Loudoun County has long touted itself as the East Coasts’ premier wine region. In six weeks, the county’s tourism office — along with chefs, winemakers and other vendors — hope to further establish Loudoun as a top destination for connoisseurs of fine wine and cuisine with “Epicurience Virginia,” a three-day food and wine festival that aims to attract thousands of visitors to the area.
The festival, planned by the county tourism office Visit Loudoun, will include more than 20 high-end events over Labor Day weekend, ranging in price from $18 for a pancake breakfast at Aldie Mill to $300 for a Roaring 20s-style soiree and speakeasy at Oatlands Plantation in Leesburg.
Planners are emphasizing the upscale nature of the event: Tickets are for attendees 21 and older, and artists’ renderings of the festival, which will be based at Leesburg’s Morven Park, highlight elegant, locally inspired decor.
“We aspire someday to be like the 30-year Aspen festival,” said Patrick Kaler, president of Visit Loudoun, referring to the venerable Aspen Food and Wine Classic, widely considered a premier culinary celebration
One-day tickets to the Loudoun event are $95 for general admission and $175 for VIP admission, which includes early entrance, priority access to demonstrations and educational sessions and on-site parking. General admission attendees will park at satellite locations and take a shuttle bus to Morven Park.
Kaler said the festival’s prices are comparable to or lower than those at similar events across the country. General admission includes access to live music — bands will play bluegrass, folk and blues throughout the festival — as well as culinary demonstrations, educational sessions and a grand tasting.
In the future, Kaler said, he envisions the festival drawing up to 10,000 people from the surrounding region and across the country. “This year, we’ll be thrilled if we get anywhere between [3,000 to 5,000] people out on the lawn,” he said. “It’s a new event, and it’s over a holiday weekend, so there are a lot of variables that will go into how we evaluate this first year.”
Visit Loudoun announced a lineup of events and opened ticket sales this month, Kaler said. “The first day, our very first ticket sale was from Boston, so we were very pleased about that — and they bought about $1,800 worth of tickets to events,” he said.
To help get the annual event off the ground, the Board of Supervisors authorized $600,000 over the next three years. By the time Epicurience hits its fourth year, “we should be at a really great place with sponsorships to help put this on,” Kaler said.
Jackie Saunders, director of media relations for Visit Loudoun, said the cost of this year’s inaugural event is not finalized, because vendors were still being added. A final tally will be confirmed next month, she said.
Kaler said he was pleased to see so many local organizations, including Loudoun-based tableware company Fortessa, supporting the festival through sponsorships. There are also partnerships with Saveur magazine and Whole Foods Market, among others, as well as numerous local wineries and other businesses.
“It’s really rewarding to see how much they’re buying into this concept, and also to see their creativity to put on unique events,” he said. “There’s enough activities and events to keep people busy the whole weekend.”
The Epicurience Web site, www.epicvirginia.com, has a complete list of events.