Middleburg's Boxwood Winery Brings Passion to Its Efforts


(Saturday, January 19, 2008 5:18 PM EST)

Settled in the 18th century, the Boxwood estate in Middleburg was a well-known horse farm for much of its history. Today, horses have been exchanged for grapes, and stables for a state-of-the art winery.

John Kent Cooke bought the land in 2001 with the clear intent of producing wine.

“We've always been wine lovers,” said Cooke's step-daughter Rachel Martin, who is Boxwood Winery's executive vice president. “We're passionate about wine.”

Hired in 2003, viticulturalist Lucie Morton analyzed the soil and terrain, and designed the 18-acre vineyard. Luckily for the Cookes, the location is well-suited for growing grapes used for Bordeaux-style wine, the family's favorite variety.

Boxwood's first estate wine will be a 2006 vintage, which will be bottled and for sale this coming February. Martin said the family is particularly excited about the 2006 vintage, because it was the first year the winery had one of Bordeaux's greatest winemakers, Stephane Derenoncourt, come onboard as their consultant.

(Boxwood currently is the only winery in the United States where Derenoncourt is a consultant.)

Currently, Boxwood is selling wine from grapes purchased from other purveyors, since “the vineyard is still young,” Martin said. Once the Boxwood vineyard has matured, the winery will produce approximately 5,000 cases per year.

Winemaker Adam McTaggart is producing three different styles in the Bordeaux tradition: Boxwood, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot; Topiary, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec; and Rose, from all the Boxwood varieties.

Visitors can get a taste of the wines on a tour of the modern, five-building winery, designed by architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen.

Although the winery has a contemporary flair, it still looks at home against its Hunt Country backdrop.

“We wanted the winery to look like it belongs in the Virginia countryside,” Martin said. “But we also love the taste and efficiency of modernism.”

The $20 tour starts outside at the grape-reception area, then comes inside to a room of 575-gallon to 1,750-gallon stainless-steel, custom-made fermentation tanks. (Each tank has a probe that allows for computerized temperature control.)

Next is the below-ground cave, where the wine is aged for up to 18 months in French-oak barrels, followed by the bottling room which has a bottling machine that can fill and cork bottles, and apply foil and labels at a maximum of 1,500 bottles per hour. Visitors then can try the wines in the winery's tasting room.

If you'd rather skip the tour and just try the winery's products, Boxwood recently opened a satellite tasting room in Middleburg.

In addition to Boxwood wines, the bar also carries wines from Bordeaux, offers a number of white wines and has 16 red wines in a machine, under nitrogen, that measures out perfect one-ounce, three-ounce and five-ounce pours. “The wine bar has become a destination, not just for the people of Middleburg, but for people who come to the area to visit,” Martin said.

Boxwood wines are available locally at Goodstone Inn, Blackthorne Inn, Market Salamander and Girasole.

For more information on Boxwood Winery, call (540) 687-8778. Tours are by appointment only. For information on the satellite tasting room, call (540) 687-8080.

Boxwood Winery’s 16.5 acres of vines grow five varieties of grapes certified by the French government: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec.
(Photo by Ken Garrett)

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