Virginia Wine CountryA recent work conference beckoned me to Baltimore, of all places, during the tail end of the riots. Having only previously been to the airport and not the city itself, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m happy to report that I absolutely adored Baltimore. Our hotel was on the water, everyone we met was over-the-top friendly, and the weather, food, and drinks were equally enjoyable. Of course, being on the waterfront essentially placed us on a different planet from the neighborhood where the riots were taking place, and I feel no small amount of guilt for having only explored the “glitzier” part of town. But. Onward.

My trip to Baltimore put me within driving distance of some dear friends of mine who live in Alexandria, Virginia, and I couldn’t in good conscience leave their neck of the woods without paying them a visit. So I made plans to meet up with them and parlay an otherwise boring work-related trip into a weekend in Virginia wine and horse country.

I was done with work early on a Friday morning and my friends weren’t going to get off of work until early evening, so I decided to make the most of my day. I took a cab to the Baltimore airport, picked up a rental car, and drove directly to St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Rockville, Maryland. Religious skeptic that I am, that may seem like an odd destination, but the church’s small cemetery happens to be the final resting place of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, a literary couple with whom I am obsessed. I’d just recently finished reading The Beautiful and Damned, so standing in front of their grave, the cemetery empty except for me, was especially moving.

F. Scott and Zelda FitzgeraldOkay, so maybe it was also a little morbid. But as an aspiring writer, there was something so incredible about standing there above the earthly remains of the man who penned some of the words that inspired me to choose my college major and my current career path (such as it is), and the woman who inspired him.

Anyway. After that grim little pit-stop I drove down to Georgetown to get some much-needed coffee and catch up on a few e-mails before heading to Alexandria. After picking up some bubbles for my hosts, dropping off my rental car at Reagan, and taking one hell of a circuitous Uber ride, I arrived at my friends’ place early in the evening. Rob and Cathy are two of my most favorite people on the planet, and they’re the sort of friends with whom I can pick up with wherever we left off, no matter how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other. Like, for reals. I love them.

Ever the gracious hostess, Cathy had made a wonderful dinner for us since she knew I’d probably been going out to eat for the past few days, so we caught up over some excellent food and Champagne before heading out to a bar in Old Town. After an hour or so the three of us were all exhausted, so we ventured back to their place and crashed.

The next morning, Cathy and I got a relatively early start because we had big plans for the day: a visit to see her horse, then off to Middleburg for some wine tastings and a night at the Salamander Resort & Spa. Here’s Lovey, her gorgeous steed:

LoveyAfter the stables our next stop was Boxwood Winery for our first wine tasting. Aspiring sommelier that I am, I’m sad to say that the only American wineries I’ve visited are in California (A+) and Texas (D-). So I didn’t know what to expect from Virginia wines . . . and in all honesty, they were incredible! I should’ve taken better notes so I could share which specific varietals and wines I tried, but both the whites and reds were pretty spectacular across the board, with the exception of one or two sweet wines. But I’m just not a huge fan of sweet wine.

Boxwood WineryAfter Boxwood we strolled around Middleburg’s charming main street area for a while and browsed a few of the many charming shops that line it. Then we were off to our ultimate destination: the Salamander. And oh golly, did it impress. I mean, come on, check out these digs:

Salamander Resort & SpaSalamander Resort & SpaAnd not only was the room exquisite in and of itself, but John Slattery was waiting there to greet us!

My heart be still . . .Okay, not really. But he might as well have been. (Full disclosure: Cathy and I are both obsessive Mad Men fans, so seeing Roger Sterling in our room was like a sign from the universe that we were where we were meant to be.)

As girls are wont to do, we spent an hour or two lapping up the luxury of our room, drinking wine, and gossiping. It was divine.

But of course, after a few glasses, we needed sustenance, so we dressed up a bit and went to the hotel’s fittingly equestrian-themed restaurant. None of the cocktails on the menu were screaming out to either of us, so we asked the waiter to be creative, and he came up with this divine concoction:

Salamander CocktailsAfter dinner we each ordered a third round of the aforepictured cocktail and went to sit in the hotel’s cozy library for some post-midnight chatting. We made grand plans to eventually take the remaining wine we’d brought from home out to the fire pit, but we were too tired and the beds in our room were far too inviting, so we called it a night.

The next morning we slept in as long as we could, put ourselves together, and explored the property a bit. The stables are the most immaculate I’ve ever seen, and there are horses everywhere. Cathy and I were both in heaven (she probably more so than I because she can actually ride a horse, whereas I merely fall off of them).

Salamander ResortSalamander ResortAfter an hour or so of wallowing in real estate envy, we drove back into town for brunch at The French Hound, which immediately established itself as one of my all-time favorite brunch spots. Would that it was closer to Dallas!

The French HoundOne of Cathy’s friends met up with us, and coffee, Champagne, and farm-to-table food abounded. It was a legitimately memorable meal.

The French Hound(Oh and that flower in the drink? You can eat it. Yeah, it freaked me out too, but then it was delicious and I was ashamed for having freaked out.)

After brunch we decided we had enough time to do another wine tasting before we had to drive back to Alexandria, so we went to Barrel Oak, a gorgeous winery set among rolling hills and pastoral horse properties.

Barrel Oak WineryIronically, it happened to be Mother’s Day, but a.) none of the three of us girls are mothers (at least not to human children—we all have fur babies), and b.) none of us were spending the day with our own mothers. But I’ll be damned if we didn’t get the Mother’s Day discount on our wine tasting!

Barrel Oak WineryThe one downside was that the place was crawling with Mother’s Day revelers, among them, not surprisingly, a sizable contingent of ankle-biters. But hey, how can you be irritated when there’s wine a-flowing?

Barrel Oak WineryLong story short, my flight back to Dallas was cancelled that evening and I didn’t make it home until the following night. But it was a blessing in disguise, since I got to spend a few more hours with my friends (and we got to drink vodka gimlets and watch Mad Men together!). All in all it was an excellent weekend, and one I hope to repeat in the future.