Virginia Grows What?

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Rkatsiteli

Jordan Harris, winemaker and general manager of Loudoun County’s Tarara Winery, is a bit of a renegade when it comes to winemaking, and his experimentation with Rkatsiteli is a case in point.

This white variety hails from the Republic of Georgia—one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world—where it’s traditionally vinified into so-called orange wines. To craft these bottlings, Georgian vintners allow the juice to macerate with the skins in qvevri (clay amphorae) that are buried underground. This process yields wines that are orange in hue, oxidative in flavor and strengthened by tannins—an uncommon attribute for most whites.

Although Harris’s 2012 Boneyard Skins—a 100% Rkatsiteli wine—isn’t made in subterranean earthen crocks, it’s a product of a modified Georgian-style vinification. He allows the juice to ferment on its skins for 31 days in stainless-steel tanks. This method is more controlled than the customary Georgian process, but it still lends the finished wine an exotic edge and a pleasant astringency.

“I tend to push the envelope more than most, but the idea of classic Rkats winemaking scares the hell out of me,” he says. “Our version of an orange wine is more about precision … having the faith to just set it [in qvevri] and forget it is just too scary.”

Tarara 2012 Boneyard Skins (Virginia)
abv: 11.5%   Price: $20

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