Monday, September 22, 2014

A 25th Birthday Celebration VAVINO Style in Loudoun County

We toast Tarara Winery and Vineyards this month in celebration of their 25th Anniversary. Wines have been made and served on their grounds since 1989, making them the second oldest winery in a county that now boasts more than 40 vineyards, wineries and tasting rooms (with more to come!) Only Willowcroft Farm Vineyards has been open to the public longer (Willowcroft opened their doors in 1987).

The Notebook was invited to join the festivities this weekend, participating in a 5 Flight tasting in the famous Tarara wine cave, and including wines brought up from their cellar from 1997 and 1992. Winemaker Jordan Harris, a Canadian with a terrific conversational style and dry wit, led us through the flights, which started with four popular whites (two blends, and two Chardonnays, one from 1997), continued with a Cabernet Franc vertical tasting (2012, 2010, 2007 and 1997), moved on to a heavier/bolder red series (Meritage and similar blends), and ended with a flight from their Boneyard series of wines, which Jordan spent several minutes talking passionately about, and a flight from a series similar to Boneyard, "Killer Cluster."

It was suggested we do the "spit out" thing since so many wines were being sampled, but we couldn't help ourselves and swallowed - it was a party, after all! The highlights were the 2008 chardonnay, definitely at its peak as a soft buttery wine with notes of caramel apples and pumpkin, making it a perfect fall choice; the 2010 Cab Franc, bordering port at 15.5% alcohol and rich with espresso and cranberry notes (2010 was a great growing year in Virginia); the 2010 Tranquility Red, a Cab Sauv/Tannat blend named after their vineyard in the Middleburg AVA near Purcellville; the 2010 Commonwealth CasaNoVA (100% Merlot), with notes of licorice and cherry; and "Unrefined White," a 2013 blend of Chardonnay, Rkatsiteli, Sauvignon Blanc, and Petit Manseng, on the Boneyard label, with tropical fruit notes and a hint of sour apple.

About the Boneyard Label:

Jordan shared some personal history; when he took over as head winemaker at Tarara in 2008, he actually discontinued the production of several well known and big selling wines, which he compared to "the Barefoots and Sutter Homes." Those wines, he felt, were fine for the non-discriminating wine fan, but he wanted to set the bar higher for Tarara (he also confessed a resistance to Cab Franc and Viognier, although he understands the wine appeals to Virginians and will continue to work with them). The Boneyard label (featuring amusing images of backhoes and other farm equipment merged with dinosaur bones) is meant to appeal to those who preferred Tarara's old line of "fun, easy to drink" wines. Several of wines on the Boneyard line are also less pricey, so comparisons to Michael Shaps' Wineworks label and Prince Michel's Rapidan River label are fitting. Jordan spoke with much enthusiasm about the Boneyard wines. The relatively low cost of production and price allows him to experiment with newer (to Virginia) varietals such as Rkatsiteli and blending. However, on the other end of the Boneyard scale, lies their 2010 Syrah/Viognier blend (96% Syrah), $100 a bottle and intriguing all the way, with notes of blackberry and beef jerky. This wine will lay down for up to 12 years and would make a great holiday gift to the wine lover in your family.

The Killer Cluster label is another experiment for Harris and Tarara; the grapes come from the Columbia Valley AVA in Washington state, and include Riesling, Marsanne, a new varietal for us, dry and boasting notes of honey and macadamia nuts, and Rousanne, another dry similar to Viognier that we've had at North Gate Vineyards in the past.

Jordan Harris and Tarara's event planners Shawn and Elizabeth lead us through the 5 Flights:

Tarara's location directly on the Potomac river resides above lime deposits not found in other sections of the county, and Harris explained that a micro-climate exists here in the "Potomac Valley." Severe storms that hit other areas of Loudoun county skip over Tarara. As a result, fruit can hang on the vines longer compared to other vineyards. Tarara is not located in an AVA, however one of their vineyards (Tranquility) resides in the Middleburg AVA.

The 5 Flights in the Wine Cave was an engaging cross between a tasting, a tour, and a wine class. We thank Jordan, Shawn, Elizabeth and the rest of the friendly staff, and owner Margaret Hubert, whose home actually connects to the Tarara tasting building, for the invitation and hospitality.

The celebration on Saturday night, September 20, was capped with a performance by "Think Pink," a Pink Floyd tribute band that sounded amazingly like the real thing. The laser show hitting the majestic trees surrounding the stage was a perfect psychedelic touch. Tarara hosts concerts on Saturday nights during the summer and early fall. These are not the typical cover bands you see in tasting rooms all over the state. These are professional world touring acts.

Think Pink:

There is just about something for everyone at Tarara; both on the wine side and setting side. You want to be in the center of action in a large tasting room, or in a quiet spot by the large pond? Both are possible here.

Happy 25th Tarara and look forward to 25+ more years of great wine, music, and fun!

Winery URL:

Thursday, September 18, 2014


Yet another newbie in Loudoun County (they keep coming and coming and coming....see our previous post on the subject), Winery 32 opened a few weeks ago in the Potomac winery of the cluster. This cluster is also home to Fabbioli Cellars, The Winery at Lost Creek, and its neighbor Hidden Brook Winery, as well as one of the grand daddys of the Virginia wine scene, Tarara.

A leisurely 20 minute (due to the gravel) drive down Limestone School Road, directly off route 15, will lead you right to Winery 32's gates (look for the windmill). After entering, you'll immediately notice peach trees that hug the driveway to the tasting room. 32 peach trees, to be exact. The number has several meanings at this location that we won't spoil for you (the tasting room pourers love to tell the story - hint: it's a love story).

A large pond (large enough it could be dubbed a lake) appears in the distance as you make your way up the long driveway. Winery 32's beautiful new tasting building is wood-focused, bright, and airy. There is a loft upstairs open to all visitors, and a separate room behind the tasting room that can be reserved for large parties.

Views of the tasting room from the loft:

The winery's bar is normally staffed by very enthusiastic pourers who run through a relaxed tasting. As the winery is new, it's not as congested as others in the area; however as the case with every other new winery, word will get out and you can expect crowds in the future.

Each bottle of wine has labels that were designed by the daughter of the owners, and reflect the environment in and around the winery. Koi fish (who live in the large pond), herons (who amazingly do not attempt to eat the koi), alpacas (they raise alpacas, small llamas, on this farm), the windmill and the power plant (across the Potomac in Maryland). Admittedly the image of the ugly power plant did not mesh with the natural beauty of the other pictures, but fair is fair. And having two symbols of power (farm windmill and power plant) is appropriate for the wine inside the bottle: A powerful and peppery Cabernet Franc.

The Koi fish bottle houses a table white, off dry but not too sweet (a blend of Vidal Blanc and Traminette). Chardonnay, slightly oaked but not overly buttery, fills the alpaca bottle. A heron graces their Merlot, velvety smooth with notes of elderberry. A complex Chambourcin has a downtown Leesburg image on its bottle. Finally, there are the peach wines, one blended with Vidal blanc and the other a pure peach dessert wine. The former would work wonders with hot Thai or Chinese food and the latter could be poured over pound cake or cheesecake. The peach wines are named after Gloria, the variety of peach tree growing on their property.

Enjoying a bottle of the chardonnay:

Plenty of tables with umbrellas are set up on the deck; alas it was misty and rainy when we visited, but that created a different type of mood:

The Moosher family and the Notebook invite you to visit this beautiful new spot this weekend!

Winery URL: