Canadian Winemaker Finds Happiness in Virginia

Is Jordan Harris a happy man?  Walking around with his wife Jennifer and his “goofy” Great Dane on the gorgeous property of the Virginia vineyard he calls home, the answer is an unequivocal “yes”.  Having come here three years ago from his very successful wine-making efforts in the Niagara region of Ontario, Canada, Jordan is now the General Manager/Head Wine-maker at Tarara Vineyards in Leesburg, Virginia, an artisanal vineyard that produces a few thousand hand-crafted, ultra-premium wines per year.

The story of how this wine-savvy Canadian came to settle in rural Virginia involves knowing his passions.  At 15, Jordan started off as a bus boy in a fine dining restaurant in Ontario, and worked his way up.  He began meeting wine reps at the restaurant, while learning about the nuances of wine and wine-making and found it to be a natural fit.  His first experience with alcohol was not terribly successful though, when at an age that was probably younger than it should have been, he tasted his Dad’s Labatt’s 50 beer and hated it.  However, he remembers clearly the epiphany he had at the tender age of seventeen when he tasted his first wine — an Amarone — and “. . . it just floored me . . .!”  This wonderful elixir lured him in and he began to read and study all he could about the subject.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Jordan put that first taste of wine to good use.  To begin with, he attended the Georgian College for Culinary Arts in Barrie, Ontario and then moved back to Niagara to work in an up-scale Italian restaurant.  He continued his education at Niagara College in the Winery and Viticulture Technician Program, and soon after, placed first in Canada in the Inter-Rhones-Cotes du Rhone International Sommelier challenge.  He then went on to the finals in France to win third place in this well-respected international event. His star was clearly on the rise. He has been named by one of Canada’s leading wine publications, “Wine Access”, as one of Canada’s “great, up-and-coming winemakers”.

As good luck would have it, Jordan knew the previous wine-maker at Tarara, also a Canadian and a friend.  This fellow wanted to work in a larger setting, so when he decided to move on, Jordan visited Tarara, did his research, and took over the position.

In the past three years, Jordan has focused on the soil and the climate of the area (the terroir) to determine what he grows, and limits his production to the wines that are the best fit. No longer is the winery’s philosophy to be “all things to all people” but rather, as Jordan states, “. . . the wines are designed to showcase the individual vineyards from which they come.” His personal favorite wines are Viognier and Syrah because of the complex characteristics and multi-layered tastes.  In fact, one of the reasons he was so attracted to Tarara was the potential there to grow great Viognier and other Rhone varietals.  He also loved the idea of a relatively small and artisanal property, having come from a vineyard that produced about a million cases of wine a year.  When it comes to wine at Tarara, “less is more”.

On his frequent return visits to Canada to visit friends and family, Jordan spends much of his time at wineries, but mostly for play, not work. He loves the States, as he does Canada, and finds Americans to be quite friendly, especially in a rural environment such as Leesburg.  He and his lovely wife Jennifer are expecting a baby boy in November.  She is also a Canadian whom he met in school, and she works just down the road at another winery, in the hospitality end of the business. However, she also has a sommelier diploma, and Jordan says that the final test before any of his wines go to production is Jennifer’s stamp of approval!

You can taste (and purchase) Jordan’s creations at Tarara Winery, 13648 Tarara Lane which is off of Route 15, about 10 miles south of Leesburg, VA.  Plan to have a picnic on their wonderful grounds, and perhaps you’ll run across Jordan, on a walk with his wife and dog!


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