Saturday, December 10: On this beautiful Saturday, Mike and I take a drive out to historic Middleburg, Virginia, a small town in Loudoun County Virginia that had 632 residents at the 2000 census. I imagine it’s larger than that now. It’s a week after Middleburg’s annual Christmas parade, held the first Saturday in December, so we’re hoping to see the town decked out for the holidays.
Leven Powell, American Revolutionary War Lieutenant Colonel and Virginia statesman, purchased the land for the town at $2.50/acre in 1763 from Joseph Chinn, a first cousin of George Washington. He established the town in 1787. First called “Chinn’s Crossroads,” it was later called Powell Town, until Leven Powell decided he didn’t want the town named for him. The name was changed to Middleburgh, and later, simply Middleburg because of its location midway between the port of Alexandria and Winchester, Virginia on the Ashby Gap trading route (now Route 50) (Wikipedia: Middleburg, ,Virginia).
The Middleburg Historic District, comprising the 19th-century center of town, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
After the turn of the century, the town – sitting in the midst of rolling hills, pastures, stone fences and stately homes – became a popular destination for fox-hunting and steeple-chasing, earning it a reputation as the “Nation’s Horse and Hunt Capital” and attracting visitors from all over the country, including President John F. Kennedy (Visit Middleburg). Today, celebrities such as Robert Duvall and Tom Selleck can sometimes be spotted here.
Middleburg is the home of the National Sporting Library & Museum, founded in 1954, which highlights the rich tradition of country pursuits. Angling, horsemanship, shooting, steeplechasing, fox-hunting, flat racing, polo, coaching and wildlife are among the subjects one can explore in the organization’s general stacks, rare book holdings, archives and art collection (Visit Middleburg).
We arrive in the town just at lunchtime, so our first order of business is to eat lunch at the The Federal Street Cafe, where I enjoy a Po’ Boy and Mike has The Left Coast, a roast turkey sandwich with creamy avocado, roasted red peppers, provolone, and spring greens served on seven grain bread.
We stroll out to Washington Street, the main street through the town, and find our first church. When Emmanuel Episcopal Church was consecrated in 1843, it seated only 40 people. It was enlarged in 1976 to seat 70 and then was remodeled in 1976 to accommodate a smaller organ. It now seats 115 parishioners.
We then walk down the street to do some window shopping.
The oldest building in town, the The Red Fox Inn & Tavern, was originally established in 1728 by Joseph Chinn as Chinn’s Ordinary and is billed as the oldest continually operated inn in the U.S.
Notables who have stayed at The Red Fox Inn include President John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Ambassador Pamela Harriman, Elizabeth Taylor and the local Virginian and U.S. Senator John Warner, Joan Woodward, Paul Newman and Tom Cruise, according to the Inn’s website.
We also find the Red Horse Tavern, which seems to be in no way related to the Red Fox.
Though we didn’t eat at The Upper Crust Bakery today, we’ve eaten here many times in the past. They have, or used to have, the best ham salad croissant sandwiches ever!
Highcliffe Clothiers is an “old school” haberdashery for both men and women.
Middleburg United Methodist Church is a historic town church, built in 1856.
The cute shop, Middleburg Common Grounds, is one of the town’s most festively decorated establishments.
After walking up and down the main street, we decide it’s time to move on. On the way back to the car, we find this hair design place with straw angels in the window.
As we drive back toward I-66, we pass through the town of Delaplane, where we happen upon a sign for Three Fox Vineyards, a winery sitting on 50 rolling acres. We simply must stop here for a wine tasting.
Holli and John Todhunter opened the vineyard in 2002. The couple were drawn to Italy and Southern France to learn about the different types of wine. They planted a number of grapes on 15 acres of the property: Italian varietals Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, and Pinot Grigio, as well as Viognier, the main white wine grape of the Rhone Valley. On the estate, they also grow Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Chardonnay, and Chambourcin are sourced from area growers, according to the website.
We can see the three foxes at the entryway. Picnic tables and wrought iron tables dot the landscape — down by the creek, among the vines, on a hillside — but today is not a day for sitting outside. The winery has a heated tented area where we enjoy a glass of wine after we finish our wine tasting and buy three bottles of wine (the tasting fee is waived if you buy three bottles).
We also buy some cheese and crackers because I can never drink wine on an empty stomach. No matter that we just had lunch a short while ago!
Before leaving, I use the facilities at Three Fox Vineyards. Here, I find the most festively decorated porta-potty I’ve ever seen. It’s even heated. 🙂
Though it’s only 3:30 in the afternoon, it’s true that “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere!”
I’m pretty lazy after returning home. I just can’t drink in the middle of the day!