Winemakers, distillers, brewers, farmers and chefs will join together this month to highlight the best of what is crushed, harvested and plated in Virginia’s Loudoun County. Nearly two dozen restaurants from Ashburn to Middleburg, including several newcomers, will add unique menus showcasing local ingredients from July 26th through August 5th.
Founder Miriam Nasuti says she’s excited by the new energy surrounding this year’s event.
“Last year was the first time out so the planning was huge. This year everything is more relaxed,” Nasuti said.
As part of the program, at least 70% of the ingredients on the Farm to Fork menus must come from participating farms. Chefs began their discussions with more than 20 farmers before planting for the 2012 harvest to make sure they could get the produce they needed and have already reaped relationships beyond the 11-day event.
“When I hear about chefs who are visiting farmers and nurturing relationships, it makes my day,” Nasuti added.
There will also be changes on the drinks side in 2012. Fee increases and other issues contributed to some turnover, so there will be five drink providers – including three winemakers — who will be working with restaurants to pair drinks with this year’s dishes.
Loudoun Valley Vineyard winemaker Bree Ann Moore says a big part of the Farm to Fork draw is the opportunity to work closely with a variety of local restaurants. Having seven new eateries in the mix this year that could possibly pick up her wines for their regular wine list adds to the allure.
“It opens doors,” Moore said.
The vineyard will be releasing new wines soon — including a lightly sweet blush – and is making plans for a new tasting room. Later this summer, the vineyard will begin hosting monthly family days. They will offer specials and discounts in their Waterford tasting room during Farm to Fork, but the highlight for Moore last year, and what she’s looking forward to again this summer, is visiting a restaurant a day with her family, including her two young children.
“It’s important to educate our family about the local farm community, our community. We don’t buy meat from the grocery store anymore. Over time, as we have grown more familiar with farms in the area, they have become a part of our lives.”
The program also allows participants to tap into a new generation of consumers and add another dimension to the wine trail. Bluemont winemaker Bob Rupy also cited the ability to try out new restaurants with his family – and see who was enjoying his wines — as a high point of Farm to Fork.
“It’s always interesting to be part of something new. Last year there was a lot of buzz, and this year there’s a wider reach of restaurants which gives us better visibility,” said Rupy, who began working on menu pairings with the chefs in the late spring.
For visitors to his hilltop tasting room, he’ll be pouring a new 2010 off-dry rose – with Chambourcin as the primary grape – a 2010 Meritage and in a few months, a new Norton. Despite last year’s weather, the varietal fared well and he’s calling the vintage excellent.
At Notaviva Vineyards outside of Purcellville, co-owner Shannon Mackey also says she’s intrigued by the “amazing” restaurants participating this year. As the vineyard moves closer to the wholesale market, Mackey says the local restaurant business has become increasingly important. She hopes they will be able to offer their wines at all of the eateries after working with a handful during last year’s event. Notaviva’s unique offering is pairing its portfolio with music, and July visitors to the tasting room should consider checking out their bluegrass jam early in the month as well as other live acts on the weekends.
Farm-to-Fork Loudoun lunch and dinners will be held from July 26th to August 5th; For more information, visit www.farmtoforkloudoun.com.
Bluemont Vineyard: 18755 Foggy Bottom Rd. Bluemont, VA; 540-554-8439; www.bluemontvineyard.com
Loudoun Valley Vineyards: 38516 Charlestown Pike Waterford, VA; 540-882-3375; www.loudounvalleyvineyards.com
Notaviva Vineyards: 13274 Sagle Rd. Purcellville, VA; 540-668-6756; www.notavivavineyard.com
A number of Virginia vineyards opened new tasting room doors this summer and are worth taking an afternoon to explore. Otium Cellars & Winery, located across from the cooperative Tranquility vineyard just outside of Purcellville, opened in April at Goose Creek Farms. Otium features two red varietals — Spicy Blaufraenkisch and earthy Dornfelder — that are unique to Virginia but common in the homeland of Otium’s winemaker Gerhard Bauer. The Winery at Bull Run in Centreville is located next to Manassas Battlefield Park, and upon opening in June became the closest winery to the District. The winery is growing Norton grapes on the property with hopes of harvesting Virginia’s native fruit in the future, and several of its nine wines won national awards before the tasting room officially opened. And Boxwood Estate, which has been serving Virginia red wine out a several satellite tasting rooms, opened its on-site tasting room in Middleburg in June.
Otium Cellars & Winery: 18050 Tranquility Rd. Purcellville, VA; 540-338-2027; www.goosecreekfarmsandwinery.com
The Winery at Bull Run: 15950 Lee Hwy. Centreville, VA; 703-815-2233; www.wineryatbullrun.com