September 8, 2014
Now we start to actually get rolling into harvest 2014 - keep up with the fun!
September 1, 2014
A quick post about what Jordan thinks regarding what to drink in the dog days of summer. It's hot out there, what wine pairs with that!?!?
September 1, 2014
Here is a quick update on how we are viewing the up coming 2014 vintage. So far so good, but still too early to tell.
August 19, 2014
When the going gets tough the tough goes and gets some new Killer grapes. Here is all about our new line Killer Cluster.
July 24, 2014
What is the best way you can imagine celebrating July 4th and being American? Our thought was get in with some cool people the State Department, pour them some wine and watch the fireworks from on top of one of the most famous buildings in Washington, DC. So, we did it. Check it out.
January 12, 2013
I had to think about my New Years Resolution this year. Well...at least I had to think about the wine related one. I like 95% of the world have the regular resolutions of wanting to start taking care of myself and train for a half marathon (especially since Tarara is associated with two this year - YIKES!) and eat healthier (but I love duck fat sooooo much). I like 95% of the population will likely fail at these great goals until my son out runs me for the first time and makes me feel old. Enough about that though. You want to know how I plan to do better things with wine, which in turn should be good for you.
This really was a hard task because if I am nothing else, I am a very passionate winemaker with no room for compromise. I only want to do the best, I do not want to cut corners, I love every second of my job and I know the type of wines i am trying to make. Well...that last one is one of my problems and the issue I would like to resolve this year. I am a very selfish winemaker and I know it. I need to look back at my first years in this industry and remember what I was drinking and what I was striving to do. My views have changed which is good in my opinion as everyone needs to grow. But, I believe one thing I have not been 100% with is really understanding others views because I can be so set on my own.
So this year my New Years Resolution is to get back to the tasting room more often and talk with you. While I will always remain focused, I do need to understand what each of our fans are saying they want and analyze if and how that all fits with Tarara as a whole and the style of wines I feel I can do the best job of. I miss being in the tasting room and hanging around people and talking wine. That is what got me intrigued with this industry in the first place and what go me to learn to craft the wines I love.
Part of my resolution of going after our wines with a more open mind is also going to fall on my day to day selection of my vinous pleasures at home. Now this is the part I am supposed to tell you the only wine I will drink is Tarara, but that would be a ludicrous lie. I can not grow and get better if I don't understand the rest of the wine world and what they are doing. That is how one falls behind the times and will end up with inferior wines. I can't ever let that happen and the day I find myself drinking only one wine because it is there is the day I need to change careers (that will never happen). Now, that said, I have been closed minded or should I say at least busy. Being a father has changed my priorities certainly, but I still drink wine. I just tend to not be as experimental. All too often I am drinking the same varieties or same regions and so on. I love Grenache from the Southern Rhone whether Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, or even simple good QPR Cotes du Rhone wines, but the problem is I know I love it and am very knowledgeable on it. What I don't know is what Cinsault tastes like in the obscure corners of the world. I don't have a good enough grasp on the intricacies of Tannat at 10 years old from several Madiran or Uruguayan producers. I don't completely understand the dramatic differences of Vermentino grown in Bellet opposed to Sardinia. These are all things I want and need to learn. It will help me here at home in Virginia!
How will my knowledge of Sardinia help me here in Virginia? Well let me explain.
While if you want to play the part of historian then Virginia is not new to wine grape growing and you can go back to when everyone had to plant 10 vines on their property and how Thomas Jefferson is the most notable connosieur in wine history. OK, cool, but the reality is our modern wine industry is very young. We really only started in the late 70's and quite frankly the dramatic growth has only been over the last 5-10 year both qualitatively and for quantity. What that means is that we don't know everything about our land, our climate or even our potential. We have all looked at the obvious choices for varieties in our vineyards like Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Merlot, etc. Some have worked and some of them really don't at all. We have started to find some varieties that work well that may not have been the obvious choices like Petit Manseng and Tannat. Well their homelands of Jurancon and Madiran respectively have some similarities to us with humidity, less temperature swing in the nights (warmer), and precipitation. What we haven't done is look around the world for more places that have similarities to us and there are such areas. We have a very Mediterranean like climate at many times Could we have some similarities to areas of Greece and thrive off Agioritikos, or Monica from Sardinia, or Nero d'Avola in Sicily. The answer is we don't necessarily know, so I resolve to enter each wine shop with an open mind and not pick up some Pinot Noir from the Russian River, but an obscure Cabernet/Cinsault/Syrah blend from Lebanon and study that wine. We need to always aim to be better and that starts with an open mind.
Now I have to go and get started by looking at our most recent wines that we made form Rkatsiteli this year and will start bottling in February and then go home and open a bottle of Croatian Cabernet that you awesome Vine Club Manager Kim's husband got for me. Time to have an open mind and understand more of our future. Salute.
September 25, 2012
So our normal harvest is about 6 weeks long starting with some Chardonnay and Viognier and then gradually working our way through Merlot, Syrah, Cabs, etc. It really feels quite fast paced and is a lot of fun. This is the time of year that we as winemakers normally complain about how hard life is standing in the sun harvesting grapes, pressing, testing and tasting through our fermentations. It is hard work enjoying your hobby 12-16 hours per day :)
So now, this year is different. We are still having an absolute blast, but there are times where almost boredom has ensued as well. We are working a 9-5 harvest! Where most years come and go in 6 weeks, this year we have already been going for 35 days and have just finished up our Chardonnay. Strangely the first thing picked was also Chardonnay. It is just one of the vintages where the weather so far is working with us and creating slow and even ripening, but really showing the differences based on the block the fruit has come from and even the side of the vine. We have been able to harvest all our blocks separately and with all but one block harvest one side of the vine (in our case South side) and still have healthy fruit on the vine to continue to mature to optimal ripeness on the other side (North Side). What does that do for us? Simply put it maximizes the ripening potential of the entire vineyard gaining complexity and weight. What is especially cool about it this year is that the cool September that we have had has allowed the acidity to hold on and sugars to accumulate slower then the flavors and phenolics meaning balanced wines with moderate alcohol, crisp acidity and intense flavors and aromatics. Using Chardonnay as an example, in just two vineyards we have harvested Chardonnay 8 times.
So what's next? With the coming rain we have decided it is time to bring in some Merlot that is simply incredible prior to the rain. The fruit is over the top ripe, great ripe seeds and skins and also at moderate potential alcohol (13-13.5%) and maintaining bright acidity. We are also bringing in our Tannat which is the first of the year that we expect to show some of the alcohol levels we were anticipating in August with those hot days. We will see. We are also thinking we will bringing in the South side of our Syrah vines as they have developed some incredible richness over the last week. This will leave us with some more Merlot and Syrah still our there as well as all of our Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon to weather this light rain we might have. They simply want more time, look good and will likely be harvested in 2-3 weeks from now.
All said, harvest has just been slow moving. What we normally do in 6 weeks we are now looking at closer to 10-11 weeks. It has just left us more time for true precisions winemaking an true attention to detail. A great year to learn more about our terroir in different blocks and put together the very best wines.
September 18, 2012
OK...So this is already a little outdated as I wrote it on last Friday and life changes fast in harvest world. More to come, enjoy!
It is that fun time of year again. Harvest! The number one question we hear this time of year is, what is this years vintage like. My answer is alway the same, "incomplete". We can all make our predictions as to the quality of the vintage but until the last grape is safely brought into the winery, the vintage can not be declared anything but incomplete. The second you say it is great, Mother Nature can beat you up and make you a liar.
Now that said, as we look at how 2012 is shaping up so far, my prediction is that it will be a mixed bag. After 2011 and it's relentless rain at harvest, we as winemakers are a little gun shy. The 2011 vintage looked to be shaping into a vintage of incredible rich wine much like 2010, but then came Irene. Irene said she would only drop a couple inches then go away. Well she may have, but she left behind her rain clouds to keep going until her ugly sister Lee came and sat over us for what seemed like ever. Long story short, we got a lot of rain that took the harvest from rich and exotic to light and soft.
This year has had it's similarities to almost every year I have seen since being in Virginia. The big differentiating factor was the wildly early start. We saw a beautiful cool, dry Spring and even June through flowering and fruit set. There really was not extremes. There was slight frost scares on a few occasions, but what I am finding is it simply balanced the fruit to be slightly lower yields then normal, but of better concentration potential. It didn't cause secondary fruit or anything wild, just great balance stopping greed. The we saw similarities to 2010 and early 2011 with some be extreme heat through July and most of August. This is when everyone started getting pretty excited and ancy. Sugars were coming up fast, acids were declining, veraison (when the grapes change color and ripening really excelerates) was early and it looked like we could have the earliest harvest on record. Well then came bad memories...we saw rain coming! A lot of people rushed to get all their whites in. Lot's of Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, etc. Well, this is where I think the mixed bag will be. Some of this fruit was ready, but lots still was not. It was simply good enough and many didn't want to risk the rain and another potential 2011 let down. It was better at 90%, then if we lost our gamble. So, what did Tarara do? We did what we normally do and went out and selective only harvested the fruit from the vines that we thought was ready and left the rest out there on the gamble. So far I am so glad we did.
We ended up not really getting much rain in our little "Lost Corner" here. On top of that we have then had some of the best ripening weather anyone could ask for. It is a strange year of rush, rush, rush and then wait, wait, wait. We pulled in about 20 (15% of the harvest) tons before any rain and processed it all in about 2 days. Well since then we have not seen a grape in almost two weeks. It is just too nice out and we are able to let everything hang until optimal maturity. Our cool nights are holding the acidity, the sugars are rising slowly and the flavors are just maturing perfectly. As of yesterday I was tasting our Chardonnay and my jaw just dropped. Man it was good. So what is the plan? Reach for the stars! It will hang until Monday with some potential rain on Tuesday and we harvest like crazy. Nothing for two weeks, but then 30 tons to harvest in one day. That is what this year is all about so far. Then the long range looks great so we will likely to the same with our Merlot, Syrah, Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. It is just that type of year so far where we can pick at our leisure. This is where the similarities to 2007 come in.
So if all goes as it looks today, it should be a great vintage, but it is way too early to declare that already. It will be like one I have not seen yet. We have had our extremes of heat and cool. We have had below average rain, and mostly well timed. We have a naturally lower yield and we have had the longest growing season I have yet to see in Virginia by up to a month on some varieties. All this so far has created grapes of impeccable balance with brighter acidity, moderate potential alcohol and luxurious flavors. I can't even predict yet on the tannin structure and color on the reds. I simply can't allow myself to jinx anything.
So with that we hurry up and wait. We will work like crazy at the start of the week, but then we will relax again. I have never left the winery at harvest, but I write this at 35,000 feet on the way to see my awesome cousin get married in Calgary. And you know what? I am not even worried. Everything is in great shape and Tim has whats in the cave under control. So far, all is good!
July 13, 2012
I admit I am as guilty as anyone for opening up bottles I have been waiting to open or that I am excited about for special occasions and going to weekday favorites for general drinking. That said every time I open something "special" I think to myself, "Why did I just do that?"
Apparently as much as I tend not to tell people when my Birthday is, the word did spread yesterday. Thanks to all that offered B-Day wishes, it was a fun and very chill kind of day (well chill might not be the word when it is 115 degrees with the humidex ?). I bring it up because as we often do on Sunday anyway we had some of the Tarara family come and hang with us for dinner. Tim and Kevin who also live here on site are also pretty passionate about their fermented grape juice so I know they are going to enjoy some nice wines. Heck, they also bring some delicious juice with them. So what is the point of this story?
Once again we opened up something that we thought would shine with the Chicken in a Chasseur Sauce and man it was good. However, at the end of the night we looked back and we had tasted several incredible wines and even some tasty micro-brews and ciders. (Yes we winemakers do enjoy a nice Hop and Barley pop as well). I almost think even though each of the wines were stellar, each of them deserved to be their own spotlight and didn't get a chance because we were celebrating the day more then the wine. Really I think they could have been appreciated even more on Tuesday or Wednesday. The day overall was incredible, but these wines could have made 3 different days incredible.
So I guess what I am getting at is that I believe we need to celebrate everyday somehow. Your birthday, anniversary, New Years Eve, Thanksgiving, or Christmas is already going to be special occasions. Sure, I do still think it is great to eat and drink well on those days, but don't forget about tonight! Raid your cellar, closet, rack or local wine store and grab something to make today special. Life is too short to only celebrate "Special Occasion" days. Every day is a great reason to enjoy something that is going to make you happy. So I challenge you to go grab a bottle of bubbly, your favorite Single Vineyard selection, or any awesome wine sometime this week pour a couple glasses, cheers you friends, wife, or whoever your with and enjoy. When they ask, "What's the occasion?" Simply reply, I am with you right now and this wine is meant to be enjoyed. The occasion is that we love wine so why not celebrate it. Salute!
July 13, 2012
Almost a year ago now I sent an email to a group of local bloggers that are very interested in the Virginia wine industry to get their thoughts on what Virginia's "style" could be for wine. Since then, I have pondered for some time the replies I got, continued to read more and participated in many discussions about Virginia wine styles and just wine styles in general.
What did I come up with? A headache!
In a day where everyone has a voice through the internet I think that typicity, varietal character, tradition, convention and creative are all words that can be thrown out the window. For hundreds of years, Chardonnay and many wines have been made using barrels and still are in the home of vineyard expression Burgundy. Now we are told that the use of oak is detrimental to terroir and that the preference is toward stainless steel and non malo-lactic fermentations, yet I doubt anyone is going to turn down or frown upon a bottle of Montrachet (I know I won't).
In 1982, Bordeaux made a cultural shift toward making bigger and richer wines that are aimed at competing with Napa since the Judgment of Paris created such a need. What was the result? Well as far as the critics of Bordeaux they went two decades with really on one "exceptional" vintage in 1961. The rest of the 60's and 70's are though of as pretty mediocre, save possible 1970 which were OK. Since then though when Emile Peynaud led the charge to lower crops and pick later for riper flavors, we have seen such years as 82, 85, 86, 88, 89, 90, 95, 00, 03, 05, 09, and 2010. I understand that there is some climate change but there is lot more intent to how wines are being made than what Mother Nature has changed. California went the same way always pushing the limits of ripeness which created the fame of wineries like Harlan, Screaming Eagle or Sloan and the list goes on.
Today many are saying that this is all wrong and that we should go back to a simply leaner style with less emphasis on ripe fruit, less alcohol, less oak, etc. I find this perplexing as it is these wines that started to create a wine industry that was accessible to everyone and over great enjoyment to most people.
I ask about this today because of one of our own wines. One of our wines that is almost sold out has garnered mixed reviews and a lot of it is because people can now use their personal tastes to become "critics". This wine has done well in tastings with major publications (Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast), was rated highly in Virginia's top competition and has been praised by many customers and local bloggers. There are however a couple of bloggers that have had differing opinions and in one case the blogger simply said everyone else is wrong and that it was the worst wine that could be made giving it a rating of 60 points. At first I was frustrated, but then I realized it was simply their taste. The only problem I have is a numeric rating being assessed which then places the blogging in the position of a critical analysis which requires a more structured setting with professionals tasting blind without outside environmental influences and without ever seeing the wine even in the end. It requires staff, but when offering a critical evaluation that can't be tampered with, that's what it takes. I am absolutely all for expression of blogging as opinion, as one blog in particular knows. These blogging sites are not the easiest to please and we have made wines they don't like, but they don't say the wine is garbage, they say it is not to their taste which I fully respect.
The same happens on consumer review sites all the time. One great example again is with our own wine. On a site to be un-named one visitor gave us a perfect 5 star rating commenting on how our wines are very "Bordeaux-Like" with great concentration... whereas two comments later we get 1 start our of five with the write up saying because they are very "Bordeaux-Like". Who's right?
I guess in the end wine like all sensory pieces of life simply are up to the personal tastes of each individual, but it does leave me still wondering, what is Cabernet Sauvignon supposed to taste like then, how about Chardonnay, how about Viognier and what about Virginia Wine. Do any of these varieties or regions really matter anymore if a Viognier is going to be dismissed for not tasting like Moscato? Maybe I will just have to continue to make it my life long quest to understand wine and what style is the "Best".