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Leaf peeping in Virginia wine country

Gretchen McKay, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Travel News

Purcellville also is home to the county's first (legal) distillery since before prohibition, and it's a beauty. Located in a former car dealership, Catoctin Creek Distilling Company awes with its handsome tasting room, which features exposed brick walls and huge picture windows that offer a glimpse of the distilling process. I'm not a whiskey drinker, but a tasting here -- you can only try one flight on each visit -- almost made me wish I was. If you prefer beer, there's always the IPA at Jack's Run Brewing, a craft microbrewery named for a nearby creek that first appeared on a map way back in 1749.

Other nighttime hotspots are the outdoor patio at the funky Vino9Market in nearby Paeonian Springs (there's barbecue and live music on weekends), and Macdowell Brew Kitchen, which in warm weather has a hopping, popular outdoor "beach" area with sand and fire pits. And of course head to Delirium to get a taste of Belgium's top export. (Traveler's warning: The Delirium Tremens, at 8.5 percent alcohol, must be approached with caution, or at least in the presence of a designated driver.)

IF YOU GO:

-- Where to stay: Leesburg is home to several moderately priced chain hotels, such as Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites by Hilton, along with a handful of bed-and-breakfasts. There's also the destination AAA Four Diamond Lansdowne Resort & Spa, which offers guests a championship golf course, 12,000-square-foot spa and four restaurants. If you're looking for romance along with a weekend of wine tastings, Goodstone Inn in nearby Middlesburg is one of more than a dozen B&Bs sure to melt your significant other's heart. If you're in the mood for an adventure, accommodations also can be found on Airbnb.com.

-- Food and drink. Dining is as upscale or laid back as you like in and around town. We noshed on some solid wood-fired pizza at Fire Works near the historic Tuscarora Mill (order the Black Sheep); had pit-smoked barbecue Smokehouse Live while listening to live music; and enjoyed a lovely smoked salmon plate at Trinity House Cafe. Be sure to get a slice of pie at Mom's Apple Pie in a converted gas station at the fork in the road between Loudoun Street and Market Street -- the rhubarb strawberry and sour cherry varieties are nothing short of fantastic. For terrific breakfast sandwiches, egg plates and freshly roasted fair-trade coffee, head to Shoes Cup and Cork on North King Street. The scratch kitchen also has a 1920's speakeasy restaurant upstairs and a back patio with a bocce court.

-- Activities: Along with biking and antiquing, Leesburg offers the Civil War's Ball's Bluff Battlefield, which features guided tours from May-October, and two house museums: Marshall House, home of Gen. George C. Marshall, and Oatlands Plantation, a historic house and gardens and National Historic Landmark. If you're into horses, you also can visit the Museum of Hounds and Hunting at Morven Park, the only fox hunting museum in the country.

Wine tastings cost anywhere from $5 to $15 so it's smart to track down a Tuskie's Wine Trail Guide -- it's full of BYGO coupons, and includes a really fun map of the six "clusters" of wineries in Loudoun County. If you plan multiple stops at wineries, it's probably not a bad idea to hire a driver; Point-to-Point Limousines offers winery tour packages that start at $40 per person.

-- Information: www.visitloudoun.org or 1-800-752-6118

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