After lunch on our tour of Loudon County’s wine country, Beau happily hung his head out the window and enjoyed the scents on the warm Virginia air while I enjoyed the drive through the countryside Chrysalis Vineyards. It prides itself on perfecting Old World winemaking techniques and in re-establishing the Norton grape. Rarely found outside Virginia, it is one of the few indigenous grapes of North America and makes a very sophisticated red wine. Once very popular, it fell out of favor after Prohibition, but is now slowing regaining the respect of wine makers.
Like Barrel Oak Winery, Chrysalis wants visitors to linger. Their large terrace with plenty of seating encourages afternoons spent relaxing in the sun. Even better, there are grills available, so people can bring their own steaks and burgers and turn it into a picnic.
From there, it was off to Morven Park. The huge, stately mansion poised on a hill with a commanding view of the surrounding estate is so gleaming that it makes the White House look dingy. For 40 years, it was the home of Virginia Governor Westmoreland Davis and his wife, Marguerite, They lived well, as a tour of the mansion shows. But Davis was an innovator and used his estate to test new farming techniques. Marguerite, meanwhile, developed an extensive terraced formal garden. The mansion and two museums on the grounds – one filled with antique carriages, the other dedicated to Hounds and Hunting – are off limits to dogs, but with 1,000 acres of grounds to explore, Beau wasn’t too disappointed.
Hunter’s Head Tavern in Upperville is a classic British pub. The only difference is that unlike the neighborhood pubs in Britain, dogs must stay outside on the brick patio. The menu is pub grub: Guinness beef stew, bangers and mash, fish and chips, and big burgers. It’s owned by Ayrshire Farms, well-known for its local, organic, sustainable meat operation. They produce a line of organic dog food, which is served to canine restaurant customers.
Another dog-friendly town, Middleburg, is a knockout for browsing. Dogs are welcome in nearly every store, and that includes the butcher shop! Beau had an olfactory overload; there were so many wonderful aromas that he just sat near the meat case and panted in delight.
A block away, Wylie Wagg specializes in healthy food and treats for dogs. They carry a large selection of brands rarely available elsewhere, including most vets. The “bakery bar” is open for speculative sniffing. Beau took advantage to take a few test licks to let me know which crunchy treats he wanted, and then nosed through the toys for a souvenir.
Luxury home accent pieces, fine linens, and unusual gifts fill the shelves at Salamander Touch (owned by the same folks who run Salamander Market). Manager Fern Bratten admits she is a hopeless dog lover, so there are statuettes of dogs made of beads, pewter jewelry with dog designs, and kitchen sack cloths with dog and paw print motifs (as well as horses, pigs, and cows).
If you’re worn out from shopping, visit Whoopsies! Gourmet Whoopie Pies. The classic chocolate cake with bourbon vanilla cream filling is joined by cakes with peppermint cream filling, vanilla cakes with cinnamon cream, and chocolate Guinness cakes with Bailey’s Irish Cream filling. The small outside courtyard is a perfect rest stop.
Bluemont Winery easily has the best setting. It’s nearly 1,000 feet up the first slope of the Blue Ridge. On a clear day, you can spot the tip of the Washington Monument. The tasting room is in a Swiss chalet at the top, where the spacious patio takes advantage of the view. On weekends, guests and pets enjoy cheese and meat plates, tapenades, and warm baguettes with their wines.
Sated with wine and nibbles and laden with bags of dog treats, scented soaps, and pretty pillows, Beau and I reluctantly turned towards the busy metro. Loudoun County lived up to its promise as a dog-friendly break.
Briar Patch B&B; 23130 Briar Patch Lane, Middleburg VA, 20117; 703-327-5911; www.briarpatchbandb.com
Barrel Oak Winery; 3623 Grove Lane, Dalaplane, VA 20144; 540-364-6402; www.barreloak.com
The Reign of Cats and Dogs, 13 ½ S> King St., Leesburg, VA 20175; 703-669-6920; www.thereignofcatsanddogs.com
Chrysalis Vineyards; 23876 Champe Ford Rd., Middleburg VA, 20117; 540-687-8222; www.chrysaliswine.com
Market Salamander; 200 W. Washington St., Middleburg, VA 20117; 540-687-8011; www.marketsalamander.com
Wylie Wagg, 5 E. Washington St., Middleburg VA, 20117; 540-687-8727; www.wyliewagg.com
Hunter’s Head Tavern, 9048 John Mosby Hwy., Upperville, VA 30284; 540-592-9020;
Morven Park, 17263 Southern Planter Lane, Leesburg, VA; 703-777-6034; www.morvenpark.com
Salamander Touch, 100 W. Washington St., Middleburg, VA; 540-687-4138; www.salamanderhospitality.com
Whoopsies! Gourmet Whoopie Pies; 2 ½ E. Federal St., Middleburg, VA; 540-687-7023; www.shop.whoopsiespies.com
Bluemont Vineyard; 18755 Foggy Bottom RD, Bluemont, VA 20135; 540-554-8439; www.bluemontvineyard.com