineries are invited to submit wines. Each Viognier is paired with a course created using locally sourced food for a beautiful 5 course meal. We will also host local music and separate tasting seminars and other entertainment throughout the day. More information regarding the wines selected and the restaurants that will be here will be posted as it comes available on our website at http://www.tarara.com/
We also have our Toast to the Tunes Concert Series starting in June and will host a concert every Saturday night through the summer. We also host weekly premier, cellar and vineyard tastings starting in the spring (Premier has already started) and have music on our deck every Sunday through spring, summer, and fall.
Dezel: Thanks for your time and appearing on My Vine Spot Q&A, Jordan. I enjoyed learning more about you and Tarara Winery and I know my friends will too. To learn more about Tarara Winery, friends, click on the link below.
Winery Info: Tarara Winery, 13648 Tarara Lane, Leesburg, VA 20176 Telephone: (703) 771-7100
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Stay tuned friends ...More to come!
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