About an hour outside of the District, past the sprawl of Fairfax County, Dulles International Airport, and the Leesburg outlets, you’ll find the idyllic rolling hills and picturesque villages of Loudoun County’s wine country. It’s an easy drive and a lovely way to spend a day—or even a weekend—whether you’re an aspiring oenophile or just looking to get out of town for a spell. There are more than forty wineries throughout western Loudoun, laid out in a way that makes it easy to hit three or four without much driving in between.
The wine industry has only really been going in northern Virginia for the past three decades. Because of their relative youth, many Loudoun wineries are set up with tourism in mind—you’ll find none of the stuffiness of more established wine-growing regions. At 868 Vineyards in Hillsboro, we paired our rosé with grilled sausages, while listening to live music and playing a game of cornhole. (It felt more like a cook out than a vineyard.) Most wineries will have a half-dozen wines to taste and charge a small fee to sample, usually between $5-10. Look for crisp vigoners (the state grape of Virginia), robust Bordeaux-style reds, and fruity rosés. Find a wine you like? You’ll likely be able to enjoy a glass or two on the premises.
Meanwhile, western Loudoun’s charming towns are destinations in their own right. In the heart of horse country, Middleburg is home to quaint shops selling riding gear and antiques, and restaurants like Market Salamander, where you can eat in or pick up supplies for a seriously gourmet picnic. When you get tired of vino, head to Catoctin Creek Distillery in downtown Purcellville, where you can taste their rye whiskey, gin, and brandies—or opt for the cocktail tasting and sample artisan cocktails that highlight each spirit’s unique characteristics.
The Loudoun County touring guide breaks the county into six “clusters,” each with 7 or 8 wineries in easy distance of one another. Your best bet is to grab a tourism map and choose a cluster or two to visit. Just make sure to taste responsibly.