Red wine and chocolate.
A delectable duo, no doubt.
But how about a tangy taste of the grape mixed in with the bite-size dessert?
Now that’s truly wine and chocolate.
And it’s a specialty of Whidbey Island’s upcoming annual wine, spirits and chocolate tour when vineyards team up with chocolatiers to create some scrumptious tantalizing treats — and tastings.
“We’re known for our large truffles, very large,” said Greg Martinez, winemaker and owner of Holmes Harbor Cellars in Greenbank. “This year, it will be raspberry ganache with our Syrah. My sister-in-law comes out from California just to make them.”
Scheduled 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Feb. 10-11 and 17-18, four wineries and one distillery offer tastings and chocolates as part of the event sponsored by Whidbey Island Vintners & Distillers Association.
Some pop open a new line of wine for the event.
Businesses must make all their wine, liqueur and spirits on Whidbey to qualify for the event. The $25 advance ticket includes a souvenir glass and tastings at five locations.
The ticket can be used over multiple days or both weekends.
“We actually encourage people coming from out of town to take the weekend and stay and enjoy the island,” said Virginia Bloom, who along with husband Ken, owns Blooms Winery and helps organize the tour.
In addition to Holmes Harbor Cellars and Blooms, the Valentine’s seasonal event includes Comforts of Whidbey Winery, Spoiled Dog and Whidbey Island Distillery, all located in South Whidbey.
So why are chocolate and wine such a divine duo?
“The tannins in the red wine offset the bitters in the dark chocolate,” Martinez explained. “Milk chocolate just doesn’t work.”
Some wineries pair with local chocolate wizards year-round to have sweets on hand.
Spoiled Dog Winery often features Cj & Y Decadent Desserts made in a shared commercial kitchen in Langley.
“We make little chocolate heart cups for the wine tour,” said Yvonne Hurt who owns the business with sister Cj Field. “We infuse their wine into our chocolates. And it’s really fabulous if we do say so ourselves.”
Sweet Mona’s of Langley mixes up the potent spirits of Whidbey Island Distillery with dark chocolate to create what’s been dubbed Manhattan Truffles.
“It’s a different blend every year and it’s a hit every year,” said Mike Huffman, general manager of Whidbey Island Distillery that makes rye whiskey and four liqueurs.
Open year round, the tiny distillery gives tours daily. Just beyond its tasting bar is a back room where a science experiment appears to have gone awry.
Actually it’s gone rye. As in whiskey made from rye.
The pride of this distillery is its Bunker Rye Whiskey, a combination of rye and barley grain tasting like a single malt Scotch.
The distillery ultimately bottles about 10,000 bottles of four different liqueurs and 3,000 bottles of whiskey annually.
Adding spirits is just one of a few changes occurring over the eight years since the February tour started. It began as a one weekend event, then expanded to two weekends to accommodate the crowds.
Including her new neighbor, Whidbey Doughnuts, is this year’s addition.
So don’t be surprised if there’s a dark chocolate-cake doughnut hole sprinkled with caramel, sugar glaze and sea salt served with your Syrah on this year’s red wine, spirits, chocolate (and doughnut hole) tour.