Taste Camp 2012: Walking the Vineyards with Virginia Winemaker Jordan Harris of Tarara Winery

It’s not every day you ride through vineyards in a wagon with a glass of Petit Manseng. That’s how we started our Taste Camp vineyard walk with Jordan Harris of Tarara Winery.

As we rode across the 475-acre property that stretches along the Potomac River outside of Leesburg, Jordan shared with us the history of Tarara. Founded in 1989 by Whitie and Margaret Hubert, Tarara was a destination for events and weddings but now their primary focus has shifted to the grapes planted in the beginning and making true artisan wine. We passed event pavilions, Shadow Lake, groves of fruits and vegetables and finally arrived at the vineyards, now 110-acres strong.

Jordan joined Tarara in 2007 from Niagara, Canada where he built an excellent reputation in winemaking. As we stood among the Chardonnay grapes of Nevaeh Vineyard, the oldest vines planted in 1987, Jordan spoke about his philosophies. He’s very focused on terroir…let the vines grow very deep and let them stress so you can get the good stuff from them. He’s opposed to irrigation which allows the vines to stay toward the surface. But this terror focus can take 25 to 30 years to really show in the vines. “Planting now is investing in the future generation.”

Tarara focuses on low yields and vertical shoot positioning to allow for even ripening and better concentration. Jordan’s winemaking approach is minimalist…let the vineyards best express themselves. The wines are made in their 6,000 square foot cave to allow for consistent cellar temperatures and perfect humidity as the wines are aged in mostly Virginia oak barrels.

With regards to vintages, Jordan said if you couldn’t ripen fruit in Virignia in 2010, you should not be in the business. Unfortunately in 2011, he left twenty tons of Cabernet Franc on the vine because of the bad September weather. But it did produce some great whites like the 100% Petit Manseng they don’t usually do.

For our return trip, Jordan poured us the 2007 Syrah full of smokey charcuterie notes. You could taste the passion we heard from Jordan in glass.

Tarara is a beautiful place to visit and enjoy a glass of Jordan’s work while relaxing on the deck looking out to the river.