Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tarara Winery, Leesburg, VA #TararaWinery, #DCsWineCountry

Just an hour from Washington DC there are wineries and vineyards on beautiful farmlands producing really good wine.  I was lucky enough to have a private group tour of Loudoun County, Virginia as a pre-conference junket of the 2011 Wine Bloggers' Conference.  Our first stop,  Tarara Winery , a producer of good artisan wine made from locally grown grapes, aged predominantly in Virgina Oak (when the varietal/blend calls for it). 

I knew NOTHING about Virginia Wine, and I expected very little.  What I found?  In the shadow of our Nation's Capital, I found a thriving community of grape growers and wine makers who are living and producing the American Dream.  Founded in 1989 by RJ (Whitie) and Margaret Hubert, Tarara Winery was built with passion and determination to make wine;  great wine, that reflects the area (the more candid version is that in retirement, Whitie wanted to grow a few grapes, and his hobby got out of control - I love it when a hobby gets out of control and becomes time consuming yet fun! (my blog for example?!?)).

Tarara growers include Nevaeh (Tarara's estate vineyard managed by Ben Renshaw), Tranquility (in Purcellville, also managed by Ben Renshaw) and Honah Lee (in Orange managed by Wayne and Vera Preddy).

Our bus pulled up to Tarara headquarters just after 2pm on one of the hottest days of summer. We were to have a light lunch/tasting in the private great room of Tarara HQ. Winemaker Jordan Harris was our host and educator for the tasting.

All nineteen of us ogled the spread and then whipped out cameras, iPhones, blackberries, iPads and notebooks (we are bloggers after all!). What an nice introduction to Loudoun County and Virginia wine. As they say, you can only make one first impression, and Tarara, set the bar high.

We tried ten wines at the tasting, then four more in the cellar.  I've pulled my tasting reviews out (consumer market ONLY), the titles are links.

#1  Tarara Charval `09  $20.00

#2.  Tarara Viognier `10 $15.00 (wholesale only)  15.3 ETOH WOW, what a way to start a tasting!  Of course, you are supposed to sip and then spit/dump you glass. (I did not master that until my 72nd glass during the conference)  100% Viognier grapes from Williams Gap Vineyard.  Poured by Sonja and Katie, this would be my very first glass of Virginia Viognier. This is a very young wine, and Jordan recommended that we decant it (I had never heard of decanting a white wine), and drink it young.  It was a refreshing entre into Virginia Viognier.

#3.  Tarara Navaeh White `09 $30.00 For those of you into wordplay. Navaeh is Heaven in reverse. (ummm, you could take that two ways...)

A note on the food:  We were given a selection of local cheeses, a trio of Virginia Ham (one done prosciutto style... droool), Blackberries, Tapanade and bread.  It was a taste of some of  the best Artisan food that Loudoun County offers and it was delicious.  I didn't make note of all the purveyors (did I mention that I had yet to learn to sip/spit/pour? - I just drank, dug in and was fat and happy.)

#4. Three Vineyards Chardonnay `09 $20.00

#5.  Tarara Chardonnay `97  This was a bottle that Jordan pulled from the library just so that we could taste an "old" Chardonnay. This was how I knew that Jordan has fun with his wine. I don't even think that he was out of school when this wine was bottled - let alone did he know that one day he would be making great wine in Virginia.  I laughed about how many times we have found a bottle and opened it not knowing what to expect. It was a risk well taken.  Even though it wasn't at buttery as I have had in an old chardonnay, it still showed that the area can produce wines that last (Well, more like survived - still, that is a lot to be said for aging well).

#6.  Three2One Cellars Tranquility `09 $45.00  

#7.  Tarara Winery Nevaeh Red `08 $40.00   My favorite of the tasting.

#8.  Tarara Winery TerraNoVA `08 $45.00

#9.  Tarara Winery CasaNoVA `08 $45.00 The Commonwealth Collection
(We also tasted this at the Live Blogging Session: Red)

As Jordan was waxing about the Commonwealth Collection, and telling us that the play on words with NoVA being an acronym for Northern Virginia, Tom Plant from WINEormous, joked 'What next?  Chevy NoVA?".  This is why I love traveling with writers, there is always someone who can run with a theme. Jordan laughed, and noted that there may be copyright issues.

We also had a "Bonus Wine" while we were upstairs at the tasting.  Jordan pulled out a `97 Tarara Cabernet. It was subtle, soft and silky. The tannins just went away.  It had the flavor of cooked strawberries. It was a nice contrast to some of the bolder wines that we drank that day.

Then, we went downstairs, through the tasting room and into the cellar.  I think of it more as Jordan and Jonathan's laboratory/play house.

 Jonathan Boyle was waiting for us in the cellar.  Jonathan is Tarara's other Canadian Winemaker, and he and Jordan have worked together for years .Jonathan had a table laid out with some of their newest wines (not yet released). Some of the tanks were fermenting, others waiting for this year's harvest, and the barrels were slowly fermenting their treasures.

We barrel tasted some fresh whites and then tapped a tank for a very special Viognier. It was nice to see such passion as they both discussed their wines. That passion shows in Tarara's current inventory.

 I expect great things from them in the future.  They are young, passionate (just get Jonathan started on the benefits of screw top wine) and marketing savvy.  Jonathan is a blogger too, and the Winery uses all social media to bring their product to the next generation of consumers.  From the QR codes on labels, the summer concert series, to the community involvement and "green" outlook/practices, Tarara has hit it currents trends on the head.  Their media kit is in a biodegradable folder impregnated with flower seeds, we were all given a Tarara flash drive with digital copies of the media kit as well.  I wonder if Whitie had any idea of what what his hobby would grow into when he planted those first acres of grapes in 1989? This is Artisinal Winemaking for the 21st Century;  Jordan and Jonathan are part of the future of wine in the United States - blending ancient techniques with new media, marketing - and screwtops.

When you think Wine Country,
it shouldn't just be the West Coast anymore. 
Virginia is on the map.
It isn't a well kept secret for just the cool kids anymore.
Here is a link to to all of my photos from our stop at Tarara.

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