Saturday, May 23, 2009
Two Days in the Country
As I toured Loudoun County, Virginia, I couldn't help but compare it to other parts of the country. Flashing through my mind were memories of Westchester NY, Northern Connecticut, Norwich and Woodstock VT, Dutchess County NY, Old Bridge NJ, and so on. There are bits of all of those places in the Towns & Villages of Loudoun. But this place is uniquely its own.
It's Sonoma in the early days, its Colonial America in the olden days, its suburban DC, its the rolling hills of Virginia. The County itself transitions from meticulously planned neighborhoods and communities to the east to quaint village and rural farm life to the west. Common to the whole County is a sense of heritage, regalness and friendliness.
My whirlwind tour took me to a historic inn, a cheery B&B and a bucolic country resort. I met the most amazing locals and transplants, like JoAnn, Innkeeper of the Middleburg Country Inn, who even shared the recipe of her mom's Lemon Pound Cake she served us with a glass of local wine; and Chef Becky, the trendsetting head chef of the Red Fox Inn, recent graduate of Johnson & Wales. The awesome pastoral scenery at the Goodstone Inn & Estate took hold of me and I found myself frolicking in a field like the Sound of Music.
The flowers were blooming all over the county; magnolias, azaleas, amaryllis, lilacs. With a backdrop of thoroughbred horse farms and sprawling vineyards, Loudoun is a visual dessert. Historically significant, we visited Ball's Bluff Battlefield and Cemetary, where 54 Union casualties of the Civil War lie in rest; and Oatlands House and Gardens, built in 1798 by a descendant of one of Virginia's first families as a wheat plantation.
A visit to Loudoun wouldn't be complete without exploring its bourgeoning food and wine scene. This, as you know, is my favorite topic! With nearly 2 dozen wineries in the Northern County, Loudoun proudly claims its title of DC's Wine Country. In keeping with its welcoming nature, visiting a winery here is a heartwarming experience. The owners are more than hospitable, sharing the histories of their families and their vineyards. At Bluemont Vineyards, Loudoun native Bruce and his wife tend to their vineyards as well as their U-pick farm across the road. They grow grapes, peaches, strawberries, and more. The view from the porch of the tasting room is a spectacular scene of fields, barns, orchards and meadows. Jennifer, owner of Breaux Vineyards, poured us tastings of the wines her vineyard produces, many of which are charmingly named after family members. A second generation vintner, Jennifer and her family live on one side of the 400 acre estate, while her dad lives on the other. As one of the largest producers in the County, they recently took home some impressive accolades for their wine, competing on the international wine scene.
There's a story in every corner of this County, and the gracious residents are ready and willing to share theirs with you. I can't wait to take my family to Loudoun... its the kind of place that beckons you back.