Meet Your (Wine) Maker: Jordan Harris, Heron Hill Winery

Like most winemakers now a days I want to be as minimal intervention as possible. I think we all have different opinions as to what that means, but for me it simply means I will not do anything that does not have significant positive impact on the wine.
Jordan Harris of Heron Hill Winery with his son, in the vineyards overlooking Keuka Lake. Photo provided.

In 2002, Jordan started attending Niagara College (Wine and Viticulture) after a brief stint in the restaurant world. There Jordan built knowledge behind his passion graduating with honors and receive the Premiers Award for top Recent Grad from all Canadian Colleges in 2008. At Niagara College Jordan also competed in the Inter-Rhone Sommelier Challenge (he is not a Sommelier) and received 1st place in Canada and 3rd Internationally in Avignon, France. Some of Jordan other accomplishments include Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers (Wine Enthusiast 2013), Top 30 under 30 Ontario Hostelry Institute, Top 30 under 30 Loudoun Business, Top Up and Coming Winemakers (Wine Access Magazine)In 2020, after 20 years making wine in Niagara and Virginia, Jordan made his new home at Heron Hill Winery in the Finger Lakes and looks forward to being part of the further growth and success for Heron Hill and the region. We hope you enjoy reading his responses to our questions!

Why did you choose to make wine here? Finger Lakes has always been a grass is greener on the other side for me. I am born and raised in Niagara in the Canada side so started my career making similar varieties and was always in awe of the Finger Lakes wines when I tried them. I knew one day I would have to make wine here. Life takes weird turns, now question. I ended up in Virginia for 13 years and then COVID happened. It was a sign now that I was legally able to work anywhere in the States that now was my opportunity. On top of that I saw a posting with the chance to work with Heron Hill and Ingle Vineyard. I knew John had been a pioneer for the region and that Ingle Vineyard had decades of history (let alone those old vines) and this was arguably the chance I had wanted to have all since I started making wine 20 years prior. Turns out it could not have been a better decision.

How would you describe your winemaking style? Adaptable. Like most winemakers now a days I want to be as minimal intervention as possible. I think we all have different opinions as to what that means, but for me it simply means I will not do anything that does not have significant positive impact on the wine. That said, every year is different, every variety is different, every vessel, fermentation, day is different. Taking the one way approach of saying you will not intervene when needed is not better than making good wine. Knowledge is power and using your knowledge to understand what is happening and approach each winemaking step with adaptability is important to a successful end wine, and that includes terroir driven wines. Many say intervening is taking away from and expression of place and time. I disagree. Allowing a wine to go in an awkward direction pulls that wine further from what its original potential is/was. It’s about stepping in when needed, but only when needed. I was once told a great saying that I live by. If it needs to be done in the vineyard, do it yesterday. If it needs to be done in the cellar, do it tomorrow.

What is your favorite activity outside of winemaking? I’m pretty simple outside wine. I just love to hang out with my three boys and my wife Jen. Wine is still a big part of life outside winemaking with my wife. She is also trained as a winemaker and a sommelier so simply tasting around the world with here is great. With my boys we love to rough house like most boys seem to. With that I would say Taekwondo is a favorite past-time since it was something we have been able to grow at together.

Music choice for harvest vs bottling? I am a straight up 90’s kid so its either all about teenage angst or classic hip hop. Every day of harvest and/or bottling I start my day with my drive in with blasting tunes but almost always grunge or 90’s hip hop. I know, it might not be refined but it energizes me. Once at the winery it has to resort to just Pearl Jam since that’s Nathan’s (Assistant Winemaker) jam.

Who in the FLX wine community do you admire? This is both an easy and challenging question. I haven’t been here all that long (since June 2020) but in that short time I have learned to admire a lot of people I have had the honor to call colleagues. This is a tight knit and wildly talented group of people that work in the Finger Lakes. I will of course start with my boss John Ingle because he has shown dedication and desire to continue fighting for great wine for years. That impressive all on its own and something to look up to. Peter Bell at Fox Run is arguably the most technically knowledgeable winemaker I have spoken with, but he’s equally knowledgeable and passionate about other parts of life. Dave Breeden at Sheldrake Point has an honesty and passion unlike any other I have met that shows perfectly both in his wines and his personality. Kim Marconi at Three Brothers is one of the most thought provoking and intelligent winemakers I have met and it also shows through in the wines. Kelby Russell at Red Newt has a confidence and style that is unparalleled in the wine world that I know of and his ability to see a wines future from it’s youthful stages is something to awe at. Julia Hoyle at Hosmer has a precision and eye for detail in her wines that guarantees a tremendous bottle each and every time which is backed knowledge and experience here in the Finger Lakes. Peter Becraft at Anthony Road has such a tremendous refinement, elegance and curiosity it seems every time I’m around him and when I taste his wines that same personality always shows through creating complexity meets refinement. I could go on forever and sorry to any and all I have missed but the point is, Finger Lakes winemakers are to be admired. Each has great abilities and their greatest strengths but most importantly they work together so those strengths combine to make stunning and though provoking wines all over the region.

Heron Hill Winery, 9301 Co Rd 76, Hammondsport, (607) 868-4241

The Edible Finger Lakes Meet Your (Wine) Maker column is developed in partnership with the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance whose mission is to increase the visibility and reputation of the Finger Lakes AVA, its wines, and wineries.

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