Take a Trip to Washington DC's Wine Country There are 40 wineries just a few miles outside of our nation's capital. Plus artisans of beer, spirits, and much more. BY TOURING & TASTING
Photos courtesy of Loudoun County
Visitors enjoy the Catoctin Creek Distillery, which opened in 2009.
“ Becky and Scott Harris founded Catoctin (ka-TOCK-tin) Creek Distillery five years ago, making their company the first family-owned distillery in Loudoun County since before Prohibition.”
Just across the Potomac River from Washington DC, beautiful Loudoun County, Virginia beckons wine tourists with 40 wineries. It’s known as DC’s Wine Country for its proximity to the nation’s capital and is loved for the genuine experience it provides. Here, boutique wineries house tasting rooms in everything from rustic barns and winemaker’s homes to intimate cellars and architecturally stunning buildings. Whether they’re visiting for the day or a long, lazy weekend, guests often enjoy casual tours, engaging food pairings, and conversation with the winemakers who craft Loudoun’s award-winning wines. Here are five reasons for you to visit.
1. 2nd Annual Epicurience Virginia, August 29–September 1
This unique four-day event launched last year to rave reviews. Epicurience Virginia was created to bring the best of Virginia to Loudoun County. You can taste the finest Virginia wines, meet local winemakers, take wine and culinary classes, and sample cuisine prepared by celebrated chefs. Plan to spend the entire Labor Day weekend visiting various wineries and attractions hosting wine and food events across Loudoun County, but don’t miss the culinary highlight of the year—the signature Epicurience Virginia Grand Tasting on the lawn of the 225-year-old Morven Park on August 30! New this year: Chef competitions have been added to the chef demonstration program, and wineries are partnering up with premier restaurants and other exhibitors to create pairings that allow you to fully appreciate how wine complements the flavors of a dish, or vice versa. "Given the time of year, we focus on wines that are quite fresh, like our Charval or our Nevaeh White," says Tarara Winery Winemaker Jordan Harris, who collaborated for Epicurience Virginia with gourmet restaurant The Wine Kitchen. Besides offering complimentary samples of wine with small bites, their team also created a paired menu of more substantial items for the event.
2. Emerging Craft Beer Scene
The craft beer movement is hopping in the heart of DC’s Wine Country, which is now home to 10 breweries. Some of the breweries offer tasting rooms, like Adroit Theory Brewing Company in Purcellville, which opens its doors to the public on weekends. Owner and Brewmaster Mark Osborne produces one keg at a time at a rate of two per day. "The recipes usually drive from food ingredients that interest us, or in an unusual technique that other brewers are not employing," Mark says. Adroit now makes nearly 40 distinct beers, including an Imperial Saison brewed with the Ethiopian herb, Gesho Kitel, and aged on Acacia wood, and a brown ale blended with local bacon. "We don’t have a flagship beer," Mark says. "Instead we constantly make new and different brews. Right now, we only sell beer directly to customers from our tasting room so we can tell our story and get reactions, and our fans can see what we’re doing." There’s even a winery that’s also a brewery! Corcoran Vineyards and Brewing Company has recently expanded its brewing system from 3.5 barrels to 10 and now includes a wheat-based beer with coriander and orange. The brewery started alongside the winery, but recently moved 15 minutes away to accommodate operations. The brewery’s new tasting room includes a large sitting area outside and an inside tasting bar.
3. Historically Inspired Spirits
You’d have to go back to the 1920s to find records of a legal distillery in Loudoun County. Until now. Becky and Scott Harris founded Catoctin (ka-TOCK-tin) Creek Distillery five years ago, making their company the first family-owned distillery in Loudoun County since before Prohibition. Catoctin Creek produces organic and Kosher Rye Whiskey, Brandy, and Gin—free from synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers. They offer fun tours where guests can see the distillery in action, including the custom-made Kothe Pot stills and condensers. You’ll get a good understanding of the whole process, including fermentation, distilling, aging, and bottling, followed by a tasting, if you like.
4. Venture Outdoors
Craving fresh air and excitement? You'll find it in DC’s Wine Country! This spring, Harpers Ferry Adventure Center in Purcellville opened an Aerial Adventure Park. The eco-friendly park invites guests to climb along on a variety of cable and rope bridges suspended in a forest (with a cable safety system attached). There’s also water tubing, rafting, zip line tours, and more. If you’d like to combine your wine tasting with some good physical activity, River & Trail Outfitters has partnered with Tarara Winery to create fun, multi-adventure agendas for kayaking and canoeing, followed by some mellow wine tasting and live music at the winery. Or take a different kind of vineyard tour—by bicycle! Ride through Loudoun’s beautiful terrain and stop at a winery along the way. Trail’s End Cycling Tours in Purcellville has new routes for you to explore.
5. Tasting Made Easier
Loudoun County is a marvelous place to tour and taste because there’s something new and exciting around every bend. The 40 wineries have been divided up into six driving clusters: Loudoun Heights, Waterford, Potomac, Mosby, Harmony, and Snicker’s Gap. Year round, themed wine touring itineraries are posted online with fun, new themes to help you plan a full day of touring, tasting, and exploring the region. Some of the newest itineraries are Architecture & Wine, leading to four wineries of architectural note; Wine with a View, leading through rolling hills of farms, pastures, and vineyards to four wineries with very impressive views; and Barn Wineries, leading to 3 of Loudoun’s 10 wineries housed in old- and new-world barns. At each winery, you’ll be greeted warmly, often by the owner or winemaker. So, follow an itinerary or follow your heart—you can’t go wrong in DC’s Wine Country.