Tarara Winery, Loudoun County

by Stevie on October 27, 2009

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Tarara Winery in Fall finery

Tarara Winery in Fall finery

We were visiting family last week in Northern Virginia. Our niece, Juliana, knows that we’re big wine fans so arranged for us to go tasting at a local Virginia winery. Yes, you read correctly, a VIRGINIA winery. It’s true that we’re very California-centric on weirdcombinations, though I like to think that’s because we live in San Francisco rather than the fact that California wines are more established than in other parts of this country. I won’t say that California wines taste better because we all know that taste is subjective. We’ve read somewhere or other that wine is produced in every state of the United States, so when you’re “local on vacation,” why not give wine tasting a whirl?

I grew up in NoVA so the drive to the Leesburg area on the way to Tarara was a bit surreal. I don’t recall this level of heavy traffic, massive suburbanization or ever seeing vineyards off the road when I was a teen. Things do change.

We settled on Tarara a bit arbitrarily. Since none of us have ever gone wine tasting in Virginia, I did a web search. This winery was fairly close to Alexandria, where Juliana and Wes live: only about an hour drive away without traffic (which is wishful thinking if you ask me). So off we went.

Northern Virginia in praise of Tarara

Northern Virginia in praise of Tarara

The property seems to be a large estate full of rolling hills, beautiful maple trees starting to show their fall foliage, an apple orchard and other natural wonders. It lies on the edge of the Potomac River. Across the way is a small mountain that is called “Sugar Loaf.” That put us in the mood for Brazil and the upcoming 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. I have to say that the “Sugar Loaf” in that other city is a lot more impressive. Oh well, at least there are wineries here.

On the day we went, there was a small crew crushing some grapes. The tasting room was large but fairly empty. We were there on a Monday. Apparently the weekends are a bit packed. “Kathryn” poured the wines. She was very easy to chat with and seemed to really enjoy the place. I wondered how you could produce fine wine with all of the rain, heat and humidity that you have in this part of the country. She told us that they have to somewhat aggressively prune and toss grapes when the weather doesn’t cooperate. Another interesting fact that she mentioned was that California will not agree to allow Virginia wines to be shipped there. Too bad: a little competition is always a healthy thing.

We tried quite a lot of the wines. Kathryn says that many more bottles than those on the wine tasting sheet were open because of the large weekend crowd. We came in with very low expectations—there’s that California bias again. However, we were pleasantly surprised by many of the wines.

Tarara Merlot Reserve, my personal favorite

Tarara Merlot Reserve, my personal favorite

2008 Viognier: This had a transparent golden color with a very noticeable and agreeable floral aroma. It was dry with a medium body. Though not fans of viognier generally, this wine was really very tasty.

2007 Rose: This was a transparent orange-ish pale red color. It’s a blend of seven red and two white varietals. It had a “berry smell” with a light body and an unexpected peppery finish. We all agreed that it would be perfect on a sweltering Virginia summer day.

2006 Merlot: This was a somewhat opaque cherry red. It smelled of “the forest” or perhaps “decomposing matter.” That sounds bad but really was quite nice. It had a flat metallic almost bloody taste with a long finish.

2006 Merlot Reserve: This was a similar color to the ’06 Merlot but more opaque. It smelled of caramel and tobacco. It had more structure with subtle fruit notes.

2006 Cabernet Franc: This was also a cherry red semi-opaque looking wine. It smelled of green pepper and cedar. It had a black pepper taste and a long finish. Just O.K.

2006 Cabernet Franc Reserve: This was an opaque red with notes of Asian spice on the nose. It was very earthy with black pepper on the finish. I really liked it a lot.

non-vintage Tarara Long Bomb

non-vintage Tarara Long Bomb

Long Bomb Edition 1: This is a non-vintage blend in honor of the late owner, Whitie Hubert. He was involved with American football, hence the name. The wine was a dark opaque red with more fruit than the earlier reds. It had a long finish without much structure. We didn’t really care for this one.

2007 Syrah: This was a purple color with aromas of green papaya and over-ripe mango. It had medium body with supple tannins and a long finish. It tasted metallic and bloody.

2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: This was cherry red but tasted very tart on the finish. We didn’t enjoy this one at all.

2007 Meritage: Kathryn told us that you need to be in some sort of “Meritage” organization where you pay annual dues and a fee-per-case to label wines “Meritage.” I didn’t know that! The wine was dark red and “smells good.” It was smoky tasting with medium body. We found it to be delicious.

D-9 port-style: This was a dessert wine. It had a huge tractor-like machine on the label. Apparently Whitie was into large earth-moving machinery. It was 18% alcohol. It’s off dry, semi-sweet with a long finish. Really, it was quite refreshing.

view of Sugar Loaf at Tarara

view of Sugar Loaf at Tarara

Tarara was worth the trip. I bought a bottle of the Merlot Reserve mainly because they cannot ship and it’s such a bother post-9/11 taking bottles of wine on airplanes. Otherwise I would have ordered several more.

view of that other Sugar Loaf in Rio de Janeiro

view of that other Sugar Loaf in Rio de Janeiro

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

ritatower October 29, 2009 at 6:17 pm

The Merlot Reserve sounds tasty! You have good descriptions of the variety of wines. The Viogner might be interesting too!

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