Sunday, March 30, 2014

Take a Trip: Pizza, Wine and Snow in Leesburg, Virginia

Yes, that word "snow" in the title does not belong! It is quite unusual for the DC area to experience the white stuff as late as March 30, but this year has proved to be highly irregular.

Initially I had hoped to take a daytrip to a town slightly further away, but that outing would have involved a fair amount of time outside. Although the weather forecasts did not really call for snow during the day, it did call for a yucky day - rainy, windy, cold. Thus, a friend and I came up with another plan, which is very easy to do in this area, given the plethora of options.

We drove through the pouring rain to Leesburg, Virginia, first stopping for some bargain shopping at the local outlet mall. While picking out a million things to try on at a certain clothing store, I looked out the window - only to see enormous snowflakes being whipped around by the wind. This made the rest of our shopping trip very quick, as running between stores while being assaulted by snow and wind was less than pleasant.

We headed into historic downtown Leesburg for lunch. Due to my diet (gluten-free), I prefer to do some research before eating out, to ensure that I will have viable options and that the restaurant has at least decent reviews online. The restaurant which had initially caught my attention only serves a $27 brunch buffet on Sundays, and that's a bit more than I prefer to spend on a typical weekend meal. Instead, we dined at Fire Works Pizza. The restaurant is rather small, and it being the busy lunch hour, we choose to sit at the bar instead of waiting for a table. We were very ably served by the friendly bartender, whose intriguing accent made me question him about his heritage (something I rarely do in the DC area). Turns out he was born in Albania, but grew up in Greece. But back to the food! The options for constructing your own pizza were fantastic - six different sauces, eleven different cheeses, and so on. Thus I chose to top my gluten-free crust with basil pesto, local goat cheese, and roasted red peppers. The pizza was wonderful -- I particularly enjoyed the tangy flavor of the goat cheese. The restaurant even offers gluten-free desserts, plus a variety of Virginia wines, and huge assortment of beers. Overall, it was a great meal, and I would certainly return.

After lunch we ventured a bit outside of Leesburg to one of Virginia's over 200 wineries. Zephaniah Farm Vineyard turned out to be a real gem! We drove up to the house, parked, and were quickly greeted by a friendly woman who said, "Please, do go in - it's much warmer in there!" Once inside the door we were immediately met by a gregarious man: "Hi, I'm Bill! Welcome to Zephaniah Farm!" Then he showed us a photo which included his grandfather who began farming on this land. The farm has now been in the Hatch family for over sixty years, although they have been growing grapes for only about a decade.
Stairs behind the house, leading to vineyards. Probably lovelier in the spring or fall!
The tasting room is located in the living room, which was being warmed by a fireplace. Bill introduced us to the two people (one was his wife, Bonnie) sitting beside the fire -- both of them had spent all morning bottling wine outside in the cold and snow! Bill had not participated because he occasionally still works very early Sunday mornings in DC. Naturally, I was curious to find out what type of job caused him to commute at such an early weekend hour. It turns out he spent over thirty years working as an engineer at ABC, and worked on the long-running morning news show, "This Week." The show is now hosted by George Stephanopoulos, but for very many years - including when my father was a loyal viewer - it was known was "This Week with David Brinkley."
With vineyard owner Bill Hatch
The vineyard offers tastings for $7. The tasting included several wines and--it still being March--also a mulled wine. The first wine was a Chardonnay, which is the one I liked most of the regular wines. The mulled wine was absolutely wonderful, and I certainly could have spent a while longer sitting beside that fireplace while drinking it! The tables in the tasting room also offer plates with small pieces of excellent dark chocolate, which was great with the red wines. Additionally, they provide glass milk bottles from which a visitor can pour fresh clear well water.

After appreciating the wines, I walked into the home's library, and was struck by the sight of a large old library card catalog. I opened a drawer to find perfectly organized cards, and immediately had to ask Bill about it. He explained that the entire card catalog had come from the college his children had attended, and that his wife had the genius idea of converting it into a wine library. The top drawers now hold wines (beginning with 2007, when the winery was first licensed to sell their products), while bottom drawers still have thousands of cards.
The wine/card catalog - love it!
However, someone also had a clever idea on how use the old cards themselves. They have stamped the winery's name and logo on the back, and utilize them as calling cards. As someone who used to "play library" with her little sister, and who spent a semester in graduate school thinking she wanted to be a librarian, I absolutely loved this smart use of an old item.

Check out the title of this book!

As an added bonus, in addition to revealing various interesting family stores, Bonnie and Bill told us about their former neighbor - the famous ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev had lived right next door for a number of years! Before relocating to the Leesburg area, he had lived in the same New York City apartment building as John Lennon,  and after Lennon's murder moved out very quickly. Apparently Nureyev had plans to build a ballet studio in his home, but those had not materialized.

After buying a bottle of wine and thanking Bill and Bonnie for their hospitality, we got back on the road to head home to Maryland. Snow had continued to fall, and while in the Leesburg area it melted upon hitting in the ground, it turned out that the accumulation in Maryland was quite noticeable.
Red barn, white snow. How is this almost April in Maryland?
On the way home, we made a quick stop in Tuscarora, Maryland at Rocky Point Creamery. I had visited once for ice cream last summer, but this time I was more interested in buying local free range eggs. However, seeing as we were in an ice cream shop, it was difficult to leave without buying any frozen dairy. We decided to top off our day by splitting a kiddie sized twist (vanilla and chocolate) soft serve with rainbow sprinkles. Although there was nothing spring-like about this day, it was a fun way to "get out of Dodge" and experience some new things.

Important note: All the great photos in the post: credit B. Main.

Final note: Inspired by Bevchen at Confuzzledom, I have decided to participate in the "Take 12 Trips" project. Because this year is already in its third month, I will aim to take ten trips over the next ten months. The trips will vary - some might over the river, others might be over the ocean; some trips might have a Latvian theme to them, others might have different themes. Stay tuned!


  1. That pizza sounds delicious!

    Pizza, wine tasting and ice cream... sounds like the perfect day trip to me!

    By the way, the original inspiration for take 12 trips was Claire at Need Another Holiday:

  2. The pizza really was good - I now want goat cheese on all of my future pizzas!

    Thanks - I will leave Claire a comment, and let her know I love her idea. :)


I love having visitors, so let me know you stopped by!