The enomatic wine system at one of Boxwood Winery's Tasting Rooms is a lot like a night at Dave & Buster's, but instead of inserting your power card to play skee-ball, you get a delectable glass of red, white or rose. And, quite frankly, that sounds like a lot more fun.
Boxwood Winery is based in Middleburg, Va., one of the state's budding areas for winemaking. Three months ago the vineyard opened its second wine bar and shop at Reston Town Center, and by early November it hopes to open its third wine bar and shop at the new Shops at Wisconsin Place, located at the corner of Wisconsin and Western avenues near Mazza Gallerie.
What makes Boxwood stand apart is the rather unique way customers can try wine. Although it would probably be scoffed at in Napa Valley, the enomatic system allows local wine novices and snobs to go at their own pace. Put money on a card, put the card into a machine that contains bottles of Boxwood's own wine and some of the finest Bordeauxs on the market, and pick your pleasure.
There are different levels of commitment you can make. You can try 1, 3 or 5 oz. pours of numerous styles and vintages, and each is priced accordingly. So instead of studying a large menu of wines and paying for a full glass of something you despise, you can take a small sample of many different kinds until you find something that suits your palette. And once you find the right red for you, you can buy a bottle and take it with you.
"A lot of people look at a wine list with a blank look," said Sean Martin, VP and GM of the Tasting Room. "The great thing about the machine is that for three bucks you can try the Boxwood wine that retails for $25, or a French wine that's $127 a bottle. It gives you an interesting and economic way to try wines you may or may not purchase, but you're trying them before you buy them.
While there is a chance tasters will sour on Boxwood's wine in favor of its French counterpart, the winery thinks the comparisons are a good thing.
"We want to overcome people's perceptions of Virginia wine and show that they can produce top wines, as well," said Sean Martin, vice president and general manager of the Tasting Rooms.
Compared to a Middleburg winery like Swedenburg, Boxwood is a newcomer to the Virginia wine game. But three years ago the winery hired Stephane Derenoncourt, who they call "one of Bordeaux's great winemakers, as a consultant.
"At that time we became the first winery that he became a part of in the U.S.," Martin said.
Since then Derenoncourt visits almost every other month, and is involved with the blending and the winemaking process. Boxwood currently produces three styles of reds. Whites are also available at the Tasting Rooms.
At the Reston location, which seats about 50, patrons can pair cheeses, bread and desserts with their wine, and there's live jazz every Thursday night. Martin said something similar will be found at the new location in Chevy Chase.
"It's a place you come to and experience wine before and after dinner," he said. "It's an intimate experience. And a learning experience, as well."