Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Visit to Tarara Winery (Leesburg, VA): Environment and vineyards

I have recently begun a long-horizon study of the wines of Virginia and to date have reported on Linden Vineyards (estate and wines), RdV Vineyards, and Barboursville Vineyards (estate, wines, and filtration practices). Continuing this effort, I visited Loudon County's Tarara Winery on December 8th, 2017.

Tarara Winery occupies 56 acres of a 475-acre estate running along the Potomac River.

Location of Tarara Winery on the Virginia landscape
The estate was purchased by Whitie Hubert -- a retired commercial developer -- in 1985 and a block of Chardonnay was planted in 1987 in the section that is today called the Hill Block of the Nevaeh Vineyard.

It was cold and blustery on the day of our visit with the weather effects exacerbated by the lengthy walk from the lower-elevation parking lot up to the winery/tasting room. We were happy to close the door to the tasting room behind us as we were welcomed by Jordan Harris, the estate's Winemaker and General Manager.

Jordan had laid out a number of wines for us to taste but we began with a discussion of the viticultural and winemaking environments in order to establish the necessary context.

The sources for the Tarara wines are the Nevaeh and Tranquility Vineyards.

Tarara sits on the eastern side of the Catoctin foothills and its climate is modified by the range as well as by the Potomac and the nearby Shadow Lake. First, rainfall comes in from the west but the moisture-bearing winds lose their contents on the west side of the mountains, leaving the eastern foothills with lower levels of rainfall than areas not protected by this rain-shadow effect.

Second, the Potomac River Valley is somewhat of a wind tunnel and this serves to keep the vineyard cooler than its surrounds during the summer. The fast-flowing water does not freeze in the winter -- a similar situation for the lake, due to its depth -- and the wind coming off these waters warms the surrounding land.

The Neveah soils change quickly as one moves away from the river. The vineyard blocks and characteristics are shown on the map below.

Tranquility, shown below, a 7-acre estate located in Purcellville, is owned by Al and Mary Taylor and managed by Ben Renshaw. Beginning with the 2011 vintage, all of this vineyards fruit is sourced to Tarara.

Jordan arrived at Tarara 11 years ago, lured by the prospect of making Viognier wine and the owner's desire to convert the estate into a premium brand, The estate had been up and running for a full 20 years by that time but, according to Jordan, the wines were mediocre na d the winery was infected with cellar taint. He began the transformation by dumping many of the estate's top sellers, redoing the cellar, and changing the cultivar mix.

Tarara today is, according to Jordan, a focused winery. They attempt to showcase site by producing single-vineyard wines focused on Viognier, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc. The vineyard goals are to:
  • Create an ecosystem
    • Plant wildflowers to bring in ladybugs
    • Build bat houses to bring in bats
  • Ensure greater health of vines and people
    • No herbicides or pesticides
    • Spray with fungicides if needed.
Jordan does a lot of tilling and subsoiling -- every other row every other year -- in order to aerate the soil and encourage the roots to go deeper. The roots are not incentivized to go deep because of the easy accessibility of rain-deposited water.

In terms of the vines, Neveah's are cane-pruned VSP with 60% of the rows running east to west. Planting density of the older vines are 950 vines/acre while the newer plantings are done at 2200 vines/acre. Tranquility vines are also VSP but are spur-pruned. Six of its 7 acres are planted north to south. Vineyard yields range between 2.25 and 2.5 tons/acre.

I will cover the winemaking and wines in a subsequent post.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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