Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Rocky Mountain High------A Visit To Virginia`s Wine Country

Beginnings: Day One Of Virginia Wine Country  November 2nd 2014  
Be advised that I abhor airports! It used to be fun---this traveling! The airport used to be a point of pleasurable anticipation. One could go and lounge around---checking a few stores and eventually wander to a dining spot to have a breakfast or lunch or dinner or just a quiet drink. That is now all gone because of some cowardly asses who think that they can strike fear into travelers with their threats of destruction. It used to be fun----it used to be!
Now, the fun and anticipation has been changed to a rush! Get to the airport! Check your bags and don`t be late as you walk through the security lines and check points---removing belts, shoes and emptying your computer bags, purses and wallets into a tray. Once through one form of security, if one is going into the United States, a second even more time consuming line of security and protocol has to happen. All because of some misguided persons wishing to disrupt the lives of many innocent individuals just wanting to get from point a to point be quickly. It`s not quick anymore. The fun really has gone out of air travel and going to the airport was not on my top experience lists.
The limo picked me up very early (around 6 am) for a ten thirty flight to Dulles International Airport in Washington DC. I tend to be very anal when it comes to airports and travel. Enough time must be given to potential problems which could seriously alter the flight plans. Thus I was at Pearson some three hours earlier. My first quandary presented itself immediately upon arrival. I found my way to the Air Canada flight monitor to check for my flight to the USA. No flight was listed. I checked the main monitor and found a flight going to Dulles at ten thirty am but it was a United flight. Upon checking with an agent walking by at the time, I found out that this was my flight and that Air Canada Flight 3910 was actually United Airlines Flight 5098. No one had informed me of that and no one had written any such material on the ticket.
I waited, read and waited some more before my time came to head for the security area. In went with the usual----remove belt, remove shoes, remove jacket, empty computer case, empty pockets etc. etc. and was escorted to the gate where I had to remove my shoes, my jacket, my belt, my pocket change and empty my computer case etc. etc. That took almost an hour and a half of additional search time.
Once through I made my way to the gate which seemed at the far reaches of the airport. It was almost the last gate.
My flight was on a 72 passenger jet which would take about an hour and a half to fly to Washington.
The flight left on time and we actually made great time----arriving about ten minutes early.
I certainly was not prepared for Dulles which was one confusing airport for a first time visitor. I had checked the Dulles website which made no mention of a train that had to be taken to a different terminal. If it wasn`t for some very nice people, I would have ended up wherever but not where I was supposed to go.
I found my way around then it hit me! THIS was the airport of Die Hard 2 fame---you know the one with the caption ``Die Harder``  and featuring the plot to ``rescue`` a drug dealing general from a South American country on his way to be incarcerated within the United States. You know the plot! It was snowy, cold and the ``bad guys`` took over the control of the tower ---holding a large number of fuel deficient flights in the air over Washington hostage.
Yep I was in that airport and while there were a great deal of people, there wasn`t any great excitement going on! I waited for several hours until the shuttle bus picked me up and then circled until all the wine writing group was picked up.
 It took some time for the British wine writer members of the Circle of Wine Writers to clear customs but after much waiting, we were on our way to the hotel-----an ultra new. ultra luxury hotel in Virginia.
The Salamander         
 I remember telling my daughter Taryn that I was "at least going to be away from horses and barns for a few days" since I usually spent most of my time catering to her "hobby" related to the Equestrian past time. Little did know of the surprise that awaited me.
The Salamander hotel describes itself in this manner 
"Set on 340 acres in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains amid Virginia’s famed horse country and lush vineyards, and just 35 minutes from Washington Dulles International Airport"
"Horse Country"----"famed" at that! I got that certain queasiness in the pit of my stomach that said, "Oooops, I think you are IN horse country!" That all came to fruition when I got to the hotel.
The hotel was amazing------actually better than amazing! Recently built it is an ultra luxury hotel that is immersed in the local equestrian history. It consists of twenty five acres dedicated to equestrian activities with a 14,000 square foot stable with 22 stalls, nine paddocks of at least one acre, trail ride areas, a huge outdoor riding area with ThorTurf footing and dining/viewing areas within the stable. The resort itself has a state-of-the-art kitchen supervised by top chefs. The rooms all have tremendous views of the some 340 acres of scenic beauty ----200 of which are dedicated to conservation.
Inside the hotel are reminders of the equestrian influence area through pictures, paintings, ribbons and statues of riders and horses. This place is a Mecca for any rider but for those of us lowly persons who do not ride (and especially for "broke" fathers whose daughter's compete in the Hunter/Jumper category) there was so much to see and do. For wine lovers, the wineries close by and the excellent cooking at the hotel would keep any gourmet, wine expert and/or life aficionado enjoyably busy for months if not years! 
I laughed at myself as I thought of the prophetic yet ironic statement I made to my daughter Taryn as I prepared for this trip to Virginia. "At least I am going to be away from horses and barns-----!" I laughed as I sat down at the side of my bed and stared right at a picture of a horse jumping over an "Equestrian Eventing" obstacle!  Since the group was so late in leaving the airport we opted to go to our first winery late rather than put it off until the next day so after we registered and freshened, we were off to the first of many wineries on this trip, Boxwood Winery in Middleburg, Virginia.
Boxwood Winery
The group of Circle of Wine Writers was basically familiar with each other since many of them had traveled with each other before. This was with the exception of two of us plus our driver Devon. I was made to feel immediately comfortable and the other, a young Russian lady by the name of Tanya, was also well received. Our driver with his excellent personality and driving skills was to become a very appreciated and contributing member to our team. There were two other individuals whose hard work made our trip possible and who accompanied us on this tour: Annette Boyd, Director of the .
Virginia Tourist Corporation and Christi Braginton, International Media Manager for the same.
Boxwood is located not far from the Salamander Hotel in Middleburg. Priding itself on its Bordeaux style blends, it grows five  varieties of grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec.  Four styles of wine are produced: "Boxwood", "Topiary", "Trellis" and "Rose".   Boxwood is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Topiary consists of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Trellis consists of  mainly Merlot with small proportions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot added.  The Rose wine is produced from a blend of all the varieties grown at the winery. 
The winery which started in 2001 was the brainchild of  entrepreneur Jack (John) Kent Cooke, son of theti former Canadian business person who made it very big in the United States. Mr. Cooke invested a huge amount of money in Boxwood in order to make it a "star" attraction compared to other wineries around the Globe. He obtained the best French Bordeaux Clones in order to make wine that was similar in style to that of the French Bordeaux.  
Boxwood's winemaker is Adam McTaggert is a Canadian winemaker educated at Brock University in St. Catherine's Ontario who was hired by Mr. Cooke to oversee the wine production. Cooke's daughter Rachel Martin is the Executive Vice President and chief spokesperson for Boxwood. She studied Oenology and Wine Evaluation at colleges in Napa and Bordeaux.
Presently there are some 16 acres under vine. The winery is State-of-the Art with a magnificent tasting area.  Great care is taken to make sure that the grapes are hand harvested and berries hand selected for berry fermentation and eventual French oak aging.
CWW group were given a tasting of several wines made at Boxwood. 2008 Boxwood Red (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot), 2009 Topiary (50% Merlot, 48% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec), 2011 Trellis (60% Merlot, 40% blend of Cab Franc, Cab Sauvignon, Petit Verdot), 2011 Topiary (68% Cabernet Franc, 32% Merlot) and 2012 Boxwood Red (56% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot).
While all the wines were excellent, my favourite was the Trellis which had both power and elegance combined.  
It should be noted that famed viticulturist and consultant Lucie Morton was also involved with the success of this vineyard. More about this famed person later on in my blogs.

It was quite late when we finished our tasting at Boxwood and then we were off to a delicious meal at the Grandale Restaurant in Neersville. This four star restaurant is noted as being one of the top 50 restaurants in Northern Virginia. After a fine meal with matching Virginia wines, it was back to Salamander Hotel for a good night's sleep.
End of Day One