Spring is here, summer is around the corner and thoughts turn to travel, adventure and the open road. Where better to branch out for those adventures than Loudoun County? But with so much to see and do – vine-covered valleys, soaring mountain trails, historic villages, trendy towns and scores of breweries, wineries and restaurants – you have to narrow your focus. Here we highlight the six best ways to experience the beauty, tastes and charms of DC's Wine Country®.
Loudoun is home to more than 40 wineries and tasting rooms on rolling hills and cliff-edged slopes, views as sumptuous as the Viognier. New wineries such as Bleu Frog Vineyards from chef Jan Kernan and her Navy Seal husband Joe stand side by side with veteran establishments like Fabbioli Cellars from local wine icon Doug Fabbioli. Popular Loudoun varietals to try include the medium bodied Cab Franc, blended to perfection at Boxwood Estate Winery in their smoky 2016 Trellis, and the mellifluously named French-American hybrid Chambourcin, made into the vibrant Hunting Hill port at Creek’s Edge Winery. It’s not just great wines and tastings on offer. Delve into the winemaking process with a guided vineyard tour at 8 Chains North, followed by a chocolate and wine pairing, or blend and label your own bottle at Sunset Hills Vineyard. On weekends, enjoy live music at most wineries throughout the summer. Go where the grapes grow.
Loudoun’s rivers, rolling countryside and mountain slopes are the perfect settings for outdoor adventures. Hiking enthusiasts should head over to Red Rock Wilderness Overlook Regional Park in Leesburg – home to several historic buildings, and a cast of native plants and wildlife. Climb the overlook to take in scenic vistas of the Potomac River. If you prefer two wheels to two feet, the W & OD Trail that runs from Sterling in the east to Purcellville on the bed of the old Washington & Old Dominion Railroad is the best cycle path in the county. You can ride a horse on some sections of it too. For something a little more daring, the Adventure Park at Evergreen Sportsplex has 13 ropes courses, two rock walls for climbers and four zip lines that whisk you through and over the trees of the park’s small forest. Outdoor fun for all the family.
Loudoun’s historic downtowns are shopping retail destinations and gourmet markets in the rural west are perfect for local produce. Start at Chloe’s of Middleburg, the chic women’s apparel and gift store from former Bergdorf Goodman buyer Wendy Osborn where you can pick up fragrant, soy-based cotton wick candles or quirky iridescent no-drip design umbrellas. In Purcellville purchase any of 100 loose leaf teas sourced from around the world at Dominion Tea on 21st Street, while in Leesburg visit Muz and Rose, which sells local and sustainable clothing, jewelry and apothecary products. For local farm produce, Dinner Belles Kitchen Cupboard in Lovettsville sells Georges Mill artisan cheese and Longstone Farm charcuterie alongside superb pre-prepared meals, while the Hill High Market branch of Mom’s Apple Pie near Round Hill is a popular last stop before the mountain for homemade pies, apple crumble, Lone Oak coffee and a storied wine and craft beer collection from Bush Nichols.
With 35 breweries and counting, Loudoun is one of the most vibrant craft beer destinations in the U.S. with a diversity of settings few other regions can match. The LoCo Ale Trail connects the urban breweries of Sterling, Ashburn and Leesburg in the east – places such as Twinpanzee Brewing Co., Dynasty Brewing and Black Walnut – to the bespoke tap rooms and beerhalls of the Blue Ridge out west where you’ll find flagships such as Belly Love, Notaviva Craft Fermentations and Wheatland Spring Farm + Brewery leading the way. Enjoy trivia evenings, locavore menus, live music and an always warm welcome from local brew masters eager to showcase award-winning pale ales, pilsners, stouts and more. Grab your Ale Trail passport and fill your glass!
Loudoun’s family farms provide bountiful fresh produce to a dynamic dining scene where chefs and restaurants are always innovating. Enjoy grass-fed burgers and upscale American classics at Market Burger or West End Wine Bar and Pub in Purcellville; get messy with succulent brisket and ribs at newly opened Schmidt’s BBQ in Leesburg with a spacious backyard, or savor superbly balanced Balti, tandoori and other Indian classics at Bhai Sahab in Lansdowne. For more upscale fine dining, you can’t go wrong with the inventive twists on Italian favorites from family-owned Urbano Modern Italian in Sterling – Ricotta & Spinach Ravioli, anyone? Add in trendy taquerias, food trucks, gourmet pizza joints, farmers markets and international cuisine, and Loudoun has it all.
While eastern Loudoun is dynamically urban, the west is a thriving network of working farms, dairies and equestrian centers, many open to visitors. Bring the kids to pick apples, grapes and strawberries at Great Country Farms in Bluemont or Wegmeyer Farms in Hamilton. Semi-annual farm tours bring spooky corn mazes and pumpkin picking in the fall, or the latest floral blooms in spring. Talking flowers, look no further than Blooming Hill Lavender Farm, which features a collection of 1,000 lavender plants as well as an array of lavender products for purchase. Meander through the blooms or book a tea in the gardens. Loudoun is home to more than 15,000 horses and has a rich equine tradition, too. Spend a day horseback riding near Middleburg, taking in the point-to-point races at Oatlands, or a polo match at Leesburg’s Morven Park. To understand the history and changing dynamics of rural Loudoun, head to the Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum with its replica general store, working garden and trove of artifacts.