Mark down this Virginia town for polo wine bars and historic country inns.
They’re raising a lot more than horses in horse country. Less than an hour from Washington D.C., Middleburg—population 600—boasts world-class dining, luxury hotels, gourmet markets and outstanding wineries. A stroll through downtown Middleburg is like a trip back in time to small-town America, except that the five-and-dime pharmacies with soda fountains have been replaced by wine bars and high-end restaurants. For those who like to burn off a few calories before dinner, local activities include horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking and kayaking.
The region’s social center, Great Meadow, (5089 Old Tavern Road) sits on 250 acres of rolling hills featuring a steeplechase course and polo stadium. From May to September, the highlight of the weekend is Twilight Polo, where locals and international visitors gather every Saturday night. Run by the affable Robbie Banner, Great Meadow is home to the Virginia Gold Cup and International Gold Cup; they also hold two wine festivals a year. Market Salamander (200 West Washington Street; marketsalamander. com) is the perfect place to pick up your tailgate basket, choose from their hunt-themed baskets, or custom-design one of your own. Visit Salamander’s Wine Loft for wines from around the world and, of course, Virginia. And keep an eye out for the opening of the Salamander Resort and Spa (100 West Washington Street; salamanderresort. com) in Spring 2012.
Just outside Middleburg you’ll find Boxwood Winery, producer of Boxwood, an impressive Left Bank Bordeaux-style blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Ålso worth a try is their Topiary—a luscious Right Bank-style blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec. Winery and vineyard tours are arranged by appointment. Also on the grounds, and member of the Boxwood team is The Tasting Room wine bar and shop, featuring a global selection of wines by the glass or for purchase by the bottle for your picnic or tailgate party (16 East Washington Street).
Nestled among 265 acres of Virginia hunt and wine lands, The Goodstone Inn and Estate (36205 Snake Hill Road) is ideal for unwinding and offers 18 stunning rooms in the main house and cottages. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the restaurant, with menus focusing on produce from the estate’s farm and gardens. Excellent examples of Virginian Viognier from Pearmund, Veritas and Chrysalis appear on the well-rounded international list. Celebrate a special occasion with Henriot Champagne—either the nonvintage Brut or Rosé, or one of several available vintages.
For a large family or group of friends, an excellent alternative is to rent historic Mount Welby. Built in 1823, this five-bedroom mansion, restored under the watchful eye of the charming owner, Michel Heitstuman, comfortably sleeps 10 and offers 63 acres to explore. Prepare locally raised meat and vegetables from area farmers’ markets in the large kitchen, and enjoy your meals in the formal dining room. Be sure to visit Linden Winery, (3708 Harrels Corner Road) just across the street.
In downtown Middleburg, shop Crème de la Crème (23 East Washington Street), for French tableware, Timmie Jane (12 East Wa s h i n g t o n Street; timmiejane. com), for vintage clothing and English Country Classics (cdrigden.com) for men’s and women’s apparel. Savor delicious bistro fare at The French Hound (101 Madison Street; 540.687.3018), or enjoy innovative cuisine and hearty favorites in the historic Red Fox Tavern (2 East Washington Street).
Virginian Thomas Jefferson once said: “We could, in the United States, make as great a variety of wines as are made in Europe, not exactly the same kinds, but doubtless as good.” Jefferson favored the iconic Château Haut-Brion, but if he were to return to Virginia today, he would surely be impressed with the high quality of the local wine, and the variety of settings in which it is enjoyed.