Food and Virginia Wine

With the frigid temperatures and the snow we’ve had recently we haven’t been able to get to too many wineries this year. However, you don’t have to go on the Virginia wine trail to enjoy Virginia wines (however, we suggest you do). We’ve been pairing Virginia wines with several of our meals lately.

On a recent Friday evening we enjoyed a meal of chicken and mushrooms with corkscrew pasta tossed with parmesan cheese and lemon infused olive oil. We paired this meal with the Ankida Ridge 2011 Chardonnay. We noted rich, ripe pear, mineral elements of shale and graphite and a whiff of melon and nutmeg. It had a nice mouth feel with nice acidity. We consider it a Burgundian style chardonnay.
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On another recent evening we selected the 2008 Reserve Furnace Mountain Red from 8 Chains North as our dinner wine. We had this wonderful red wine with filet mignon. We aerated it into a decanter before enjoying it. Bramble berry notes with a whiff of candied apple were complemented with flavors of blackberry, licorice and pepper.  Why did we decant this one? Our initial sip (and literally our first sip after opening) presented a higher acidity; aerating into a decanter and then some breathing seemed to settle the acidity. In the end, by dinner time we very much enjoyed the 2008 Reserve Furnace Mountain Red. How do we know? The decanter was emptied far too soon.
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Over the weekend we went to Boxwood Winery’s Tasting Room Wine Bar to both pick up club wines and to have a bite for lunch. After a quick tasting of some of the current wines, we selected the 2011 Boxwood Trellis to enjoy with our flatbread pizza of prosciutto and goat cheese. The Boxwood Trellis is a blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot. We noted the earthiness with herbal and mineral notes and tobacco and cedar. It paired nicely with our flatbread pizza.
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What Virginia wines have you been enjoying with a meal lately? Consider some of the wines we’ve enjoyed lately. And if you do get through the snow and visit one of the Virginia wineries, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Starting 2013 at Boxwood Estate Winery

So we are back on the wine trails, and what better way to start than with a tasting at Boxwood Estate Winery? We had not been to Boxwood since it opened a tasting room on the estate last summer, and we knew that we were due for a visit.
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We were impressed with the seated tasting set up, and our tasting associate started us right away with our tasting. Five red wines were available for tasting, and three were from the 2010 vintage while the other two were from the 2009 vintage.
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Overall, we were most impressed with the 2010 offerings. The 2010 Boxwood Estate Trellis, a blend dominated by Merlot (68%) and complimented by Malbec (18%) and Petit Verdot (14%) proved to be an accessible, medium-bodied wine with aromas of violet and cigar box. Flavors of cherry and nutmeg filled the mouth.
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My own favorite was the 2010 Topiary, a blend of Cabernet Franc (61%) and Merlot (39%). Violet and tobacco notes were evident as well as aromas and flavors of raspberry and black pepper. An even more complex wine was the 2010 Boxwood, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Merlot (43%), and Petit Verdot (7%). Concentrated aromas of dark berries and plum along with undertones of licorice and cigar box made for a complex nose; similar flavors were noted in the mouth with an additional layer of blackberry. An elegant and age-worthy wine, I determined to add a bottle of the 2010 Boxwood to my own wine rack at home! Paul’s favorite? The 2010 Boxwood.
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With our tasting completed, we decided to enjoy a glass of the 2010 Topiary while viewing the stark winter landscape from our seat near the window. Paul was armed with his new camera to take snapshots of barren trees reaching up to stark blue skies as well as the occasional hungry hawk soaring above to find an afternoon treat. We will return to Boxwood Estate Winery soon especially when we know that the new Rose will be released. Until then, plan a visit to Boxwood Estate Winery and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
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Not So Fast

That is my response to those who are ready to dismiss the upcoming 2011 vintage. We hope to do a more comprehensive post on the 2011 harvest in the coming weeks; however, Boxwood Winery did offer a glimmer of the season’s potential. Executive Vice President Rachel Martin invited us out to the winery to sample some barrel samples of developing red wines from the 2011 harvest, and we were indeed quite impressed with what we tasted.

Readers may know that the 2011 grape growing season started with all of the potential of the heralded 2007 and 2010 seasons; however, Hurricane Irene ushered in weeks of rain throughout the state that gave vineyard managers and winemakers nightmares. Rain around harvest time is not usually appreciated in the vineyards, and this past September it came down in torrents. However, some areas of the state received more rain than others; lighter rainfall and diligent vineyard practices may have saved the grapes in many parts of Virginia.

This was clearly the case at Boxwood Vineyard. On a crisp, sunny fall day we visited Rachel Martin to sample some of the 2011 wines from the barrel. For their vineyard sites, September rainfall and little sunshine raised concerns of botrytis and sour rot; therefore, she opted for selective harvesting this season. Clusters that contained over 50% rot were not collected, and salvageable clusters were sorted berry by berry. “Painstaking” was the term used by Rachel to describe the process that consumed endless hours on harvest days. The result? Lower yields but clean fruit.

Rachel guided us to the barrel cave where we were treated to barrel samples from recently harvested 2011 grapes; in fact, the wines were at malolactic fermentation. The Merlot presented a deep hue in the glass to suggest good extraction with excellent fruit on the nose; likewise, the Cabernet Franc was clean with characteristic pepper notes. The Petit Verdot, though, was by far the star of the afternoon. Inky with concentrated plum flavors, it seems destined to shine in future releases. Nothing that we sampled suggested diluted colors or flavors, and we detected no vegetal notes to indicate lack of ripening.

Our time at Boxwood Winery concluded with samples of the upcoming 2010 releases now in tanks. The 2010 Topiary will be a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot; aromas of pepper and dried herbs dominated along with notes of raspberry and cherry to suggest an earthier blend. The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon will be not be blended; I noted characteristics of black fruit and tobacco with a pleasant whiff of violet. An addition to the Boxwood lineup will be the Trellis, a fruit forward table wine that blends Merlot and Malbec. This one should be prove to be popular as we both found it to be accessible and easy to drink either alone or with a meal.

So do not accept blanket dismissals of the 2011 harvest as fact for the entire state. We’ll do our best to keep readers posted. In the meantime, plan a visit to Boxwood Winery, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Red Wine Passion at Boxwood Winery

We’ve recently raved about the 2007 Topiary from Boxwood Winery, and that review caught the attention of Cat Coughlin, tasting room manager at Boxwood Winery. Cat invited us out to the winery for a tour and tasting, and we could not refuse the offer. We also got to chat with Rachel Martin, Executive Vice President and daughter of owner John Kent Cook. In our conversations with Cat and Rachel, the word “passion” was frequently used, and passion for excellent wine was on full display at the winery and tasting room.

The Boxwood facility is quite impressive, and the winery itself rests on the 165 acres of land that was once owned by aviation pined Billy Mitchell. John Kent Cook now owns the property, and he made the decision to use part of the acreage to plant a vineyard. Boxwood released its first vintage in 2005, and the winery opened in 2008. The winery was designed by Hugh Newell Jacobsen and can be described as contemporary yet elegant . Stone walls line the interior and surround a circular stainless steel tasting bar; from the tasting bar, glass doors and panels allow tasters to view the adjacent chai, tank room and barrel room. We were warmly greeted by Rachel Martin who kindly included us in a tank tasting already in progress with a team from the Park Hyatt. Our sneak preview was a sample of the yet-to-be bottled 2009 Topiary, the Cabernet Franc/Merlot blend. It presented spicy notes with plum and pepper characteristics; earthy nuances were evident, too. This blend was already aged in French oak barrels for twelve months, and upon bottling it should continue to develop quite nicely.

From the tank room, Rachel led us to the chai where the state of the art bottling equipment was on full display. Winemaker Adam McTaggart led the tour here and explained that overhead pipes pump wine from tanks into bottles; this system minimized the use of hoses in the bottling process. Boxwood Winery is dedicated to cork enclosures, too. From there, Rachel resumed our tour which continued into the circular barrel room. Barrels lie atop rocks that serve as humidity controls, and the room was constructed underground to help in maintaining a constant temperature of 55 to 65 degrees. It was in the barrel room that I asked Rachel two questions: What was behind the decision to focus on red wines, and why in Virginia? Her reply? Passion. Rachel and her father have a passion for red wines, and they likewise possess a passion for Virginia wines. Both believe that Virginia is capable of producing excellent red wines, and their aim is to push the quality levels even higher. To that end, the Boxwood team of winemakers, vineyard managers and consultant reads like a list of Who’s Who in the winemaking industry. Noted viticulturist Lucie Morton designed the sixteen acres of vineyards; Professor of Enology Richard Vine advised Jacobsen on the winery’s design, and heralded Bordeaux winemaker and consultant Stephane Derenoncourt consults with McTaggart. In fact, Derenoncourt was featured in this month’s Wine Spectator with Boxwood Winery given a starring role. Spectator went on to review two of Boxwoods wines: 2007 Boxwood received 88 points, and 2007 Topiary earned 87 points.

With our tour completed, we made our way to the tasting room located in the heart of Middleburg. Cat was already prepared for us with glasses and wines at the ready. We were able to taste through all of the red blends, and these included the Boxwood blend from the 2006, 2007, and 2008 vintages. I should note here that the Boxwood is a Medoc-style blend with Cabernet Sauvignon as the dominant grape with Petit Verdot and Merlot playing supporting roles. Our winner was the 2007 Boxwood with its concentrated dark fruit features and aromatics of anise, tobacco and cedar. Nice tannins on the finish made for lovely pour. The structured 2006 presented more of the spicy/earthy elements with blackberry and plum flavors. The 2008 was the fruitier of the Boxwood vintages and made for a more accessible wine.

We also sampled the Topiary blend from the 2007 and 2008 vintages. Topiary is the St. Emilion-style blend with Cabernet Franc as the primary grape; sidekicks include Merlot and Malbec. Our favorite here was also from the 2007 vintage. Aromatics include dried fruit such as dark currants, cherries, and dates with similar dark fruit flavors in the mouth that finished with some spice. Tannins were velvety. The fruitier 2008 vintage presented red fruits and herbal characteristics; like its 2007 sibling, the 2008 finished smooth.

As Cat conducted our tasting, we asked her why she got involved in winery business. Her answer? Passion—the same word used by Rachel. Like Rachel, Cat sees the potential in Virginia wine, and the passion that she witnesses from the Boxwood team likewise inspires her. We think that all of this passion is paying dividends, too. With excellent wines already topping the charts, we will all be hearing more about Boxwood Winery in the future; in fact, Rachel Martin believes that the 2010 harvest has the potential to produce the best Boxwood reds. We are already anxious to sample these upon release!

Plan a visit to Boxwood Winery, and a visit to the tasting room is as easy as getting to Middleburg. The tasting room includes an enomatic dispenser that will allow tasters to sample Boxwood wines as well as other wines from Bordeaux and Italy. Plan a visit to Boxwood Winery and tasting room, and be certain to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.