Owner(s): John Kent and Rita Cooke
Winemaker: Stephen Rigby
Open to Public
Nov-Apr Fri-Sun 11 to 6
May-Oct Thu-Sun 11 to 6
2042 Burrland Road; Middleburg, Virginia 20117
Boxwood Estate Winery Profile
Written by Brian—Feb 6, 2014
A panopticon is an institutional building, in which a single watchman can see everything from one location. I’m not implying that Boxwood Estate Winery is an institutional building, but the architectural design does employ a “panoptic” concept. From a single location at the tasting bar, it is possible to see the vineyard, bottling room, fermentation room and barrel room. The building was designed by Hugh Newell Jacobsen, who’s modern, linear design concepts and use of open space will strike you even before you enter the winery. I guess what I’m saying is, it’s worth a visit just to to admire the architecture.
So as of this writing, Boxwood has been on the scene for about ten years. The first vines were planted in 2004, the winery was built the following year and the first vintage was bottled in 2006. Today, Boxwood has nineteen acres under vine. They are producing about 2500 cases each year and, with a maximum capacity of 5000 cases, they are likely to remain a small boutique winery.
As the story was related to me, John Kent Cooke developed a love of Bordeaux wines and this fueled his motivation for opening Boxwood, which specializes in Bordeaux blends. Now, Cooke's father, Jack Kent Cooke, was a former owner of the Washington Redskins. It seems that the genetic attributes for assembling a team were passed on to the son. In addition to hiring Hugh Newell Jacobson to design the tasting room, Cooke brought in the legendary Lucy Morton to design the vineyard and hired Canadian winemaker Adam McTaggart. In addition, the French wine consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt was retained to help fine tune the winemaking process. With such a team in place, creation of world-class wine was clearly in Cooke’s sights.
Boxwood produces three Bordeaux blends and the Boxwood, Topiary and Trellis were all represented during my tasting. The 2011 Boxwood Estate Trellis was quite good, considering the vintage, but paled against the earlier Boxwood and Topiary vintages. The 2010 Boxwood is available only in half bottles, due to diminished stock. It showed strong black fruit and tobacco notes, lots of complexity and a very long finish. While the Boxwood was extraordinary, my personal favorite was the 2009 Topiary with strawberry on the nose and palate, layers of complexity and soft tannins. It was drinking well, but could go longer on the shelf. I found it to be exceptional.
I’d heard good things about Boxwood prior to my visit, but one never knows exactly what to expect. I was greeted by wine steward Mark Morency, who guided me through a very relaxed and informative tasting. Assistant manager Jordan Spencer was also on hand interacting with guests. She was good enough to show me around the winery and fill in some of the blanks about Boxwood. It’s easy to think that Mark and Jordan made some special effort, because I was planning to write about the winery, but I watched them with the other visitors and, if anything, they were even more attentive.
My experience was first rate and if The Virginia Grape gave awards for customer service, Boxwood would receive the highest rating. With its beautiful tasting room, excellent wine and knowledgeable, courteous staff, this winery represents the whole package. Located only minutes from Middleburg, there are numerous other great wineries in the area, so Boxwood can be one stop in a larger wine adventure. I’d make it one of my first stops and, while it’s still pretty early in the year, don’t be surprised to see Boxwood on my list of top picks for 2014.