Epicurience Virginia celebrated its first annual event on Saturday, August 31st, 2013, and set the stage for one unforgettable culinary bash in the years to come. Held in the East Coast's premier wine region and on the spectacular and historic grounds of Morven Park in Leesburg, this food and wine festival brought together national and local chefs, master winemakers, sommeliers, and culinary experts for a three-day weekend culinary extravaganza.
The weekend highlights included the Ultimate Dining Event at the new and luxurious Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg on Friday, August 30th, where guests savored small plates delicacies, and had a lifetime opportunity to be surrounded by some of the biggest names in the Culinary arena. The Grand Tasting event at Morven Park held on Saturday, August 31st, featured wine tastings from Virginia's finest wineries, local bites, cooking demonstrations, book signings, live music and wine seminars. Other exclusive dinners and tours took place throughout Loudoun County, including a Vineyard Dinner and Twilight Tour at 8 Chains North Winery in Waterford, Breakfast at the historic 19th century Aldie Mill, a Summer Harvest Dinner with Dessert Under the Stars hosted by 868 Estate Vineyards and Grandale Restaurant, and a farm tour of Goodstone Estate.
At the Grand Tasting event in Morven Park, the Chef Demonstration Tent, presented by Whole Foods Market, featured cooking demonstrations from some of the region's most renowned chefs. From the tent, guests were able to see Chefs in action, from slicing to dicing to cooking, while learning many tips and tricks for creating tasteful masterpieces. The day started with a welcoming from James Oseland, Editor-in-Chief of Saveur Magazine and a kick off cooking demonstration from Chef Todd Gray of Equinox Restaurant in Washington, D.C. and Salamander Resort & Spa's culinary director. Other cooking demonstrations by celebrity Chef Maneet Chauhan of Food Network's Chopped and Iron Chef, and former Executive Chef at Vermilion New York & Chicago; Chef Jason Bond of Bondir Restaurant (Cambridge and Concord, MA); Chef Kazuhiro Okochi of KAZ Sushi Bistro (DC); Chef Bertrand Chemel of 2941 Restaurant (Falls Church); Chef Roberto Donna of Al Dente Ristorante (DC); Chef Aaron McCloud of Cedar Restaurant (DC).
More than half of Loudoun County's wineries were present at the Grand Tasting Pavilion, featuring many of Virginia's finest wines from the award-winning Trump Winery to the solar-powered North Gate Vineyards to the internationally acclaimed wines at Breaux Vineyards. Our favorites were Sunset Hills Vineyard, the Vineyards & Winery at Lost Creek, 8 Chains North Winery, Fabbioli Cellars, Tarara Winery and Breaux Vineyards. In addition to wine tastings offered inside the tent as part of the admission to the event, a handful of local producers and restaurants were also offering small delicious bites. Our favorite was Mom's Apple Pie's quiches, which paired nicely with 8 Chains North Winery's 2012 Sauvignon Blanc in the next booth over. Other savory bites from Clyde's Willow Creek Farm (WCF) were another fabulous treat! Our favorites were their Grilled Chicken Salad with grilled corn, fire roasted WCF jalapeno, garlic aioli & WCF garlic chives blossoms and their Heriloom Tomato Salad with WCF garlic, balsamic reduction and Opal basil. Other local food vendors included Tuskie's Restaurant Group, Endless Summer Harvest, Fair Oaks Farm and East Lynn Farms among others. Many of the local wineries also handed out free tasting coupons for a complimentary tasting at their winery, which we thought was a great perk. Definitely a great way to get customers to come back and visit their wineries! Another great big hit, was the appearance of Carla Hall, nationally known and loved chef, author of "Cooking with Love", Top Chef and Top Chef All Stars contestant, and c0-host of ABC's The Chew. It was great to meet her and to have her sign our book!
For those wanting a little more to snack on or eat, the event had several Food Trucks present on the grounds. If you live in Loudoun County and have been to several winery events in the past, you're probably already familiar with some of the area's most popular food trucks, including The Randy Radish & The Roving Italian. The Randy Radish was recently voted #6 best vegan food truck across the US and served some delicious refreshing food. The Wine'ing Butcher, which opened its doors in February was also serving some tasty foods. Craving for some Tapas, we went with some crispy and golden Shrimp served with a sweet and smoky sauce over garlic fries from Tapas Truck (DC).
After enjoying some great Virginia wine and local foods, we headed over to the Virginia Education Tent. The tent, presented by Virginia Wine and Virginia Tourism, featured winemakers, sommeliers and local food producers offering wine seminars for wine novices to experts. A highlight was the panel discussion by Loudoun winemakers featuring Jordan Harris from Tarara Winery; Mark Fedor from North Gate Vineyards; Ben Renshaw from 8 Chains North; and Nate Walsh from Sunset Hills Vineyard. Other talks included a taste of Virginia cheeses paired with Virginia wine, herb and wine pairings, and a lesson in lamb preparation by Border Springs Farm.
Loudoun County was truly the perfect destination for such an unparalleled culinary journey, which drew more than 1,200 visitors in its first year over the Labor day weekend. Known as DC's wine country for its proximity to Washington DC, it is one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. Its picturesque rolling hills are a treasure trove for visitors looking to embrace their senses and palates. With close to 40 wineries, excellent farm-to-table cuisine and fabulous accommodations, this area is sure to become the "wine capital" and premier culinary destination on the East Coast in the years to come. As a matter of fact, the Virginia wine industry was recently ranked the fifth biggest wine producer in the country, behind California, New York, Washington and Oregon, with Loudoun County having more wineries than any other county in the state. Epicurience Virginia is definitely an event to watch for in future years and we're looking forward to seeing what celebrities Visit Loudoun brings together next year along with what other events they will have in store for guests. It may be a little pricey for some, but when you add up all the tastings, the great access to top culinary professionals, and all the education that is squeezed into the day, it's all worth the money!