By Visit Loudoun

Take the narrow brick alleyway between SideBar and Brick & Mortar in downtown Leesburg, turn right down a flight of stairs, and you’ll find yourself in a chic basement bar straight out of Manhattan: sleek black concrete counter tops, wooden floors, stone walls, banks of glass filled with hundreds of wine bottles. Welcome to Echelon, the new “urban wine bar” from the owners of popular Lost Creek Winery. 

Starting a business is always a leap of faith but starting a business in the middle of a global pandemic takes another level of belief. 

“We had planned to open in March, but then the lockdown came, and we switched to doing takeout bottles of wine and pasta dishes,” said owner Aimee Henkle. “But on the plus side, the extra time allowed us to iron out kinks and keep our managers here and at the winery employed!”

The owners of popular Lost Creek Winery opened the Echelon wine bar last week in downtown Leesburg. [Courtesy of Visit Loudoun]

Echelon’s grand opening was June 25, and along with small plate dishes—the garlic shrimp is a hit—they offer wine by the glass, by the bottle and retail—as in a wine store—with prices 30 percent off the menu cost. “We have 1,200 bottles in our cellar, everything from Chateaux Latour to Uruguayan Tannat, as well as multiple Loudoun wineries, not only Lost Creek,” Henkle said. 

To put the minds of her customers at ease, Henkle was also an early signatory to Loudoun Is Ready, a pledge campaign launched by Loudoun Economic Development, Visit Loudoun and the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce to prepare local businesses and consumers as COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. Participants—restaurants, wineries, gyms, hotels and more—pledge to meet government safety guidelines and in return receive a Loudoun Is Ready sticker, campaign button, and a listing on Loudounisready.com.

Another new business—and Loudoun Is Ready signatory—is set to open in downtown Middleburg in July. The brainchild of chef and master sommelier Jarad Slipp, Knead Wine is a boutique retail wine shop with a twist: Slipp will be making and selling gourmet pizza to-go, along with bottles of Pinot, Cab and Chablis he has sourced from lesser known wine regions across the world. 

Chef and Master Sommelier Jarad Slipp is serving up gourmet pizza at his new Knead Wine shop in Middleburg. [Courtesy of Visit Loudoun]

“We fell in love with Middleburg and Loudoun through its wineries,” said Hospitality Director Allie Nault. “There was never a question of us not opening. Now, with Loudoun Is Ready, we’re raring to go.”

Over in eastern Loudoun, meanwhile, Asian food fans will be raring to sample the delights of Lee Tai Tai, the sleek new 148-seat Belmont Chase restaurant of veteran chef and developer, Michael Lee.

“Things happen,” Lee said of the emergency measures of lockdown. “But people always have to eat, and when we are allowed to open properly, we will feed them something wonderful.”