Why we love Loudoun County

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I think this only scratches the surface about all there is to love about living in LOUDOUN!!  (from the Loudoun Times)

Bluemont Vineyards in western Loudoun is known for its stunning views. Courtesy Photo/Jim Hanna

It happens several times a year. Loudoun, the statistics and surveys tell us, is the best county in America to live. We’re the happiest place in the U.S. The richest. The fastest-growing. The most romantic.

It’s not that we disagree. It’s just our profession dictates that we take these listicles with a grain of salt.

We in the modern news business know these surveys make for irresistible clickbait – for fun, rapid-speed blurbs. Sure, we’ll report on them. We’ll underscore them. Because, hey, the methodology is interesting, and who doesn’t revel in knowing “their town is No. 1?”

But here’s the problem. Statistics are so impersonal.

These lists, compiled too often by people who have never stepped foot in Loudoun, don’t talk about a Sunday-afternoon drive along Route 9 wine country. They don’t mention Loudoun Interfaith Relief feeding our hungry. They don’t consider how many people per capita are willing to dig their neighbors free from a blizzard – a Loudoun selling point we recently learned.

These “Top ___” lists never seem to mention the profoundly brilliant minds that call Loudoun home – Pulitzer-winner Russell Baker; former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; best-selling author Tony Horwitz; wealthy entrepreneur and author Sandy Lerner.

The methodology never factors in how comfortable the seats are at Starplex Cinemas in Ashburn.

So, we’re taking it upon ourselves.

Loudoun. It’s one of the most enigmatic, perplexing and delightful places in the country. And not because a Huffington Post article said so.

Loudoun is a gem because of its places and its people. Because of inspiring women like Sheila Johnson and Karen Schaufeld, Sarva Rajendra and Maria Kopsidas, Charlotte Nurge and Carmine Gothard.

Middleburg – that’s one reason we love Loudoun. In Middleburg, we can fox hunt is fancy getup and savor a local chardonnay at Salamander. Like JFK and Jackie did decades ago, in Middleburg we can appreciate simple, authentic beauty.

We love Loudoun because we can read some funktastic tasting notes at Leesburg’s Wine Kitchen and then step around the corner to see George Clinton at Tally Ho Theater.

Our “wet economy?” Don’t get me started. Catoctin Creek Distilling Co., the county’s first distillery since Prohibition, is a can’t-miss. Mt. Defiance hard ciders taste delicious in the morning.

The wineries. I dare not mention a specific one – because we have 44.

A craft beer after a rigorous morning bike ride? Old Ox, Corcoran, Belly Love, Dirt Farm … you have plenty of options.

OK, I lied about not mentioning a specific winery. Bluemont Vineyards – it’s where you take visitors when you want to brag on your county on a sunny spring Saturday.

Loudoun is the only place where legendary bartender Joni at Spanky’s Shenanigans will make sure you have a good time and get home safe. While you’re there, get some steamed shrimp. Do it.

Speaking of shrimp, the Shrimp n’ Grits at Leesburg staple Tuscarora Mill are everything Southern comfort food is supposed to be. Up the road in Lovettsville, Chef Tarver King’s Patowmack Farm is perennially revered as one of D.C. metro’s best dining experiences. In Sterling, in an unassuming little strip plaza, you can find Mokomandy, a Korean-Cajun fusion joint that titillates the taste buds.

Nearby in Sterling, golf at Algonkian Regional Park all but guarantees the sight of 10, 20 or 30 deer. Nature is no small reason why we love Loudoun.

Or spend a little (a lot) more cash down the street at another golf club, one owned by a certain business titan dabbling in politics who likes to put his name on things.

To its most fervent admirers, Loudoun’s scenery is unmatched. Vibrant, rolling green hills have the same entrancing effect as a West Coast sunset. The Blue Ridge Mountains, it turns out, indeed look blue.

These things. These are why Loudoun is the “best.” The “happiest.” The “richest.” Well, they’re actually just a fraction of what makes Loudoun so special. There’s much, much more to explore.

As we embark on a new Times-Mirror, with a major shift in format and a slight shift in focus, we reflect on why we love this community. We invite you to do the same. How do you kill an afternoon in Loudoun? What is your hidden gem? Share it with someone. Share it with us.