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Middleburg winery targets ‘local food’ movement

Friday, Jan. 17 | By Jonathan Hunley
A rendering of the new building Chrysalis Vineyards intends to open this summer. -- Photo courtesy of Chrysalis Vineyards
Beginning this summer, Chyrsalis Vineyards plans to concentrate not just on wine but on, well, the whole meal.

The Middleburg operation is working on a new venture called "The Ag District," which aims to address the demand of customers who want to be a part of the "eat and drink local" movement.

The Ag District will offer fresh produce, hormone-free eggs and cheese, artisan baked goods, and "responsibly" raised beef.

And the products all will be cultivated and harvested on the 412 acres of Chyrsalis' Locksley Estate and Caeli Farms.

The Ag District also will feature touchscreen wine "learning stations" where consumers can taste each beverage, find food-pairing recipes and learn more about the grapes involved.

And Chrysalis' new enterprise comes with an environmental conservation plan, which aims to maintain soil, water, plant, and air quality.

For example, 100-foot riparian buffers will protect nearly all waterways, even though the state recommends only 50 feet. The new building will employ advanced architecture, too, which uses natural convection and underground thermal mass to heat and cool the interior.

The Ag District seemed a natural expansion for Chrysalis owner Jennifer McCloud, who described herself as a "serial entrepreneur."

A former technology executive who grew up in the Florida suburbs, McCloud fell in love with the rolling Virginia countryside.

And winemaking fulfilled lots of her interests: from science, to working the land, to interacting with people in a business where the customers are usually always in a good mood.

"It's not like insurance," she quipped.

McCloud said she views her land as the "playing field" upon which she can develop products. First, it was grapes, now it's other cheese, bread, eggs, beef.

"The land is the playing field that allows for the passions," she said.

The Ag District also can connect consumers with their food in a special way, McCloud said.

For example, they can not only sample cheese, but watch it being made.

And then the whey that's produced as part of the process can be fed to the hogs on the farm.

Indeed, The Ag District seems just another chapter in the love story of McCloud and her Loudoun land.

"It's a never-ending sort of vision," she said.

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