Whether in the spirit of love or for the love of spirits, the annual Red Wine and Chocolate Tour has plenty to offer.
During the weekends preceding and following Valentine’s Day, the four wineries and two distilleries that comprise Whidbey Island Vintners & Distillers Association will be opening their doors for tastings, tours and pairings with locally made sweets.
Although red wine is in the event’s name, self-described “new kids on the block” Mutiny Bay Distillery will be joining the mix, which includes Whidbey Island Distillery, Comforts of Whidbey, Holmes Harbor Cellars, Spoiled Dog Winery and Blooms Winery.
The Freeland distillery will be featuring its product both in liquid and chocolate form, according to owner Kathy Stallman. The chocolate truffles, made by Sweet Mona’s in Langley, will be infused with the Mutinty Bay’s blueberry liquor.
Stallman said the “mom, pop, son and dog shop” tries to keep its products as locally sourced as possible. The blueberries in the liquor are grown nearby at Mutiny Bay Blues and the distillery’s coffee liquor uses coffee from Useless Bay Coffee Company in Langley. Stallman said that during the tour, tasters will have the chance to see Mutiny Bay’s growing facility and learn “as much information as they want to have about the complex world of whiskey.”
Every stop on the self-guided tour —- which is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Feb. 9 and 10 and Feb. 16 and 17 —- features products made on the island, according to Karen Krug, owner of Spoiled Dog Winery. Her establishment will be serving chocolate hearts filled with caramel and topped with sea salt as well as dark chocolate with merlot-soaked cherries, made by CJ & Y Decedent Desserts. Visitors will also have the chance to bottle their own bottle of pinot noir this year, Krug said.
Holmes Harbor Cellars will be pouring three 2012 blends, all of which are bronze medal winners at the 2018 Seattle Wine Awards, according to owner and winemaker Greg Martinez. Each red will be paired with a flourless dark chocolate cake topped with cherry chocolate ganache, he said.
Sommeliers and other wine experts don’t always agree on how to pair wine and chocolate, but most suggest red wine goes best with dark chocolate. According to an article in Forbes, some sommeliers suggest sweeter wines to offset the bitterness of dark chocolate. Others focus more on the fruit aspect of the wines when pairing.
Whatever the reasoning, the two decadent treats are a favorite of many. Last year Krug said the tour sold around 450 tickets over the two weeks it ran. Krug said participants are encouraged to spread out tastings between the two days.
The Whidbey Island Vintners & Distillers Association aims to promote small family wineries and craft distilleries and establish Whidbey as “wine and spirit country.”
“I think the group really presents a nice pallet of choices for people to visit,” Stallman said.