The time has come again to fire up your designated driver and set your pleasure meter. Awaiting you this weekend and next are the scent of chocolate, the golden glow of ciders, and deep-red hues by the glass.
This is the annual indulgence known as the Red Wine & Chocolate Tour, and it is one lavish event. Eight cideries and wineries across the North Olympic Peninsula open their doors, from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday, as well as over the Presidents Day weekend of Feb. 18-20. Throughout the self-guided tour, tasting rooms large and small will tempt visitors with chocolate truffles, Italian-style red wines, apple brandy, raspberry wines and even a cascading chocolate fountain.
To experience it all, you can opt for the $30 passport, which covers all participating wineries and provides you with a commemorative glass. Alternatively, you can stop in at just a few wineries and pay $5 per visit.
‘Day of luxury’
“With today’s pressures, it’s nice to have a day of luxury,” said David Volmut, winemaker at Wind Rose Cellars in Sequim.
There, visitors may try Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto, Italian wines made with grapes grown in Eastern Washington.
And like its sisters across the Peninsula, this winery will have sweets for pairing with those reds. Linda Moats of Sequim’s Cocoa d’Amici will come to Wind Rose to serve her hazelnut crunch, pistachio fig, ginger cinnamon and other chocolates.
East of Sequim, out in rural Chimacum, a rustic experience awaits at Finnriver Farm & Cidery.
“We’ll have our new release of raspberry wine fortified with apple brandy,” began Finnriver co-owner Crystie Kisler.
“And in the barn, we’ll have what we call the chocolate chamber,” where visitors may taste chocolate elixirs from Jennifer Michele Chocolat.
There will also be brownies with black currant brandywine, chocolate-covered blueberries and raspberries, and of course Finnriver’s pear and apple ciders.
Back in Clallam County, raspberry, strawberry and loganberry wines made with locally grown fruit flow at Black Diamond Winery, a vineyard in the foothills south of Port Angeles.
These fruit wines “are very good with chocolate,” said Black Diamond co-owner Sharon Adams.
This two-weekend tour in February is the only opportunity to visit her tasting room this winter, since Black Diamond doesn’t open again till April.
In recent years, Adams added, Black Diamond Winery has seen hundreds of visitors the weekends before and after Valentine’s Day.
“People absolutely love [the tour],” she said. “They enjoy visiting with each other and comparing notes about what they’re seeing at the different wineries.”
Much more information about the Red Wine & Chocolate Tour is at www.OlympicPeninsulaWineries.org and 800-785-5495.
The participating wineries are:
■ Black Diamond Winery, 2976 Black Diamond Road, south of Port Angeles, with fruit wines and syrah plus chocolate truffles.
■ Harbinger Winery, 2358 W. U.S. Highway 101, west of Port Angeles, with treats from Wicked Little Sweets, the release of the 2009 Bolero blend of Spanish red wines and Venezuelan Chocolate Porter beer from Barhop Brewing.
■ Olympic Cellars, 255410 E. U.S. Highway 101, east of Port Angeles, with a Parisian motif, warm pain au chocolat and coffee, portraits by French photographer Phil Tauran and handcrafted, cabernet sauvignon-infused chocolates by local chocolatier Yvonne Yokota.
■ Wind Rose Cellars, 155 W. Cedar St., Sequim, with Italian-style wines and chocolates by Cocoa d’Amici.
■ Camaraderie Cellars, 334 Benson Road, Port Angeles, with cocoa-spiced pulled pork, Molly Baby chocolate shortbread cookies, Equal Exchange chocolate bars and savory chocolate bruschetta.
■ FairWinds Winery, 1984 E. Hastings Ave., Port Townsend, with Gewürztraminer, Port O’ Call and cabernet Sauvignon-merlot blend plus the tall, dark chocolate fountain and fruits for dipping.
■ Eaglemount Winery, 2350 Eaglemount Road, south of Port Townsend, with red wine, cider, mead and Chocolate Serenade sweets for pairing.
■ Finnriver Farm and Cidery, 62 Barn Swallow Road, Chimacum, with raspberry wine, chocolate-covered berries, Jennifer Michele Chocolat elixirs and an invitation to visitors to “put their love on the line” by tying a valentine ribbon on the farm’s cooperative art project.
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at email@example.com.