Long Live Leesburg
Every time I traverse a new locale in Virginia, I’m in awe at the natural beauty, history and, frankly, good eats that our commonwealth has to offer.
Welcomed by a winding road with weeping willows, this is the scene for true retreat. Leesburg’s Lansdowne Resort was renovated in early 2016 in honor of their 25th anniversary. “We try to bring the destination into the room,” says Lansdowne’s Director of Marketing and Communications Sarah Crisafulli. Surrounded by trees and the Potomac River, these elements echo into the rooms with its rustic touches and natural wood accents pronouncing a seamless introduction to Northern Virginia’s wine country.
On my first evening before dinner at the resort, I explore just a smidgen of the 476 acres Lansdowne sits upon. The Potomac Heritage Trail runs through the property, which carries remnants of the Civil War. The Lee Family—of Leesburg—were previous landowners and used the property as farmland where they grew rye, wheat, corn and tobacco, naming the Coton Trail you can explore today. Despite the resort’s reimagined and revamped renovations, every step in Leesburg leads to another slice of history.
That evening, palates are pleased by deliciously exquisite dishes on the terrace of Piedmont’s Table, one of four of the resort’s restaurants, while Virginia wine flows from glass to glass. From oysters and a zesty cucumber peppercorn mignonette to a gorgeous plate of pan-roasted rockfish, the spoonful of custard and sticky donuts flecked with bits of edible gold seal the deal as my first grand meal in Leesburg. Though I’ve eaten my weight in those mini donuts, I’m expectant to see what tomorrow has in store—both for food and for adventure.
The following day, Earth Day, I take an early morning walk through one of the trails on the property. Endless shades of green are on either side, adding another layer of stillness for this restful weekend away. Other resort amenities include four outdoor pools, a fitness center, a spa and tennis courts. For the golfers, there are also a total of 45 holes there, two 18-hole courses and one nine-hole course.
After breakfast, I set out on a quick, 20-minute drive for Morven Park, a historic site steeped in century-old stories. Through the gardens and up the road, I reach the grand Davis Mansion, the former home of Virginia governor Westmoreland Davis and his wife Marguerite.
Up the steps, between the lion statues and towering columns, the mansion transports me to a history full of treasure, wealth and luxe living. When Governor Davis passed away in 1942, his beloved Marguerite remained in the home. In 1955, the historic home turned into a foundation. Marguerite passed in 1963, and tours of the home began in 1967. When you visit, take a 45-minute guided tour of the mansion, where you can learn about the Davises’ lineage as well as objects that are on display in the home. With every destination and nature trail, it’s evident how Leesburg has a passion for telling the town’s heritage and history. The guides say Morven Park will become more urban within the next 40 or so years with the metro coming—think the Central Park of Virginia—but they want to call this a ‘green spot’ with plenty of space for visitors to jog and picnic. The 1,000-acre property has 500 acres of wooded hiking trails as well as an athletic field, an Equestrian Center and plenty of beautiful wedding venues, namely their formal gardens and coach house, outfitted in gorgeous drapes that have me wanting to renew my vows after just three years—that’s a thing, right? Ah, a gal can dream.
After the park, I retreat to the resort for an appointment at Spa Minerale before dinner. Rejuvenated by a massage and facial, using local ingredients—ahem Virginia wine—I’m primed for dinner at The Wine Kitchen downtown. The wine bar offers wine flights with spunky names like “Whites of Fancy” and “Roll Out the Red Carpet” as well as full-glass pours to accompany each bite. Once everyone orders, the table is plate-to-plate with burrata cheese, mac and cheese and well … you can probably guess the rest.
The final day is set aside for wine tasting. The first destination everyone thinks of when it comes to Virginia wine is Monticello in Charlottesville. And while those are certainly iconic areas to imbibe, there is much more to sip on the outskirts of those hot spots.
Enter Northern Virginia’s wine country. Fifteen minutes from Leesburg lies Stone Tower Winery, where they say their viognier and chardonnay are what kick-started their winery just eight years ago. Taste their wines in the Harvest Barn for a more family- and dog-friendly tasting room environment, or take a seat in the Tower View Tasting Room that’s reserved for ages 21 and up. Their viognier, in particular, boasts honeysuckle and vanilla notes, making this a lovely wine to enjoy during any season.
Neighboring Stone Tower Winery is Chrysalis Vineyards in Middleburg. Their 21st-century tasting room is equipped with modern wine islands and data islands where machines pour glasses ranging from a tasting to a half carafe. Try a glass of their bold and fruity Norton, and you won’t be disappointed.
On the last evening, dinner is held on the resort’s patio beneath the stars to indulge in dishes including succulent Maryland blue crab atop fried green tomatoes with a dessert finale of chocolate almond cake and amaretto ice cream. Though, among the exquisite noshes and prestigious wineries, the nature trails and ties to history are what make Leesburg a harmonious continuance of the Virginia heartbeat I know and love.