The New Virginians

Entrepreneurs whose spirits drive the Old Dominion

Once upon a time, oenophile Thomas Jefferson, without success, encouraged his fellow Virginians—Washington, Adams, Monroe and Madison—to collect wine and to cultivate the grape. Washington instead chose to distill whiskey at Mount Vernon, and Jefferson’s own Monticello vineyard failed to produce worthy harvests. But Jefferson would be delighted by the current number and the quality of his state’s wineries. He would also rejoice that latter-day citizens embrace his definition of the good life—physical well-being, farm-to-table dining and the sociable consumption of spirits. His words and vision for the young America factor still. “Every generation,” he said, “needs a new revolution.”

Sebastian Marquet

Glory in the Grape  

“I find friendship to be like wine, raw when new, ripened with age, the true old man’s milk and restorative cordial.”—Thomas Jefferson

Doukenie Winery, its name Greek for “duchess” in honor of a matriarch, the owner’s mother, calls itself “a family farm.” But that simple identity no longer describes this property in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. Since 1981, when George and Nicki Bazaco purchased 300 acres near Purcellville, the enterprise has evolved from a single planting of Cabernet Sauvignon in 1986 to silver and bronze medals in competitions and new releases of 2012 Chardonnay and Merlot. In the years between, the Bazacos planted other varietals, constructed a winery (1995), added 200 acres for cultivation (2007) and established their fifth vineyard (2011). 

Sébastian Marquet now serves as Doukenie’s general manager and winemaker. This single-minded native of Burgundy entered Lycée Viticole et Oenologue de Beaune at the age of 13 and produced his first wines in 1989. He came to Virginia from vineyards in southern France, Sonoma, Napa and even the Caribbean, where he launched the first in that tropical clime. 

Other measures of this operation’s appeal: summer Friday “bistro” nights with live music and wines matched to food brought by vendors, staffers wearing “wine educator” badges, music concerts in late May and September, a half-marathon that begins and ends here (May 31 in 2014), a harvest festival (October 18 in 2014) and wedding parties toasting brides and grooms.

14727 Mountain Rd., Purcellville, 540.668.6464

Small Bites

A Luxe Repast 

“I view great cities as pestilential to the morals, the health, and the liberties of man.”—Thomas Jefferson

On the “life list” of every self-identified connoisseur of food and wine is The Inn at Little Washington. Nestled in its namesake village, this destination of sophisticated, often celebrated and powerful diners has no doubt won every American culinary prize since opening in a former garage in 1978. Founding owner-chef Patrick O’Connell continues to write the chapters of a glorious story: engaging local growers early on for what became the farm-to-table movement, expanding an original inn into a landscape of respectful properties, initiating support for community and global causes like children’s health, mentoring young chefs, giving the annual American Pioneer Culinary Award and serving as current president of Relais & Chateaux North America.

Besides his many “stars” and “diamonds,” the honors include five James Beard awards, TV and Smithsonian appearances, praise for two cookbooks and the invitation to cook for Queen Elizabeth when she visited the Virginia Governor’s Mansion. Every meal here promises extraordinary tastes, artistry and a bit of performance. No surprise to guests as they receive the star treatment: O’Connell majored in theater.

Middle & Main sts., Washington (Va.), 540.675.3800

Equestrian Yoga

Day in the Country  

Give about two [hours] every day to exercise; for health must not be sacrificed to learning.—Thomas Jefferson

Sheila Johnson bought property in Middleburg several years ago so that her daughter, a budding equestrian (now Grand Prix competitor), might follow a dream. Now Johnson herself has met a goal with the opening of Salamander Resort and Spa in 2013. Some protested the insertion of a luxury complex in the midst of rolling pastures, while others, including officials of nearby townships, attended the gala inauguration and lauded the potential economic impact. 

Johnson has always been a pioneer. With former husband Robert L. Johnson, she co-founded BET entertainment network later sold to Viacom. In 2005 she became the first African-American woman to own or partner in three professional sports teams: the WNBA Mystics, the NHL Capitals and the NBA Wizards. Other hats she wears: philanthropist (Global Ambassador of CARE, music and design patron), movie producer and CEO of Salamander Hospitality resort hotels, the newest this one in Virginia.

Visitor services include pampering at the spa, a gift shop, mounts for riding and, after some training, yoga on horseback. Gold Cup Wine Bar serves casual fare like burgers, while Harrimans Virginia Piedmont Grill serves chef Todd Gray’s regional dishes with a panorama of horses and countryside.

500 N. Pendleton St., Middleburg, 866.938.7370

Scott and Becky Harris

A Microdistillery 

“Agriculture, manufactures, commerce, and navigation. . .are the most thriving when left most free to individual enterprise.”—Thomas Jefferson

The term “microdistillery” only begins to describe Catoctin Creek Distilling Company. Indeed this whiskey-making venture, tucked in a county (Loudoun) with more than 20 vineyards and wineries, claims other fine distinctions: the first legal distillery to open (2009) since before Prohibition and a spirits product line that’s small-batch, mostly organic and kosher. Credit the Harrises, Becky the former chemical engineer and Scott the former IT exec, and the passion that led them to second careers in the small town of Purcellville. 

Spirits geeks appreciate the tours that reveal custom-made pot stills and condensers, processing from fermentation and distilling to aging and bottling. But everyone relishes the tastings—Roundstone Rye (notes of pear, citrus, honey, spice, cocoa, vanilla, chocolate), Mosby Spirit (like unaged moonshine), Watershed Gin and fruit-based brandies. On second Saturdays, high-profile “city” bartenders transform on-site liquors into flights of three cocktails.

120 W. Main St., Purcellville, 540.751.8404

Jean Lawlor Cohen
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