French and Italian Grapes and Fine Fare

Loudoun, Prince William, and Fauquier counties are home to some of the area’s best wineries.

Linden Vineyards, a darling of wine critics, lives up to its reputation. Try an herby Petit Verdot aged in oak for 20 months, and the unusual Petit Manseng, a late-harvest wine made from grapes grown on a slope at the top of the vineyard. Daily tastings are free, but only club members—those who buy a case of wine a year—are admitted to the deck and grounds on Saturdays and Sundays. On weekends, all visitors can do the $12 reserve-cellar tastings, conducted every 45 minutes. 3708 Harrels Corner Rd., Linden; 540-364-1997; April through November, Wednesday through Sunday 11 to 5; December through March, Saturday and Sunday 11 to 5.

Perhaps you’ve seen the drink naked bumper stickers. The name Naked Mountain Winery may draw people in, but it’s the drop-dead view from the foot of the Blue Ridge and the signature Black Label Chardonnay, aged in French oak, that keep them coming back. This small winery has a comfy tasting room with a fireplace, but if the weather’s nice, head out to the deck or the edge of the koi pond for fresh mountain air. 2747 Leeds Manor Rd. (Rt. 688), Markham; 540-364-1609; Daily 11 to 5.

Next head to Three Fox Vineyard, a good place to unpack a picnic. There are picnic tables and even hammocks nestled along a creek. Many visitors spend the day on the 50-acre property—wandering the gardens, playing bocce, or sipping wine on the tented terrace. Try the dry Northern Italian–style “Rose,” a newcomer, and the Volpe Sangiovese, an award-winning Italian blend. 10100 Three Fox La., Delaplane; 540-364-6073; Thursday through Monday 11 to 5.

A day trip to this region is easy from Washington, but consider staying overnight at the country-chic L’Auberge Provençale. You’ll dine on French specialties including mussels with Pernod and fennel courtesy of owner/chef Alain Borel, who hails from Avignon. The inn’s restaurant has a sophisticated wine list that spans the globe from Bordeaux to Napa to, yes, Virginia, courtesy of Alain’s American-born wife, Celeste. White Post; 540- 837-1375; Rooms from $195, prix-fixe dinner $90.

More winetasting can be done on your way home. Head east on Route 50, where you can stop at Market Salamander in Middleburg. Grab coffee and a picnic at this epicurean fantasy brought to you by chef Todd Gray of Equinox and Sheila Johnson, cofounder of BET. If you call ahead, the market will design a picnic based on wineries you’re visiting. You can’t go wrong with selections such as buttermilk-brined and fennel-rubbed rotisserie chicken and duck confit with haricots verts (prices from $6). 200 W. Washington St., Middleburg; 540-687-8011; Daily 11 to 7.

A few minutes outside Middleburg is the family-owned Piedmont Winery, one of the first growers in Virginia. Two spare black barns house the winery and tasting room; tastings are $3. An outdoor deck and tables near the stone fireplace make good resting spots. In addition to a popular Cabernet-and-Merlot mix called “Hunt Country Red,” try the tasty dessert wine “Felicita.” 2546-D Halfway Rd., The Plains; 540-687-5528; Saturdays, Sundays, and federal holidays 11 to 5.

Wend a few miles along back roads past horse farms, brooks, and stone barns until you come upon the historic brick manor house of the Winery at LaGrange. Opened in 2006, it makes a popular port called “Snort.” Picnic tables outside and cozy rooms in the house upstairs make for ideal spots to break open that picnic basket. 4970 Antioch Rd., Haymarket; 703-753-9360; Daily 11 to 6.

Jog a bit south of Route 66, where the Shenandoah Mountains hug the land more tightly and you’ll come to Marterella Winery, a welcoming perch on a hill. The family’s dogs may be resting by a fireplace on the patio. A ten-flight tasting is $10. Don’t miss the crisp Vidal Blanc and a dessert wine called “Sweet Nothings” that pairs well with chocolate. 8278 Falcon Glen Rd., Warrenton; 540-347-1119; Thursday through Sunday 11 to 6.

This article first appeared in the September 2008 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here.  

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.