An Enoteca Techs Up On the subject of viticultural designations, the word “Middleburg” doesn’t exactly dance on the tongue the way Bordeaux, Tuscany and Napa do. But Boxwood Winery is out to change all that, and it’s off to a promising start. The secret to wine domination may not be your appellation so much as your allocation. With this in mind, Boxwood is headed straight for the sipper. After investing millions in hyper-designed facilities to create world-class reds—the winery produces two Bordeaux-style blends and one dry rosé—Boxwood is breaking into the Beltway’s retail market. With the opening of its Tasting Room at Wisconsin Place in Chevy Chase this November, Boxwood aims to blend self-serve technology with the vibe of a neighborhood wine
| By Janelle Nanos |
bar. The winery has successfully opened Tasting Rooms in Middleburg and Reston, so its third boutique is the latest move in a campaign to become Virginia’s most quaffed label. It’s quite a spectacle for a wine vying to become collectible. “We attack things very differently from anyone else in our market,” says Sean Martin, who manages the three sites. “Our goal is to make the best red wine on the East Coast. We want the entire quality of the region to be raised.” Tethered to an actual vineyard, the Tasting Rooms carry 24 varietals selected—and in some cases crafted—by their wine consultant, Stéphane Derenoncourt. He is an esteemed French winemaker based in Bordeaux, whose only other American client is Francis Ford Coppola.
STEEL RESERVE Former Washington Redskins’ brass and Virginia winemaker John Kent Cooke teamed with architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen and son Simon to design Boxwood Winery in Middleburg. The modernist aesthetic of the 16-acre estate—classic Jacobsen forms enclosing a stainless steel world of wine—is carried forward in three high-tech Tasting Rooms. The newest is set to open this month in Chevy Chase.
On a recent Thursday evening in Reston, where the second Tasting Room opened in April, servers in crisp white button-downs reloaded wine bottles—like bullets in a gun chamber—into the round, stainless steel Enomatic that stood in the center of the room. The enigmatic Enomatic is an Italian “serving system” that provides pressurized, temperature-controlled storage for wines, with small spouts that allow patrons to help themselves. All you do is buy a credit card, insert it into the Enomatic, then stroll around sipping and nibbling on charcuterie and cheese. The small, 1,000-square-foot space is “not a lounge—it’s a serious wine tasting establishment,” says architect Simon Jacobsen, of Jacobsen Architecture, which designed the Middleburg winery and the Tasting Rooms. The wine bars were crafted to “point back to the mother ship,” Jacobsen explains, with the same Brazilian granite countertops and 12-foot ceilings, as well as an intricate system of cantilevered racks that hold the entire store’s inventory. To-go purchases are available, too, at a $10 discount per bottle. Dark walls and museum lighting offset the gorgeous vineyard photography, depicting rows of grapevines, which are planted with laser precision and monitored by both weather recording stations and GPS. Other shots point to the sleek, stainless steel fermentation tanks and bottling machines found on the premises. Bemoaning the recent rustic-ification of wine bars, with their rough-hewn wood tabletops and faux-French aesthetic, Jacobsen wanted to create something different. “We’re not thematic set designers; we’re not going to mimic Bordeaux,” he says. The design pulls from the fact that the bar is semiautomatic and, therefore, tech-inspired. “Other restaurants and bars are designed so that a patron is greeted by someone, but here you can walk in and not talk to anyone,” Jacobsen continues. “The automation process is a personalized process. You would think it’s very cold or impersonal. But this allows you a very personal experience.” Boxwood’s founder, John Kent Cooke, son of the late president and owner of the Washington Redskins, won’t divulge the financial details, but he is looking for his next target: “The West End of the DC area” is all he’ll say. “If the popularity of these Tasting Rooms continues, then we’ll expand,” Cooke says. “We don’t just want people to buy our wine. We want them to buy it again and again.” Th e Tasting Room Chevy Chase, 5300-A Western Ave., boxwoodwinery.com.
BOXWOOD WINERY IMAGES BY KENNETH GARRETT AND ROBERT LAUTMAN, COURTESY OF BOXWOOD WINERY AND HUGH NEWELL JACOBSEN ARCHITECTURE.
Boxwood serves up a thoroughly modern approach to regional wine domination