Tastemaker: Jordan Harris, Tarara Winery

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There is a lot of great wine in being made in Virginia — a lot. The viognier and cabernet franc are often my favorites but I’m eternally fascinated by the potential of Virginia petit verdot and petit manseng. And yet it is a 2007 Syrah from Tarara Winery that always pops into my head when I think about the best Virginia wines I’ve ever tasted.

That wine, poured by winemaker/general manager Jordan Harris in the middle of a hilltop vineyard during that year’s TasteCamp program, was an unfair tease, honestly — just a splash of a wine that had sold out well before we got to taste it. Still, it was one of those wines — and those wine moments — that I’ll never forget.

Even if his other wines weren’t distinctive and delicious, that syrah alone makes Jordan a true tastemaker in my book.

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That’s Jordan on the right, by the way.

Location: Leesburg, Virginia

Current Job: Winemaker/General Manager at Tarara Winery

Wine/cider/beer of the moment: Actually had a bunch for Canadian Thanksgiving.  Hidden Bench Felseck Vineyard Riesling 2008, Flat Rock Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling 2014, 2027 Cellar Foxcroft Block Wismer Vineyard Chardonnay, Megelomaniac Grounded Merlot 2010, Stratus Tannat 2011 and Tawse Laidlaw Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010.

My winemaking style in 1-5 words: Work in progress always

First bottle of cider I remember drinking: I worked at a cool Italian Restaurant and the owner and head waiter wanted me to better understand the wine (I was only 17, woohoo) and they gave me some Masi Amarone Costasera (not sure of the vintage but would have been early 90s).  I was sold on wine from that moment on.

How I got here: I was working in Niagara-on-the-Lake for a much larger winery and just wanted to get more hands on again. I had heard some cool things about Virginia and especially that they made some great Viognier.  I am a big Rhone geek so thought it would be awesome and at the time had nothing holding my wife and I down so we rolled the dice. One of the best moves of my life.

My winemaking style — in more words: I want to say all the cliché things like terroir-driven, non-interventionist, etc. but the reality is I have only been making wine 15 years. I have only been in Virginia for 10 vintages now. With that said I am not sure I can say I have a style yet. It is always changing as we figure out how different blocks of our vineyards work with different varieties. I know I used to be solely indigenous yeast (well….not inoculated with commercial yeast) but I have just gone back the other way because I didn’t find it was making better wine. I like to make wines that speak for a time and a place, but I think there is always fine tuning to be done and therefore my style moves with the needs.

Mentors: Albert Cyprik from Niagara College, Steve Gill from Niagara College, Romano Agostino from then Buonasera Ristorante and Sue-Ann Staff from 20 Bees but now has her own gig Sue-Ann Staff Estate.

Albert was a chef professor at Niagara College but also did somm training stuff for me and helped immerse me into a love affair with wine showing me the intriguing and historical side of wine. Steve is the Manager of Niagara College winery and helped me greatly as a student and as my first boss in the industry. Romano was my first boss ever at a small restaurant and taught me all about striving for better and a tireless work ethic. Sue-Ann helped guide me as a winemaker to better understand the craft on a greater scale and a more global scale.

Music playing in the cellar right now: Pearl Jam and is drives out Assistant Winemaker Tim freaking nuts!

Favorite thing about the local wine industry: Everyone is always learning and full of passion.

Least favorite thing about the local wine industry: Lack of focus and particularly on wine and local grapes.

One surprising thing that I’m really good at: Probably cooking. People that meet me generally don’t see me as a finer things in life kind of guy, but my first schooling was in culinary.

What I drink: I seldom drink my own wines. I love them but I don’t learn as much from them once they are bottled. I drink different wine every time, but have an affinity for Rhone wines, particularly Mourvedre. I will always try something from somewhere or something I don’t understand. My favorite single winery to source our wine is probably Musar because it is kind of different. I do also like many beers, gin, scotch and bourbon.

My “Desert Island Meal” — wine/cider/beer included: Pizza and sangiovese — ideally a decent Chianti like Castello di Ama San Lorenzo.

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About Author

Lenn Thompson, a proud Pittsburgh, PA native, moved to Long Island more than a decade ago and quickly fell in love with the region’s dynamic and emerging wine community. A digital and content marketing and community professional by day, he founded NewYorkCorkReport.com in early 2004 to share his passion for the wines, beers and spirits of New York State. Since then, the site has become the premier source for independent New York wine commentary, reviews and news. Formerly the editor of the Long Island Wine Gazette, a contributor to Edible Brooklyn, wine columnist for Hamptons.com and regional editor for Appellation America covering the Long Island and Hudson River Valley regions, Lenn contributes to Edible East End, Palate Press, Patch and is the wine columnist for Dan’s Papers in the Hamptons. Lenn is also on the board of directors for Drink Local Wine, and is the creator and founder of TasteCamp, a yearly regional wine immersion event for writers and bloggers. An admitted riesling and cabernet franc fanatic, he’s intensely passionate about eating drinking local and the many local wine regions of America. Lenn lives in Miller Place, NY with his wife Nena, son Jackson, daughter Anna and their dog, Casey Lemieux Thompson.

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