Thursday, June 14, 2012

Boxwood Winery in Virginia: Lunch with Wine Makers Rachel Martin and Adam McTaggert in the Chai between the Tanks – TasteCamp 2012 East Kick-Off, USA

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Rachel Martin and Adam McTaggert

The first event of TasteCamp 2012 East in Virginia was lunch at Boxwood Winery with Vice President Rachel Martin and residential Wine Maker Adam McTaggert in the chai between the tanks of Boxwood Winery.

See: TasteCamp 2012 in Virginia, USA – A Tour d’Horizont

Boxwood Winery

The Boxwood Winery is located in Middleburg in the midst of picturesque Loudoun County in Virginia in the US. It is owned by John Kent Cooke, a former owner and president of the NFL Washington Redskins. Boxwood aims high: to make premium red wines with Bordeaux grape varieties and a distinct Virginia expression. Boxwood produces 5,000 cases per year.

Pictures: Boxwood Winery

John Kent Cook bought the estate in 2001 and commissioned renowned architect Hugh Jacobsen - with the advice of Dr. Richard Vine, Professor of Enology at Purdue University - to design a modern winery that agrees with its surroundings. The result – completed in 2005 - is a stunning four-part complex, filled with high-quality, high-tech streamlined inner workings.

The center is a reception room with a circular stainless steel tasting bar.

This space overlooks the circular cave that is totally underground and fitted with a dome ceiling. The cave fits 255 (currently housing 75) French oak barrels arranged in concentric circles.

The third structure, on the same level of the other three, is the chai with 12 stainless steel fermentation tanks.

The fourth structure houses the bottling plant and case storage.

The 170-acre property once served as a horse farm, owned in the early 1900s by General Billy Mitchell (otherwise known as the father of the Air Force) who lived there until his death.


Sixteen acres of grapes are planted on the property. The vineyard is monitored by a GPS custom designed system to record viticultural practices. Currently, 8 varieties of grapes grown: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Tannat, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Malbec, and Carmenere.

Wine Making Approach

The Estate grown grapes are hand harvested, brought to the winery and sorted. After being destemmed on the press pad, the whole, uncrushed grapes go through a temperature-controlled, whole-berry fermentation in the stainless steel tanks. “When berries are not crushed, wine ferments little by little, which adds to the complexity” explained wine maker Adam McTaggert over lunch. Then “punch-downs, pumpovers, and delestage are performed.” Once fermentation is complete, the wine is pumped through stainless steel pipes into 100 percent French oak barrels nestled in the hillside cave room. Malolactic fermentation takes place in the barrels. After aging for up to a year, the wine is pumped to the bottling room, where Italian machinery fills, corks, and labels the bottles on the premises.

Rachel Martin

Rachel Martin, Executive Vice President of the winery and the owners’ daughter, oversees the vineyard, winery, and national and international sales. No stranger to the wine business, Rachel studied Viticulture and Enology at Napa Valley College and Sensory Evaluation at the University of Bordeaux (School of Enology).

Pictures: Rachel Martin

Rachel is Boxwood’s world ambassador and her relaxed and inviting presence immediately put guests as ease. “We want Virginia wine to be on the international playing field,” she enthuses, but notes, “You’ve got to start at home. You have to increase your quality for your local consumer.”

Adam McTaggert

Adam is the residential wine maker. He is a graduate of Brock University in Ontario, Canada with degrees in Biology, Viticulture and Enology. He's a great guy, very knowledgeable, but friendly and engaging as well.

Picture: Adam McTaggert

Stephane Derenoncourt

John Kent Cooke brought famed French flying winemaker Stéphane Derenoncourt to consult with Boxwood's winemaker Adam McTaggart. Stéphane Derenoncourt is entirely self-taught. He and his wife now work with a populous portfolio of estates in Bordeaux and elsewhere, including Domaine de Chevalier, Canon-la-Gaffelière, Smith Haut Lafitte, Prieuré-Lichine and Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse. In June 2008, Derenoncourt and Vignerons Consultants were hired by Francis Ford Coppola to work on the Napa Valley property Rubicon Estate Winery.

Boxwood Portfolio

2010     Boxwood Rose

65% Cabernet Sauvignon 35% Merlot

Bright salmon color, aromas of strawberry, melon and white pepper. A rose' wine with a great complexity and balance between fruit and spice. The finish is fresh with ample length.

2010     Topiary Rose

Cabernet Franc 75% Merlot 25%

Light salmon color, aromas of strawberry, spice and dried herbs. A dry rosé wine with a luscious texture and complexity of fruit. The finish is of melon and spice with ample length.

2009     Topiary

Cabernet Franc 64% Merlot 35% Malbec 1%

Garnet in color, complex and intense nose of strawberry, savory garden herbs and spice aromas. The wine is ready to drink with soft tannins and a pronounced mid-palette followed by a long finish of strawberry and spice flavors

2009     Boxwood

Cabernet Sauvignon 56% Merlot 40% Petit Verdot 4%

Deep purple color, predominant aromas of blackberry, cigar box, with additional complexity of sweet basil, tarragon, anise, and violet. Concentrated tannins on platte with a long and intense finish of dark fruits

2009     Trellis

75% Petit Verdot 17% Cabernet Sauvignon 8% Merlot

Dark purple color, intense nose of violet, graphite, mineral character. The mineral characteristics show on the palette, with ripe tannins and a lingering finish.


Rachel Martin and the team welcomed us into the beautiful Tasting Room for a glass of their 2011 Boxwood Rose that was crisp, delicious and a perfect way to start the weekend.

Pictures: Apperitif


We then went into the tank room which had been set up with tables for us.  At each table we had a wonderful family style lunch from Ayrshire Farm, paired with two 2007 wines from the Boxwood Estate Winery library. As we ate salads, roast beef and turkey sandwiches, Rachel gave us the history of the winery and answered questions.

Pictures: Lunch

The Wines for Lunch

2007 Topiary:  Topiary is the St. Emilion-style blend with Cabernet Franc as the primary grape. Nice plum and red berry aromas, a broad mouthfeel  Some nice blue fruits and cassis with a little Medoc tannin and leather. Nice mouthful.

2007 Boxwood:  Boxwood is the Medoc-style blend with Cabernet Sauvignon as the primary grape. Notes of blackberry, cassis, and dried cherry, coupled with a pinch of saddle leather, autumn leaves on the nose, a lovely concentrated wine, with low acids, big fruit, and low-to-medium tannins.

In the Cellar

We then proceeded to the cave to hear Adam McTaggart discuss his background, winemaking style and the challenges of Virginia.

Pictures: In the Cellar

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  1. Hello from Second Ave Photography!! Enjoyed your post, we had a great time there as well :) Would love to team up one day if you're interested, I'll take the pictures if you'll do the writing.

  2. Blaire - yes, good idea. When, Where? Let us keep in touch. Christian