On Saturday, September 5th, we ventured out to Loudoun County’s biggest food and wine festival of the year– Epicurience Virginia! In its third year, Epicurience Virginia is taking the Virginia food and wine scene by storm. Visit Loudoun, the geniuses behind #EpicVA, have crafted a festival that is designed to showcase the local talents and flavors of DC’s Wine Country while pairing the wines with exceptional cuisine that Loudoun’s hottest chefs are (literally) bringing to the table. While it’s hard to argue with the quality of Virginia food and wine these days, Epicurience Virginia showcases the best each has to offer and perfects the experience by hosting the event at the beautiful Morven Park in Leesburg.
The day included four wine education sessions, live chef demonstrations, live music and entertainment, and even a wine blending competition for those interested in the experience of playing wine-maker. The creators of Epicurience, much like a wine-maker, have taken each of these impressive, stand alone elements and blended them together to create a flavorful and well-balanced day for wine enthusiasts.
We began our day with a complimentary shuttle ride to the venue from the parking lot (nice touch!). Upon entering we were immediately greeted by the Epicurience Virginia signs constructed of reclaimed wood (love it), the classic “LOVE” sign from Visit Virginia, and the unique giant cork bottle that has become the symbol of this epic event! Looking past the bottle, the park provides a scenic view of the Westmoreland Davis Mansion. The mansion was beautiful, but we have to admit, we were slightly more excited about the giant adirondack chairs!
The live music was playing, the sun was popping out of the clouds, and we were ready to experience the flavors of Epicurience. The tasting areas were very well organized, placing food venues next to the wineries to pair their varietals with a tasty bite. We LOVED that in comparison to many of the other Virginia Wine festivals, there were little to no lines at most tents, the staff were friendly and knowledgable, and the food was fresh and prepped right on the spot. We were selective in our samplings, as we were conserving our palates for the wine education seminars later that afternoon, but we managed to get in a few tasting opportunities.
Our favorite tastings came from Hillsborough Vineyards (loved the Petit Verdot), Zephaniah Farm Vineyard (Rosé all the way!), Tarara Winery (impressed by their wines), and the Barns at Hamilton Station (Cheers to their Chardonnay!). As for the food, without hesitation the best bite we had was a deviled egg from Ford’s Fish Shack– seriously. We also enjoyed some bruschetta, turkey and cranberry biscuits, cantaloupe and bacon salsa, and some delicious pork loin. Overall, we give the tasting area two cheers on our official rating scale (which we just made up).
Most of you know that our motivation for attending was not really the food, though it was a nice addition, but the WINE. Let’s talk about the wine.
As we mentioned earlier, we were really looking forward to the wine education seminars that were taking place all afternoon. We actually ended up attending 3 out of the 4 seminars that were featured– Get to Know Virginia Chardonnays, Virginia Dark Horses, and Think Pink: Virginia Rosés . The sessions were fantastic. Each session was hosted by Anthony Giglio brought in by Food and Wine Magazine, who had so much passion, personality, and knowledge about wine and wine tasting- he brought a spark to each session. Our favorite explanation that Anthony gave when referring to the wine tasting process is that, “It’s not’ what you like and don’t like, it’s the differences that should you look for and the differences we should discuss.”
Get to Know Virginia Chardonnays featured wine-makers Seth Chambers from Naked Mountain, Nate Walsh from Sunset Hills, Chris Pearmund from Pearmund Cellars and Vint Hill, and Jordan Harris from Tarara. Collectively, these wine-makers brought over 75 years of wine-making experience to the panel. Chardonnay grows well in the climate of Virginia, and typically features a nice crisp acidity. Describing Virginia Chardonnay style today, the wine-makers explained that there is an elegance to this varietal, a pretty quality as opposed to the powerful oaky or buttery notes found in other states. Although the grape is very transparent and each Chardonnay can taste distinctly different, you can see that the structural background is similar in each, and Virginia has a unique style all of its own. Chris Pearmund actually described it as a “Virginia funk”, and we are loving it.
The second session, Virginia Dark Horses, featured up and coming Virginia varietals. Showcased in the tasting were Delaplane Cellars’ Petit Manseng, Ducard Vineyard’s Petit Verdot, Cave Ridge Vineyard’s Syrah, and Fabbioli Cellars’ Tannat. This session gave us a taste of what the future looks like for Virginia wines, and we were impressed. We are especially fond of Petit Verdot(s, which many think should just be a blending grape, but this varietal stands alone in Virginia and we like it that way. We also enjoyed Doug Fabbioli’s Tannat, which he believes is getting better year after year.
Our final session of the day was Think Pink: Virginia Rosés! We were really excited for this session as rosé has been our new summer go-to this year. The rosé panel brought back both Seth and Jordan (this time representing his Boneyard label), and added to the panel wine-makers Tim Crow from Stone Tower Winery and the first female of the afternoon, Rachel Stinson from Stinson Vineyards. Rosé is an interesting wine because it’s essentially taking a red grape and making a white wine out of it. A typical Virginia rosé is crisp, fruity, and light, but can be blended with a diverse selection of red grapes– from Cab Franc to Merlot and Chambourcin, or in a more unique approach at Stinson Vineyards, using Mourvedre for rosé. (We are not talking white Zinfandel here!) Each rosé had a different pink hue, and we loved seeing and tasting the different approaches. As Rachel Stinson said, and we agree, “Rosé can be a serious wine. It can go with serious food pairings and consumers are starting to realize that.” Cheers to Virginia rosés!
All in all, we highly recommend attending Epicurience Virginia next year. The food and wine experience, the wine education seminars, the chef demonstrations, and the pleasant atmosphere sets this festival apart from the rest. If you are a food and wine lover and are looking to experience more of what Loudoun County has to offer, this is the perfect venue for expanding your palate. We are looking forward to attending next year for another opportunity to participate in such an exquisite event!