Wouldn't it be great if you could always taste a wine before purchasing? No more basing your decision on someone else's suggestion or a winery's reputation. That is the premise behind a new wine dispensing system slowly gaining a foothold in Virginia: The Enomatic Wine Serving Systems. The concept behind this Italian system is quite simple. Each model holds a certain number of wine bottles in a temperature-controlled case and the wines remain fresh for approximately 30-45 days. The wine is dispensed using a pre-paid wine card so that consumers can sample different wines at their own pace. Worried about hygiene? After dispensing the wine, the system automatically cleans the spout. The system is particularly attractive for novice wine consumers who may feel intimidated ordering wine.
Of the four available models, the Enoline is the most popular. This dispenser holds 4 to 8 bottles and the wines can be stored at room temperature, refrigerated or climate controlled. Thus, both red and white wines can be stored. The Enoround model holds 16 wines at room temperature in a circular base and is intended for red wines. The Enomove is a portable system attached to a trolley and the Enomodule is a customized system that can create a continuous line of bottles.
In Virginia, the Enomatic is currently being used in several wine bars, retail shops, and one winery - Boxwood Winery. Boxwood is not your average family owned and operated winery. John Kent Cooke, the former owner of the Washington Redskins, founded the enterprise. His daughter, Rachel Martin, is the winemaker. With the assistance of consultant Stephane Derenoncourt, Ms. Martin crafts three Bordeaux style wines: a rose and two dry red wines. The Boxwood is a left bank Medoc blend consisting of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petite Verdot, whereas the Topiary is a right bank Saint Emilion styled wine composed of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Malbec. Instead of opening a tasting room at their winery, Boxwood opened a tasting facility on Main Street in Middleburg. In order to dispense their wines they chose the Enoround model, suitable for their red wine inventory. Obviously Boxwood does not produce enough wines to fill the container, so they include several Bordeaux brands produced by other wineries in which Mr. Derenoncourt consults. An added benefit is that consumers can determine how well the Boxwood wines compare to the French wines. The success of the Middleburg tasting room has enabled Boxwood to build a second facility in the Reston Town Center, which should open the beginning of March.
The driving force for legalizing the Enomatic system in Virginia was the Whole Foods Corporation. After Virginia State officials approved its use, Whole Foods opened wine tasting rooms in their Fairfax and Glen Allen stores. The tasting rooms contain almost a dozen of the devices, holding over 80 wine bottles. Currently only the Glen Allen store dispenses a Virginia made wine, the Cooper Vineyards Noche Chocolate; but there are also two other wine bars that include Virginia wine in their Enomatic systems. The Kybecca Wine Bar is located in an historic general store in downtown Fredericksburg, which Kyle and Rebecca Snyder have painstakingly restored to its original brick façade. They have several Enomatic systems that dispense approximately thirty wines, each available for purchase in their adjacent retail shop. On our visit, the Virginia Wineworks White was the lone Virginia wine being dispensed by the Enomatic.
Warrenton's Iron Bridge Wine Company also dispenses Virginia wine from their three systems. They use an Enoround model for the red wines and two Enoline models for the white wines. Where else can you taste a Rogers Ford Farm Winery Sumerduck alongside a Châteauneuf-du-Pape? Finally, a few other Virginia establishments utilize the Enomatic: Church Street Cellars in Vienna, Evo Bistro Wine Bar in McLean, and Maison du Vin's two stores in Great Falls and Reston. In fact, both Maison du Vin stores use the enoline model for their free daily tasting, so there is no need to purchase a wine card.
The price of some of these machines are high (close to $20,000 for the Enoround), so it will be interesting to see if they are cost effective in the long run. Since Boxwood Winery and Maison du Vin have purchased machines for multiple locations, it appears that they have concluded in the affirmative. If other retailers make similar judgments, then expect the number of Enomatics in operation to increase; otherwise the Enomatic may become just the latest wine fad.
The full article is also available at the Virginia Wine Lover Magazine.