There’s nothing quite like a crisp white wine and some tasty, tangy goat cheese. And when they’re made within miles of each other, that’s bonus points for local flavor.
Lately, area wineries are not just pouring tastes, they’re inviting food-producing neighbors in for special pairings and promotions, creating a kind
of local agro-synergy. That’s a big draw for guests. It’s a win-win for wineries and their culinary partners: giving food producers access to new customers and at the same time providing a new experience for winery guests.
Aimee and Todd Henkle, owners of The Vineyards and Winery at Lost Creek north of Leesburg are at the forefront of the movement. The Henkles launched the monthly Tastemaker series last month. The winery will stay open late on select third Saturdays to host a sit-down tasting featuring local delicacies (both sweet and savory) paired with Lost Creek and other Virginia wines.
“We like to focus on the experience,” Aimee Henkle said. “The culinary component is very important. It’s amazing to really explore the wines.”
With the new series, Henkle hopes to go beyond the typical tasting room cheese board, offering a guided pairing to give visitors a special educational experience. The Henkles and senior tasting room staff members, along with representatives of the food producers, will be on hand to talk about the pairings.
The Henkles have long offered culinary tastings by reservation in partnership with Lovettsville’s Market Table Bistro, and decided this year they wanted to spotlight other local producers as well.
“We were looking for people who are the best at what they do in the area,” Henkle said.
The next Tastemaker tasting April 18 features Leesburg’s Layered Cake Patisserie, a popular French-style bakery, pairing a Virginia sparkling wine paired with a vanilla macaron cookie, Lost Creek’s Reserve Chardonnay with an almond croissant and the winery’s Provenance Red with a chocolate éclair. May’s tasting features cheese from Lovettsville-based Georges Mill Farm Artisan Cheese, and the June event spotlights Purcellville’s beloved Lothar’s Gourmet Sausage.
Cross promotion of local businesses is key, Henkle said, providing great exposure for both the winery and its culinary partners—and a chance to promote a natural affinity between local products.
“A lot of it is about exposure and having people try our product,” said Molly Kroiz, owner and cheese maker at Georges Mill, which specializes in handcrafted goat cheese. “It’s also fun to collaborate with other local producers.”
During the May 21 Tastemaker event, Kroiz will be on hand to talk about her cheese-making process and about Georges Mill’s Community Supported Agriculture program, which offers members a weekly cheese selection April-October.
Croiz prefers the hands-on, guided tasting format to simply offering her cheese for sale at area wineries.
“It makes more sense to do the wine and cheese in a focused way,” Kroiz said.
Waterford’s 8 Chains North Winery has a history of pairing local treats with its wines—from truffles from Leesburg’s Abby Rose Confections to an annual Fourth of July pie pairing in collaboration with Mom’s Apple Pie bakery.
The winery took things up a notch last month hosting a health-oriented pop up market, featuring locally sourced food products.
The Healthy Chick’s Pop Up Show was a first for organizer Hillary Tattersall, who has hosted pop up sales (mostly featuring design and home décor) for years through her Chick’s Picks by Hillary business. Tattersall branched out in March with her first health-oriented event.
The event, which targets both Tattersall’s extensive contact list (made up mostly of women) and the winery’s contacts, was cross-promotion at its finest, Tattersall said.
“Their demographic is my demographic,” Tattersall said. “Girls on Saturdays do Loudoun wineries.”
The event featured agro-businesses like Great Country Farms and Fields of Athenry Farm and was a welcome showcase for Marla Vargas-Mundey, owner of LAJ Foods in Leesburg. Vargas-Mundey specializes in vegan foods using locally sourced ingredients and is known for her soups (like rosemary-beet and curried carrot), sauces and snacks. She’s built her business selling her products at pop ups in private homes, farmers markets and flea markets.
“It was a great networking opportunity for people like me,” Vargas-Mundey said.
“It turned out to be fabulously successful,” agreed Sydney Smith-Marlowe, general manager at 8 Chains North. “There was a nice synergy. … There was a constant flow.”
And while there aren’t any more pop ups on the calendar for the time being, there will certainly be opportunities to showcase local businesses in the near future, Smith-Marlowe said.
Meanwhile at Lost Creek, the Henkles are running with the Tastemaker series, with plans for barbecue, olive oil, pie and other pairings later this year.
“There’s a big sense of community,” Henkle said. “It’s important to showcase local businesses and help get the word out.”
The Tastemakers Series at the Vineyards and Winery at Lost Creek takes place Saturdays April 18, May 21, and June 18 from 7 to 9 p.m. Cost is $25 per person and advance reservations are required. For more information, go to www.lostcreekwinery.com.
To check out upcoming events at 8 Chains North, go to 8chainsnorth.com.