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|Amber Brooks • 3/13/18|
The Short Version: Ever need to clear your head on a romantic trip? Then head to wine country. Founded in 1757, Loudoun County is a popular getaway in the heart of Virginia. The countryside is a breath of fresh air for couples feeling run-down by the daily grind of Washington, DC. Locals call the county “DC’s wine country” because it has the state’s highest concentration of wineries and vineyards. You and your date can spend a relaxing day sampling delicious wines, exploring natural trails, and savoring farm fresh meals in this rural area. Thanks to its award-winning wineries, Loudoun County has become a go-to destination for couples going on a date, planning a wedding, or celebrating an anniversary.
Sean Gallagher and Erin Boyle moved from New Jersey to Fairfax, Virginia, about five years ago, and the couple quickly fell in love with the area. Out in the country, they could leave the congestion of Washington, DC, behind and enjoy a peaceful setting. “We would go out to Loudoun County to visit wineries on the weekend,” Sean said. “We found so many beautiful vineyards where we could sit and relax and drink a glass of wine.”
When Sean and Erin got engaged in 2014, they naturally chose a wedding venue in northern Virginia’s wine country. They wanted to share the best of the region with their friends and family — some of whom traveled from Ireland to be with them on the big day. A longstanding winery in Loudoun called Bluemont Vineyard provided the couple with a wedding planner and a premium selection of wines. “It all fell into place,” Erin told us. “We didn’t have to worry about a thing. It was the perfect location for our wedding.”
In 2016, Sean and Erin tied the knot, and, one year later, they returned to the winery to celebrate their first anniversary. However, this time around, the couple didn’t drink any wine because Erin was five months pregnant with their first child.
Loudoun County has been the backdrop for countless love stories, and thousands of couples, including Sean and Erin, return to this area again and again on dates, anniversaries, and weekend getaways.
“What makes Loudoun County unique is its landscape,” said Jennifer Sigal, Media Relations Manager for Visit Loudoun. “It has preserved the rural past and embraced agritourism in a suburb of Washington.”
Loudoun County has the highest concentration of wineries of any county in Virginia. That alone is enough to make it a top date spot for many couples. Locals know it as DC’s wine country because you can always find a tasting room or a vineyard to visit here.
Visiting couples can get a three-day or one-year wine passport to make the most of the excursion. Visitors using the pass enjoy exclusive offers, including free tastings, gift cards, and discounted glasses and bottles of wine, at 22 Loudoun County vineyards and wineries. You can access the passport from your phone. This convenient and budget-friendly pass lets couples explore the countryside’s wineries without breaking the bank.
Couples with wine passports can take advantage of a two-for-one tasting deal (with purchase of a bottle) at Hillsborough Vineyards, a historic winery in western Loudoun County.
Loudoun County features many other award-winning wineries in a fun country setting. Greenhill Winery and Vineyards, a 128-acre property, even boasts hosting First Lady Michelle Obama, who reportedly favored their white wine selection.
Jennifer told us some wineries have in-house artist residencies and have rotating works of art, which are for sale, to support local talent. In addition to the wineries, couples can visit art galleries, antique stores, and other shops to get a sense of the local flavor.
You can tour brand-new wine facilities or historic vineyards or farms that have been restored by the owners. “It’s whatever fits your personality,” Jennifer said. “Whatever you’re looking for, you can find it in Loudoun.”
The rolling countryside of Loudoun County invites outdoorsy couples to explore, picnic, and reconnect with nature. The area features many scenic sights of the Potomac River to the north and the mountains to the west. You can go hiking in the mountains or biking through wooded areas, or you can go zip-lining through an adventure course.
Harpers Ferry Adventure Center has ropes courses, campgrounds, whitewater rafting, tubing rentals, zip lines, and other outdoor activities to delight people of all ages and fitness levels. You can take your date to new heights on a seven-level aerial playground, or you can take the plunge and propose on a zip-line canopy tour. You can create your own romantic adventure here.
“The aerial courses give you a whole treetop view of the countryside, and it’s open to everybody,” Jennifer said.
Claude Moore Park, a public green space in the eastern part of the county, can entertain couples who like to stay closer to the ground. The park has 11 miles of trails, two fishing ponds, and two picnic pavilions open from 7 a.m. until sunset. According to the Visit Loudoun website, “Visitors to the park can leave life’s distractions behind as they discover wooded lanes, green meadows, and sparkling ponds.” Such a romantic setting helps daters bond during a quiet afternoon of hiking, bird watching, or picnicking.
If you enjoy sharing a cold one with your loved one, you can also explore the LoCo Ale Trail, which features 25 breweries in Loudoun County. The craft beer scene is rapidly growing in popularity, and Jennifer told us the Visitors Bureau predicts the number of breweries will continue to rise as more entrepreneurs are slated to open craft beer businesses in the future.
The culinary scene at Loudoun County leaves nothing to be desired. You can find everything from traditional Mongolian stir fry to contemporary Italian pasta. Some restaurants have romantic views overlooking the Potomac River, while others put visitors smack dab in the middle of the country. The rural area provides many farm fresh ingredients to add flavor and authenticity to any meal.
The Goodstone Inn and Restaurant is a farm-to-table establishment featuring fresh seasonal dishes, including buttermilk pancakes, yellowfin tuna, and crème brûlée cheesecake. Couples can come here to share a bottle of wine and treat themselves to some of Virginia’s best cuisine.
Wine director Stephen Elhafdi uses his 30 years of hospitality experience to put together an impressive wine list of over 500 selections that meet the standards of the upscale restaurant.
Jennifer recommended daters with a sweet tooth make a stop at the Conche, a gourmet chocolate restaurant in Leesburg. A world-renowned pastry chef has put together an unbelievably decadent menu of sweet and savory treats at this boutique destination. Chef Santosh Tiptur has appeared on competition shows on the Food Network multiple times and enjoys creating over-the-top desserts that challenge the palate and the imagination.
You can sample bacon mac and cheese with chocolate-covered bacon or beef sliders with a chocolate barbeque sauce — it’s up to you. Just be sure to save room for dessert — the menu calls it a sweet finale — because nothing says romance like splitting a fudgy brownie popcorn sundae or decadent chocolate cake with coffee ice cream. You can also package up artisan truffles or bonbons to take home as a souvenir.
“We are here to deliver exceptional experiences,” said Chef Santosh Tiptur. “It’s a pleasure to share with you our passion for making life’s every moment and every occasion memorable by indulging in chocolate.”
Loudoun County is a restful retreat for couples looking to get away. The sprawling countryside, high-end wineries, and local cuisine charm many daters visiting for a day or a weekend.
Whether you’re going out on a first date or celebrating a wedding anniversary, Loudoun County gives couples many opportunities to come together and enjoy Virginia’s rustic areas.
Sean and Erin loved spending time in Loudoun County so much that they chose to get married at one of its wineries. “We find the area a great location for romance,” Erin said. “Not only are the wineries delicious, but breweries are popping up everywhere in Loudoun, too. To us, Loudoun means love.”