Last weekend, we decided to visit a few wineries along the Potomac River, north of Leesburg, and end up at Patowmack Farm for dinner. The first winery we stopped at, Fabbioli Cellars, was by far our favorite. There were plenty of people there, but it didn't feel crowded. The people were really genuine, laid back, and fun - they were even wearing costumes in honor of Halloween. For tastings ($5), you sit down at one of several small tables (4-6 ppl max) and get basically one-on-one attention from the staff member in charge of your tasting. Our server, Melissa, was one of the winemakers - so we got to hear a lot about what went in to each wine. We got generous pours of 8 wines, plus one that we requested that wasn't on the tasting list. The wines are very good, we particularly liked the lighter Chambourcin - a variety that I had never had before; the Tre Sorelle Bordeaux; and the Reserve Cabernet Franc. The real stars of the winery are their dessert wines, though. They have a Raspberry Merlot made with raspberries that they grow themselves. They also have the Rosa Nera - a fortified wine (think port) with black raspberries - again grown by Fabbioli. The Raspberry Merlot is sweeter and lighter, the Rosa Nera is richer and goes wonderfully with dark chocolate. They had some nice fires going outside, so we bought some bread, cheese, and salami, corked one of the bottles we bought, and had a little picnic by the fire. It was lovely.
The second winery, Lost Creek, was seriously unimpressive. It was very crowded, and they only had 2 people serving tastings, so they were rushing around a lot. We had to wait a long time for our next pour, occasionally, and had to keep reminding the server which wine we were on. The pours were ludicrously tiny, barely a sip, which was perhaps a good thing considering how bad the wines were. Save your $5, do not go here. We were originally thinking about trying Hidden Brook, next door, but I had read reviews about it saying that Lost Creek was better. And we didn't want to go to anywhere WORSE than Lost Creek.
Our last winery was Tarara (Ararat spelled backwards in honor of the Biblical story of Noah). It is a very large property with a lake, pavilions for parties or concerts, trails, etc... They are more structured here, perhaps because of volume of visitors. They have a large counter at the entrance for buying tickets to tours or tastings. We had wanted to do a tour of the cellar, but they had already sold out of tickets. After paying our $5 for a tasting, we were told to go into the next room. It was extremely crowded in the tasting room, we had to wait for a couple to leave before we could get a space at the counter. Our server was not as overstretched as the one at Lost Creek, but it was definitely not the intimate experience of Fabbioli. Her comments on each wine sounded very rehearsed, she would pour the wine (a decent size pour), give her speech, and move on to the next person. The wines were ok, nothing to write home about. Our favorites from the tasting were the Charval - a white blend, and the Long Bomb Edition 1 - the signature red. Tarara offers a wine club that includes 3 bottles every quarter, 20% discount on purchases, free tastings, and tickets to summer concerts.
At the end of our day, we headed of for dinner at Patowmack Farm - a literal farm to table situation focused on sustainable foods. Reservations are required here, by the way, no walk-ins allowed. We arrived a little early for our reservation, so we wandered around and got a look at their vegetable garden, chickens, and goats, before heading to the glass greenhouse like structure for dinner. We were seated (by the owner) with a gorgeous view out to the hills and the Potomac, and got to enjoy a lovely sunset. Our menus were printed with a welcome and our last name at the top - a wonderfully personal touch. Our server, Bill, was enthusiastic about the philosophy of the restaurant and the ingredients used. We got detailed descriptions from him at each course explaining where the ingredients came from and how each vendor practices sustainability.
We each ordered the tasting menu, and Jasper got a wine pairing - several of the wines were from Fabbioli Cellars! We were served an amuse bouche of a mini flatbread pizza, with pumpkin puree, organic feta, and olive. This was followed by a gougere - a cheesy bread puff - that was incredible. It made me want to try out the gougere mix we sell at Williams Sonoma. The first course was a raw crudo of swordfish with pickled carrots and celery, saffron, and fresh anchovy. It was very fresh and flavorful. Both the menu and Bill were careful to point out that the swordfish came from Linda Greenlaw, whose name you may recognize from The Perfect Storm. She is the only female sword-fishing captain on the East Coast, and only uses rods (not nets) to catch fish, insuring that she is not damaging the ocean floor and that she can throw back anything that is too small. Anyway, the next course was a green apple consume with butternut squash tortellini, puffed barley, and sage. The broth was sweet and tart and very clear, the barley adding a little crunch. I wished there was more than one of the tortellini. The third course was our favorite - braised veal ragu with potato and pumpkin gnocchi, ricotta, and nasturtium leaf (similar to watercress). The ragu was tender, rich, and flavorful, and the gnocchi were tiny and perfect. This was followed by a frozen spiced pear palate cleanser, and the main course - Venison Leg with autumn greens, marinated apples, rosemary pear sauce, and juniper spice pesto. The venison was good - not tough or gamey. However, venison is not my favorite meat, and the veal ragu from the last course was so delicious, that it was a little disappointing. The greens, and rosemary pear sauce were very good accompaniments, and I was fascinated by the juniper spice pesto - it was an incredibly strong blend of spices. We were warned that a little of the pesto went a long way, and it was very true. I ended up dipping the tines of my fork in it to get the right amount for each bite. The venison came from Broken Arrow Ranch in Texas, where they take a mobile processing center around to cooperating ranches to hunt and process wild animals on site. The animals are not trapped or transported, so they never become stressed or afraid - it is very humane. For dessert, I had the butternut squash cheesecake, which was creamy and delicious. Jasper had a mocha souffle, which he enjoyed thoroughly. Overall, it was a lovely experience, and one that I would definitely recommend if you have time for a bit of a drive and a relaxing dinner.