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A Trip to Warrenton and the Black Horse Inn

Jordan Wright
June 18, 2014
Special to The Alexandria Times
 

The Black Horse Inn in Warrenton

The Black Horse Inn in Warrenton

Less than an hour’s drive from Alexandria lies the small burg of Warrenton where tree-lined streets reveal a pedigree that goes back centuries.  Its stately architecture reflected in a Classical Revival courthouse, 18th and 19th century mansions, and the Old Jail Museum, an 1808 brick-and-stone structure filled with intriguing arcana and an alleged ghost.  The area is known as a refuge for old line Virginia families raising thoroughbreds and children in understated elegance.  Unlike avid history buffs exploring Fauquier County for traces of the Civil War and its battlefields, we were in search of good food, good wine, and a luxurious country inn.

Chris Pearmund of Pearmund Winery

Chris Pearmund of Pearmund Winery

Our first stop was Pearmund Cellars, a mile or so off Route 29.  Awarded Virginia Wine Lover magazine’s “Best of Readers’ Choice Award for Best Winery” in 2014, the winery credits its success with stunning viogniers, petit verdots, chardonnays and a superb Ameritage (a Bordeaux blend that took gold at the Virginia Governor’s Cup this year).

The tasting room is low-key, wood-paneled and cozy - nothing elaborate with the exception of the wines, which are stellar.  Chris Pearmund, a legend among Virginia’s winemakers, was waiting for us.  Gracious and knowledgeable, he brought out bottle after bottle, including older wines from his private cellar, which he then generously offered to a small group, who were beyond ecstatic to sample from such precious vintages.

Every summer Pearmund leads wine tours to a different European country.  This year, he’ll take a group on a ten-day trip along the Danube.  In 2015 he will conduct a tour along the Rhone River in France.  Trip info is on the winery’s website www.PearmundCellars.com

We took lunch at the Red Truck Bakery & Market across from the courthouse.  Housed in a former filling station it is instantly recognizable by the cherry red ‘54 Ford truck parked out front.  Owner Brian Noyes bought it from fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger and christened the store after it.  The small shop with the rustic décor is where Noyes turns out notoriously decadent granola and mouth-watering baked goods.  Try the Double Chocolate Moonshine Cake made with corn whiskey from the next county.

Curried Chicken Salad sandwich at Red Truck Bakery

Curried Chicken Salad sandwich at Red Truck Bakery

Sitting at a communal farm table we gobbled up tomato peach gazpacho, homemade meatloaf and curried chicken salad sandwiches followed by first-of-the-season strawberry rhubarb pie.  Noyes sources all his fruits from nearby farms.  We left with cranberry orange muffins as big as your fist, whole wheat bread studded with nuts and fruit and bags of the addictive granola.  www.RedTruckBakery.com

Along Main Street you’ll find tons of shops.  Check out Be Boutique for clothing, handbags and accessories, The Town Duck for gifts and upscale home accessories, and G. Whillikers for old time toys and children’s books.  Drop in at Jimmie’s Market for a proper cuppa in the Madison Tea Room while browsing vintage tchotchkes and furnishings from its former life as a 1950’s barbershop.  You might like to pick up a bauble or two from Carter & Spence, a particularly fine jeweler featuring high-end designer pieces.  And if a horse enthusiast is on your list, you’ll need to stop in at Horse Country Saddlery, where riding gear and tweed jackets share space with fashionable hats suitable for Gold Cup.

The foyer at the Black Horse Inn

The foyer at the Black Horse Inn

The rain was coming down in sheets as we headed to the Black Horse Inn, our sanctuary for the night.  Minutes from the center of town, the inn is a stunning 19th century colonial with spacious receiving rooms furnished in elegant period antiques and hunt country décor.  Innkeeper Lynn Pirozzoli graciously welcomes guests with an open bar along with cheeses and fresh berries.  Since you’re in Virginia Hunt Country, Lynn will arrange for guests to ride in any one of ten local hunts.  Guests can bring their own horses or rent made horses from her stables.  The estate also offers a novice cross-country course on the property.

Bouillabaisse at The Bridge

Bouillabaisse at The Bridge

Dinner at The Bridge Restaurant and Wine Company, where tables are surrounded by an impressive collection of floor-to-ceiling bottles of wine, was outstanding.  The charming two-story restaurant is known for innovative and locally-sourced cuisine, exemplified by a rich rendition of a Marseille-inspired bouillabaisse and giant lump crab cakes over fennel slaw.  Locals cherish Monday’s all-you-can-eat mussel nights, gooey Irish cheddar grits, Lobster Mac n’ Cheese, and plates of charcuterie and artisanal cheeses.  On Thursdays sample the free tastings of Virginia wines in the stone cellar. www.TheBridgeWarrenton.com.

Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes at The Bridge

Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes at The Bridge

On our way back to the inn the skies opened up (so much for a refreshing spring rain)  and we returned to the inn where we stayed in the honeymoon suite, amusingly called “Great Expectations”.  All nine of the inn’s well-appointed guest rooms have private baths, fine linens and fireplaces.  There’s even a separate cottage, the “Hunt Box Suite”, with its own kitchen, Jacuzzi and wet bar.  We nodded off to the mesmerizing sounds of torrential rains pinging from the roof of our very own screen porch.

Breakfast at the Black Horse Inn

Breakfast at the Black Horse Inn

Morning brought clear skies and sun glistening off fiery pink azaleas, dappling the gazebo and streaming through venerable oaks.  After a hearty breakfast augmented by specially requested green smoothies, we toured the inn’s spectacular event space, “The Gilded Fox”.  Situated beyond the house in a pretty vale the stately building is framed by boxwood gardens and a garden terrace.  www.BlackHorseInn.com

Back in town we stopped for lunch with Shelley Ross, the owner of the Natural Marketplace.  A Certified Nutritional Consultant, member of the American Association of Holistic Practitioners and certified in raw food nutrition, when we met she had just returned from a transformational journey to a healing center in Phuket, Thailand.

Reuben sandwiches at the Natural Marketplace

Reuben sandwiches at the Natural Marketplace

The store can only claim 2,600 square feet of a Colonial house, yet it is filled to the rafters with a comprehensive selection of organic and nutritious foods, cookbooks on healthy eating, and natural supplements.  Recently they beat out thousands of stores to win the “The National Retail Award of Excellence”, especially singled out for their sense of mission.

Sitting on the front porch we ate grilled Reuben sammies on sprouted multi-grain bread and sipped on Lemon Cayenne KeVita probiotic drinks, while locals streamed in for fruit smoothies, organic veggie juices and monster stuffed sandwiches - all made to order.  The store and small take-out restaurant is a health food lover’s fantasy realized. For information about the marketplace’s holistic therapies and other wellness services, visit www.NaturalMarketplace.com.

Winemaker Sudha Patil of Narmada Winery

Winemaker Sudha Patil of Narmada Winery

On the way home we popped into Narmada Winery in Amissville.  Situated on 51 acres of rolling countryside, owners Pandit Patil and his wife, Sudha, brought a slice of India to Amissville, Virginia when they bought their property in 1998, planting acres of vines as a hedge against the boredom of retirement.  The tasting room is quite pretty with sage-colored walls adorned with curry-colored Indian scrollwork and the winery’s peacock symbol.  Gorgeous handmade ceramic tiles by local artisan Libet Henze of Far Ridge Ceramics frame a large fireplace.  A nice variety of Indian foods are offered.

The winery opened in 2009 and almost immediately won the Riverside Wine Competition Chairman’s Award for “1st in Class” for their Cabernet Franc Reserve. Soon after their viognier garnered a Gold Medal in California.  While they currently use 75% of their grapes from the property, they soon will up that to 95% estate grown grapes.

We were looking for reds and Sudha brought out her best for us to taste - a 2010 Tannat, a rich, plummy wine – very fruit forward; a 2009 Cab Franc Reserve with echoes of mulberries; and their 2009 Allure, a port-style wine perfect for after dinner cheeses.  www.NarmadaWinery.com.

Photo credit Jordan Wright

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