Take a spir­ited visit to Loudoun County’s grow­ing win­ery and brew­ery scene

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Magazine - By Gretchen McKay

LEESBURG, Va. — The rolling hills around this his­toric town and county seat north­west of Wash­ing­ton, D.C., have long been known as horse coun­try. Jackie Kennedy fa­mously rode with the Pied­mont Fox Hounds in nearby Mid­dle­burg, and even to­day there are more horses than houses in Loudoun County, which was set­tled in the mid-1720s and still feels a mil­lion miles away from the hus­tle and bus­tle of the nation’s cap­i­tal. But times are chang­ing. While the Colo­nial row­houses and Ge­or­gian estates still give off an air of old money and fox hunt teas, th­ese days, you’re more likely to find the roads around Leesburg teem­ing with younger, hip­per types on the hunt for a dif­fer­ent type of an­i­mal: wine or beer tast­ings.

There are more than 40 winer­ies both large and small on the Loudoun Wine Trail, many of which of­fer live mu­sic and food pair­ings along with tast­ings in gor­geous set­tings. The old­est, Wil­lowcroft Farm Vine­yards, dates to 1984 and is sit­u­ated in a 130year-old barn with panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Moun­tains — a per­fect back­drop for a fall leaf-peep­ing week­end trip within easy driv­ing dis­tance of Pitts­burgh. Or maybe you’d rather drink hard cider while nosh­ing on pulled-pork sand­wiches and baked beans with can­died ba­con from Cork Belly BBQ. Then the tiny fam­i­ly­owned Cor­co­ran Vine­yard and Cidery in Water­bury would be just the ticket.

For those more in­ter­ested in the grow­ing craft beer scene, the county’s LoCo Ale Trail now counts 23 lo­cal brew­eries. Four are right down­town, while twice as many are con­ve­niently lo­cated right off the Wash­ing­ton & Old Do­min­ion (W&OD) Trail, a 45-mile trail that runs from Wash­ing­ton, D.C., to the quaint town of Pur­cel­lville. As one who bikes, usu­ally hard, I be­lieve there’s some­thing to be said for be­ing able to quaff a cold one mid- or postride, while the sweat is still rolling down your back. Some call it quench­ing your thirst; I call it a re­ward for a job well done.

Then there’s Delir­ium Cafe USA, which just opened on South King Street. It brings to Leesburg’s his­toric main street a heady of­fer­ing of Bel­gian and lo­cal beers, along with brag­ging rights. It’s the first of the famed beer­maker’s chain of in­ter­na­tional cafes to open in the U.S. (the orig­i­nal is in Brussels). Its ro­tat­ing draft list boasts a dizzy­ing ar­ray of choices, in­clud­ing hard-to-find Delir­ium prod­ucts along with ales and triples from other Bel­gian brew­ers.

But there’s more than liq­uid entertainment. You don’t have to spend a for­tune to get a de­cent meal in Leesburg — a $3.50 slice of straw­berry-rhubarb pie at Mom’s Ap­ple Pie is one heav­enly break­fast, and the killer char­cu­terie board at Lost Creek Win­ery feeds two for lunch. If, like me, you

can never ac­cu­mu­late too much stuff, Loudoun County also boasts ter­rific an­tiquing. We­spent the bet­ter part of a Satur­day cruis­ing Route 15 in and around the tiny ham­let of Luck­etts, pick­ing through old junk in search of lost trea­sures. Some of the best pick­ing is at the Old Luck­etts Store, which dates to 1879. You’d be hard-pressed to walk away with­out a least one gem in your pocket (I’m now the proud owner of a vin­tage com­mer­cial bread pan).

Luck­etts also is home to the “Po­tomac” clus­ter of winer­ies that in­cludes the bou­tique (and pet friendly) Fab­bi­oli Cel­lars, where you can sam­ple wines ei­ther un­der a sun sail over­look­ing the vine­yard, in a win­dowed tast­ing room or in the cel­lar it­self. (For a guide to the re­gion’s winer­ies, visit tuskieswine­trail.com).

While more wine than you can pos­si­bly taste in week­end, is an ob­vi­ous at­trac­tion, my hus­band and I ac­tu­ally were drawn to the area be­cause of its bike trails. Visi­tors have their choice of two stel­lar paths on which to drink in fall’s col­ors, which are ex­pected to peak in early to mid Oc­to­ber: The Ch­e­sa­peake and Ohio (C&O) canal path that con­nects to the Great Al­legheny Pas­sage in Cum­ber­land, Md., and the W&OD Trail, which climbs from Leesburg over Ca­toctin Moun­tain be­fore reach­ing Pur­cel­lville. The lat­ter is paved, so if you own a road bike or just like to go fast, ex­pect a smooth ride. Watch for eques­tri­ans on the ad­ja­cent horse path and oc­ca­sional deer.

That’s how we started our Leesburg ad­ven­ture — ped­al­ing 10 miles to Pur­cel­lville for a lazy if some­what sweaty lunch at Mag­no­lias at The Mill. It’s also how we ended it, with a ride from Point of Rocks, Md., to abo­li­tion­ist John Brown’s Harpers Ferry in West Vir­ginia, where the only thing more amaz­ing than the view of the town be­low from St. Peter’s Ro­man Catholic Church was that of two crazy kids rap­pelling down the south­ern face of Mary­land Heights, a 300foot ver­ti­cal cliff that tow­ers over the Po­tomac River.

Pur­cel­lville also is home to the county’s first (le­gal) dis­tillery since be­fore pro­hi­bi­tion, and it’s a beauty. Lo­cated in a for­mer car deal­er­ship, Ca­toctin Creek Dis­till­ing Com­pany awes with its hand­some tast­ing room, which fea­tures ex­posed brick walls and huge pic­ture win­dows that of­fer a glimpse of the dis­till­ing process. I’m not a whiskey drinker, but a tast­ing here — you can only try one flight on each visit — al­most made me wish I was. If you pre­fer beer, there’s al­ways the IPA at Jack’s Run Brew­ing, a craft mi­cro­brew­ery named for a nearby creek that first ap­peared on a map way back in 1749.

Other night­time hotspots are the out­door pa­tio at the funky Vi­no9Mar­ket in nearby Paeo­nian Springs (there’s bar­be­cue and live mu­sic on week­ends), and Macdow­ell Brew Kitchen, which in warm weather has a hop­ping, popular out­door “beach” area with sand and fire pits. And of course, head to Delir­ium to get a taste of Bel­gium’s top ex­port. (Trav­eler’s warn­ing: The Delir­ium Tre­mens, at 8.5 per­cent al­co­hol, must be ap­proached with cau­tion, or with a des­ig­nated driver.)

Gretchen McKay: gm­ckay@post-gazette.com,, 412263-1419 or on Twit­ter @gtm­ckay

Tom Lussier

At Breaux Vine­yards in Pur­cel­lville, Va., 18 grape va­ri­eties are planted over 100 acres.

Gretchen McKay/Post-Gazette

On Fri­day evenings, the out­door "beach" at MacDow­ell Brew Kitchen in Leesburg, Va., is a hot spot for happy hour.

Gretchen McKay/Post-Gazette pho­tos

The Wash­ing­ton & Old Do­min­ion Trail trav­els 45 miles through North­ern Vir­ginia and takes its name from the rail­road whose trains ran along the right-of-way from 1859 to 1968.

At Fab­bi­oli Cel­lars, visi­tors can en­joy a tast­ing in one of the win­ery's out­door seat­ing ar­eas over­look­ing the vine­yard.

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