A day in the Virginia countryside is always a wonderful way to relax, and a day in the Virginia countryside sampling Virginia wines at a festival and dining at a country inn is the perfect way to end the summer. You can do just that at the 29th annual Virginia Wine Festival this weekend at Long Branch Farm in Millwood, and while you're out there, stop by Upperville's 1763 Inn.
The festival, the oldest celebrating Virginia wines and wineries, has moved from its former site at Great Meadow in The Plains. It will feature products of 52 of the state's wine producers, including such far-flung operations as AmRhein Wine Cellars in Bent Mountain, southwest of Roanoke, and Williamsburg Winery in Williamsburg. Many of the wineries in Loudoun, Fauquier and Rappahannock counties also will be pouring and selling wines.
The fun begins at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday -- rain or shine -- and continues both days until 6 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $22 at the gate. There are also special tickets for designated drivers ($14 in advance, $16 at the gate), who may purchase wine by the bottle or case to take home but may not consume alcoholic beverages at the festival. Tickets for those younger than 21 are $5; children younger than 2 are admitted free. All tickets may be purchased on the festival's Web site, www.showsinc.com.
Long Branch Farm is in Clarke County, over the Loudoun County line. Directions to the festival can be found on the Web site.
Not far from the farm, a few miles east along Route 50, is the 1763 Inn in Upperville. Lord Fairfax, who built the original part of the inn in 1763, once owned the 50-acre farm that is home to the bed-and-breakfast and restaurant. He later deeded the farm to George Washington, and the paperwork hangs prominently in one of the inn's several dining rooms.
During the summer, innkeepers Bernie and Megan Kirchner limit meal service to breakfast and dinner Fridays through Sundays. Megan Kirchner said the serving schedule probably will expand during the cooler months.
Summer also means most diners take their meals in the open sunroom of the inn, which overlooks a small lake, complete with swans and a gazebo. Scattered in the nearby woods are various guest accommodations, including a cottage and several cabins.
The Kirchners bought the inn from Bernie's parents in May 2003, and Bernie now serves as chef. The emphasis in the kitchen is on local and organic produce. The menu is small, with eight entrees and even fewer appetizers. All of the breads and desserts are prepared in-house.
The standard, mostly American, dishes might be best described as tavern fare, but well-prepared and very good tavern fare. Warm bread, yeasty and chewy, begins the meal, though the accompanying butter doesn't add much flavor. An appetizer of brie in phyllo was topped with candied almonds and was lighter and tastier than the more common brie in puff pastry.
A star of the evening was a salad of arugula microgreens, grown at nearby Claymont Community Farm in Charles Town, W.Va., also a source for other vegetables on the menu. The tangle of tiny greens was simply dressed with balsamic vinaigrette and studded with grape tomatoes and a few pine nuts.
Kirchner's German heritage is displayed in several dishes, including an appetizer portion of sausage and sauerkraut, served with strong mustard, and a deftly cooked Wiener schnitzel (breaded and pan-fried pork, in this version).
Filet of grilled salmon was nearly charred in its thinnest section, but the flesh was cooked just to the point of being flaky, though not dry.
Sauteed spinach, into which had been mixed slices of barely cooked yellow squash, accompanied both main courses and really tasted of summer.
A peach tart, served in a stemmed glass, was more like peach cobbler, but the flourless chocolate torte would be a treat for any chocoholic.
1763 Inn 10087 John S. Mosby Hwy. (Route 50), Upperville, 540-592-3848, www.1763Inn.com. Reservations recommended for dinner, required for breakfast. Breakfast, $15; appetizers at dinner, $5-$9; main courses at dinner, $17-$27. Hours: breakfast, 8-10 a.m. Friday-Sunday; dinner, 5-9 p.m. Friday-Sunday.
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