Every year USA Today announces its 10Best Awards. Nominees are chosen by panels of experts - editors, writers, relevant industry professionals – and readers vote digitally at 10Best.com for their top 10. Nominations fall into a range of food, drink and travel-related categories, from best wineries, breweries and restaurants to more niche lists such as Best Cross-Country Ski Resort.
This year, Loudoun claimed three 10Best awards: Cork & Keg Tours in Sterling, Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, and Middleburg itself, recognized as a 10Best Small Town for Shopping.
Here, we take a look at Loudoun’s winners and what USA Today said about them.
Best Wine Tour Company: Cork & Keg Tours
Sterling-based Cork & Keg Tours was founded by Navy veteran Renee Ventrice in November 2016, inspired by the full-service luxury wine tours she and her husband Don took during visits to California wine country. “No-one was offering what we experienced in Sonoma, so we decided to bring a luxurious version of that here,” said Ventrice. A certified WSET2 wine educator, Ventrice guides most of the tours into Loudoun’s wine clusters herself, selecting which wineries to visit and vintages to recommend based on the personal preferences of her clients. USA Today wrote “Tour in a Mercedes Sprinter outfitted with two HD TVs and a sparkling wine bar. Tours include a sparkling wine toast, pickup and drop-off, and visits to two or three wineries.” Cork & Keg has also added concierge-level services such as photo slideshows, decorations, and even karaoke sessions between wineries for party groups.
Best Destination Resort: Salamander Resort & Spa
Sheila Johnson’s Forbes Five-Star Salamander Resort & Spa brings luxury and high style to Loudoun’s horse and hunt country. The elegant equine-themed property, which opened in 2013, has multiple lounge and dining areas and is the base of the star-studded annual Middleburg Film Festival. It also hosts frequent events and activities such as haunted Halloween walks, archery, and equestrian programming. USA Today wrote “This 340-acre resort in Virginia Wine Country offers guests easy access to the town of Middleburg, with onsite amenities like an equestrian center, nature trails, a spa, tennis and golf facilities, swimming pool and a cooking studio. Guests will find more than 50 wineries within an hour's drive.”
Best Small Town for Shopping: Middleburg
While Middleburg, founded in 1748, is famous for being the center of horse and hunt country, it made the USA Today 10Best for its small-town shopping appeal. Washington Street, the town’s main thoroughfare, is lined with classy boutiques and quirky gift stores, featuring everything from tailored suits at raffish Highcliffe Clothiers to summery skirts at Lou Lou’s. The nearby Fun Shop and Christmas Sleigh sell hunt country accessories and home décor, and there are cafes, coffee shops, restaurants, and bars to stop at in between. USA Today wrote “Historic Middleburg, a hotbed of horsing and hunting, is home to a myriad of inns, bed and breakfasts, shops, galleries, and upscale boutiques – more than enough to while away a long weekend – and all about an hour’s drive from the nation’s capital. Fans of artisan foodstuffs and other unique items will enjoy perusing the village, which is mercifully devoid of chain stores – a wonderful place for singular gifts and meals worth remembering.”