WHY GO: Get into the spirits of it all! Plan a few days in Loudoun County VA to lap up some of the best wine, beer and whiskey in the land.
Though this region just west of our Nation’s Capital is touted as “DC’s Wine Country” (with over 45 wineries), breweries and distilleries have been popping up as well.
Encompassing the growing-hipper-by-the-day towns of Leesburg and Purcellville, historic sights, stunning wineries, avant-garde breweries, and engineer-serious distilleries, a trip to Loudoun County will keep you busy for several days. Add in an artist’s retreat turned romantic B&B, and a renovated-to-luxury Conference Center and you’ve got the recipe for a bone fide epicurean holiday. Cheers.
For another “Small Town” Loudoun County excursion, consult our Middleburg VA post.
Loudoun County is on our list of 20 Surprisingly Romantic Getaways in VA. Check it out if you wish to explore the state further.
Looking for someplace dreamy outside of Virginia? Check out our 150 Best Romantic Getaways in the Northeast US (Virginia to Maine).
Best Things to Do in Loudoun County VA
TOUR: Marshall House, Leesburg
General George Marshall served as Chief of Staff during WWII, Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense under President Truman. Marshall is best recognized for the Plan that bears his name (and for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953) – The Marshall Plan – also known as the European Recovery Program.
But this yellow farm home was Marshall’s “getaway place.” So a tour here will provide a glimpse of a highly regarded military man at ease.
Ninety percent of the house and its furnishings are original, including a 40’s style red-and-white-checkered kitchen straight out of I Love Lucy, a comfortable living room and modest bedrooms.
Despite its modesty, however, the home is stocked with priceless mementos. There’s a replica of a painting from Winston Churchill above the mantelpiece. A photo of Black Jack Pershing, who served as Best Man at Marshall’s second wedding, sits on a small parlor table. And a picture painted by Madame Chaing Kai-shek, good friend and frequent overnight guest, is prominently displayed in the living room.
Marshall was avowedly non-partisan. When asked if he was a Democrat or Republican, he answered, “I’m an Episcopalian.”
He was married twice. First to Lily Cole, who died of heart failure after 25 years. And then to Katherine Boyce Tupper, a former actress with three children, whose first husband, an attorney, had been tragically murdered.
Though President Truman considered Marshall his “go-to guy,” you’ll discover more about the personal side of this highly decorated military man on this intimate tour. The man who played an integral part in Europe’s reconstruction loved watching Gunsmoke and I Love Lucy, and ordered seeds from Burpee to plant his beloved vegetable garden. 60-90 minute tours $10. Open Sat. 10-4, Sun 1-4, summer Mondays 1-4.
TOUR: Mansion and Museums of Morven Park, Leesburg
Commercial and residential development has reached a frenzied pace in Loudoun County – one of the fastest growing counties in the USA. The Metro is moving out here, and with it commuters and more businesses. Soon, say those who work here, the 1,000-acre Morven Park might be Loudoun County’s Central Park. It’s the only patch of green around.
That might be exaggerating a bit, but there’s no doubt that this beautiful place is worthy of a couple of hours exploration. Once home to two Governors, Morven Park has a vibrant horse-riding legacy, tied to fox hunting on the vast grounds. It still serves as an equestrian center.
Visit Morven Park to tour its three museums. First, The Westmoreland David Mansion, also serves, quite appropriately, as the Museum of Hounds and Hunting in North America.
You’ll find clothing, tack, saddles, and fox-hunting memorabilia throughout several rooms. Think “Downton Abby” as you peruse objects from this British tradition brought to America.
The Westmoreland David Mansion
The 45-minute guided Mansion Tour brings you through dark but stunning rooms, heavy on drapery, “as if the Davis’s have just stepped out.”
The tour focuses on Davis’s life rather than “stuff.” So, guides introduce the home’s previous owner through a large portrait of the Governor in his red hunting coat.
Winmill Carriage Collection
Be sure to see the Winmill Carriage Collection, accumulated by Viola Winmill in the early 1900’s and donated to Morven Park in 1967.
It’s located in a warehouse next to the mansion, built specifically for the incredible grouping of 40 fine carriages from all over the world. The collection includes one used by the famous Tom Thumb of Barnum and Baileys Circus, and the ornate hearse that carried Viola on her final, funereal, ride in 1975. Open Sat/Sun 12-5 (last tour at 4), $10 adults, $5 kids, includes Mansion Tour and Carriage House tour.
WINERY: 868 Estate Vineyards, Purcellville
When Peter, a lawyer, and Nancy Deliso, “in marketing,” purchased a 90-acre plot of land – now 120 acres (which is 868 ft at its highest elevation – hence, the name), there was a small restaurant and no vineyard. In 2012 the Delisos planted vines in partnership with a winemaker and ran the restaurant (until Covid forced it to close in 2020).
Twenty years later, 868 Estate Vineyards boast 39,000 vines planted on 22 acres. And the winemaking business is thriving in this tiny notch of Northwest Virginia, just several miles from both the Maryland and West Virginia borders.
Guests enjoy award-winning varietals, including Cab Franc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Merlot, food (bites prepared in what was the restaurant), and live music (on weekends). Flights of four 2oz pours cost $15.
Although Cab Franc “dominates here,” 868 Estate Vineyards won the 2020 Governor’s Cup Best Wine in Virginia – the first in Loudoun County to do so – for its sweet 2017 Passito dessert Wine. “Passito is Italian for ‘straw mat,’ onto which grapes were initially placed to almost raisin in the sun,” Nancy explained.
Walk the gorgeous grounds and look for the blazing white “KISS” barn. 868 Estate Vineyards is romantic in so many ways. You may stumble on a tangle of pant-less mannequins: casts offs from a department store that the Delisos found in storage that add a quirky avant-garde aspect to the place.
In fact, the Delisos are all about engaging the local arts community. Their stunning, contemporary tasting room also serves as a gallery for local artists (for sale, of course), hiring those who show there to design the labels of 868’s Reserve wines. In addition, the vineyard also hosts concerts: one an annual Rising Star benefit for local musicians.
WINERY: Breaux Vineyards, Purcellville
Have you somehow been transported to New Orleans? Walk into the cavernous Breaux Vineyards tasting room, and look up. The wrought-iron work on the second floor balcony puts you in mind of that Southern city. What gives? Well, the vineyard founder, Paul Breaux, comes from Cajun stock. His grandparents were from Baton Rouge and Lafayette LA, eventually making it up to the North Carolina shore.
But, that’s not the meat of this story, which begins in the 1990’s. Paul Breaux, an Outer Banks real estate agent, purchased this 404-acre property, formerly Grand Oak Farm, “as a release valve,” according to his daughter, Jennifer, who now runs the business.
Breaux had no background in grape growing or wine making. But while clearing the fields to plant hay, he found semi-buried grape vines. Turns out, the property owners before him had planted grapevines 15 years before. Knowledgeable experts told Paul that he was “sitting on a goldmine.” So, Breaux re-cultivated and added to the dormant vines in 1994. The first vintage was released in 1997 and by 2007, Breaux Vineyards was in full swing.
With over 90 acres of planted vines, and 18 different grape varieties, Breaux Vineyards is one of the largest grape-growers in Virginia. It’s one of only three VA wineries where you’ll find the Italian Nebbiolo grape, which, like in Italy, grows right up slopes “where the fog nestles in.” In this case, right up Short Hill Mountain.
Open seven days a week year round, Breaux Vineyards is an active, gorgeous place. Events, like live music, lawn game competitions, Paint and Sip, Cookie Decoration afternoons, and Wine & Vine Tour Dinners, earn gaggles of guests. Look around and it’s no surprise that the vineyard hosts 40 large weddings a year. “And, lots of micro-weddings.”
WINERY: Hillsboro Winery, Vineyard and Brewery, Hillsboro
What was a stone dairy barn in the 1830’s has been reconfigured as Hillsboro Winery, Vineyard and Brewery’s inviting tasting room. It sits atop a hill with breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which you can take in while sipping Hillsboro’s handcrafted, French-style vintages.
While Kerem Baki makes the wine, with names of semi-precious stones – Onyx, Opal, and Ruby – brother Tolga oversees the beer operation. Dogs are allowed outside. But inside is where you’ll want to be – in front of the flaming fireplace – during cold and inclement weather.
VISIT/TASTE: Sunset Hills Vineyard, Purcellville
Mike Canney – physicist, computer guy, race car driver – and his wife Diane, own this solar-powered vineyard. “We turn sunshine into wine.”
The tasting room and shop are situated in a German bank-barn constructed just after the Civil War. However, by the late 1990’s, the building was “structurally sound but visually ugly,” according to Mike. The Canney’s hired Amish carpenters to rescue and renovate the barn, which is now a burnished, soaring testament to the can-do spirit of post Civil War Reconstruction.
Come in for a taste of Sunset Hills Chardonnay, an excellent grapefruit-crisp semi-dry white, a sip of Viognier – VA’s “State Grape” – a mild summer white with hint of sweetness, and a splash of Mosaic, a blend of the winery’s best reds.
Mike loves nothing better than to “walk in a Chardonnay vineyard with a glass of Chard,” especially on a sunny autumn day. He, like most vineyard owners and managers in Loudoun County, feels a connection to the land and its history.
“The great thing about Virginia vineyards is that you’ll see the owners walking around, and you can actually engage with them.” And, though it’s a lot of work, Mike has never looked back. “This should be a fun business. If you can’t have fun at a winery, something’s wrong.” Open Monday – Thursday: Noon – 5 pm, Friday: Noon – 6 pm Saturday – Sunday: 11am – 6 pm.
STOP IN: The Barns @ Hamilton Station, Hamilton
The tasting room is in the hayloft of this 106-year-old tin-roofed dairy barn. The distressed wood floor is peppered with license plates, nailed down to cover drafty holes beneath your feet.
“The Barns” is strictly a tasting room. The wine is not made here. But plenty of marriages are. This is an increasingly popular spot for weddings, concerts and other events throughout the year. A separate concrete block building, the “Man Cave,” accommodates guys (and gals) who wish to light up cigars as no open flames are allowed in the barn. You can even purchase those stogies near the wine tasting bar.
VISIT/TASTE: Catoctin Creek Distillery, Purcellville
Becky and Scott Harris, like many around here who turned to spirit-making, were engineers in their former work-lives. Applying their brainpower towards distilling incredibly good small batch whisky, gin and brandy, Catoctin Creek has risen in stature in the industry. It now distributes to 47 states and 3 continents.
But those who visit Purcellville VA are lucky – you can taste some of the best spirits nearly straight from the barrel in a beautifully repurposed 1921 garage. Original interior windows allow a view into the whole operation. Flights of three: $5 straight, $10 cocktails, $10 Whiskey, $10 Brandy. Open Tues-Sun. Check website for hours.
VISIT/TASTE: Adroit Theory Brewery, Purcellville
Adroit doesn’t make standard brews, “we make concept beer,” says owner, Mark Osborne. Ergo, each one-keg batch lasts as long as it lasts. “When it sells out, it goes away.”
Fans of this nano-brewery – motto “Consume Life, Drink Art” – don’t bank on the familiar. Those who arrive at this edgy garage space must possess a sense of adventure and a hankering for the “esoteric.” On tap when I got there – a dark whiskey-barrel aged beer that could have passed for bourbon, and “Virginia Ham,” which I just. Couldn’t.
So far Osborne and the rest of the Adroit Theory crew have concocted hundreds of beers, averaging about 8 a week. “Maybe you’re not supposed to put lemon zest in beer but we like it,” Osborne says. “We make a never-ending series of brews. Made one with lavender once. It was not a hit.” Open Thursdays from 4-8pm, Friday and Saturday from 12-8pm, and Sunday from 12-6pm.
VISIT/TASTE: Ocelot Brewing Co., Dulles
We’ve already established that beer and rock and roll are great companions (see Brewery Ommegang). But Adrien Widman, owner of Ocelot Brewing, takes this to a whole other level. Formerly a Network Engineer, Widman transitioned from home brewer to microbrewer, bringing his beer/music business model to fruition.
Ocelot’s logo is a guitar pick. The “Barrel Wall” is a replica of Pink Floyd’s The Wall album cover. The mural at the top of the second floor landing is a copy of Led Zeplin’s Stairway to Heaven figure. And all beers are named from song lyrics.
But it’s not just about the music here. Regulars are big soccer fans, as evidenced by a huge flat screen tv over the bar tuned into the latest match.
In the past, the starting goalkeeper for DC’s Screaming Eagles was guest bartender for a Charity Event, bringing in a bunch of screaming Screaming Eagles fans. Now, that’s music of a whole different sort. Open Mon-Fri. 1pm-10pm, Sat 11am-10pm, Sun 11-6.
VISIT: Flying Ace Farm, Brewery, and Distillery, off Route 15 near VA/MD Border
It pays to be a three-in-one operation (soon to be four, when Monk’s opens an outpost here) in this remote part of Loudoun County – almost to the Maryland border off of Route 15. For explorers who love their beer and spirits, with their fresh produce, this out of the way spot delivers.
WINERY/BREWERY: Bluemont Vineyard, Dirt Farm Brewing, Henway Hard Cider
This trio of spirit-makers is closest to Airwell B&B (see below). You can make an afternoon of it by visiting all three and then the nearby Great Country Farms for pick-your-own fruit and a petting zoo. Perfect for families.
WALK: Red Rock Wilderness Overlook Park, Leesburg
Explore 67 acres of hiking trails at Red Rock Wilderness Overlook Park featuring panoramic views of the Potomac River. This unique, tucked-away network of trails is also home to several historic structures, native plants and wildlife.
SHOP/COFFEE: Downtown Leesburg
While there are 13 coffee shops and espresso bars in Leesburg, there are six on King Street alone, earning it the sobriquet, Leesburg CoCo (Coffee Corridor).
One of these is South Street Under. This coffee shop slash Deli is situated on the first floor of Market Station Shopping Center.
Of course, we also have our favorite shops and boutiques here, starting with all things Virginia, The Very Virginia Shop, which also hosts walking tours of downtown Leesburg. Stop into Brick & Mortar for unique gifts and home goods. Go to Global Local for art and handicrafts from local artists and beyond. The women owned Muz & Rose sells sustainable clothing and accessories. And find old fashioned candy and soda pop, as well as gifts and crafts at Sunflower Shack.
BIKE: Old Dominion Rail Trail
It’s 45 miles from outside of Arlington VA to Purcellville, ending at the very good Magnolia’s At the Mill Restaurant. In Loudoun County, the OD is known as the Bikeable Brews Trail, along which you can stop at Old Ox and Lost Rhino Breweries among others.
Where to Eat In Loudoun County
EAT/LEESBURG: The Wine Kitchen, Leesburg
First and foremost, there’s the wine – local and labeled with florid tasting notes (three 3 oz pours for $10). But the food, inventive tweaks on Southern, is a close second reason to have a meal in this adorable spot.
Farmers bearing fresh-picked produce walk right through the front door. In a few minutes, said produce might be cleaned, chopped and appear on your plate. Chef Tim Rawley moved to Leesburg to be closer to the vineyards, and this passion for locally sourced wines and ingredients shows. “Eat-Drink-Simply.” Indeed.
EAT/LEESBURG: Locals Love
Besides Wine Kitchen, locals love Shoes Cup and Cork, a coffee spot in a former shoe store. Blue Ridge Grill for Virginia fare. Plus Leesburg Public House upscale pub grub.
EAT: Monk’s BBQ, Purcellville
You’ll smell Monk’s before you see it –in a space tucked beneath an HVAC retailer. Stacked cords of wood, a huge barrel smoker, and that unmistakable scent of mesquite.
Monk’s excels in brisket and pastrami. But the pulled pork and pulled chicken ain’t bad, either. Pair these up with house-made sauces that incorporate beers brewed at local breweries, and a custard-cornbread you won’t find anywhere else.
In fact, brewers, distillers and BBQ joints in Loudoun County collaborate all the time. You’ll see micro-brewers hanging out at Monk’s bar, which comes alive every Wednesday for “Whiskey Wednesday.” It’s the perfect way to celebrate the end of Hump Day.
EAT: More Better Restaurant and Beer Garden, Round Hill – near Purcellville
German-inspired eatery by Loudoun restaurateur Nils Schnibbe has been drawing tons of fans to his large indoor-outdoor (string lights and picnic tables), More Better Restaurant and Beer Garden. The mood continues inside a vast barn-like space where waiters hustle to bring schnitzels and bratwurst, etc. to eager diners. It’s a great place to convene with friends without being on top of each other.
PROVISION/LUNCH: Stonybrook Farm and Market, Hillsboro
There’s not much going on here in terms of dining – which is why Stonybrook Market, offering salads, sandwiches, prepared, jarred, and boxed foods is so popular
Where to Stay in Loudoun County
STAY: Airwell B&B, Purcellville
Romantics of all kinds will find the 4-room Airwell B&B, once an artist’s home and studio, the perfect hideaway in Loudoun County. So perfect, in fact. It’s a Maven Favorite – with its own Airwell B&B write up here.
STAY: Lansdowne Resort
A Maven Favorite – find a full-page extensive write-up HERE.
STAY: Goodstone Inn and Salamander Resort
Both the Goodstone Inn and Salamander Resort are upscale for boomers seeking the some of the best accommodations in this region.