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Published: Saturday, February 7, 2009, 12:01 a.m.

Wine and chocolate make perfect couple on Whidbey Island

  • John Hollen swirls a red during the wine tasting at Holmes Harbor Cellars.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    John Hollen swirls a red during the wine tasting at Holmes Harbor Cellars.

  • Holmes Harbor Cellars owner Greg Martinez (center) watches as John and Julia Hollen from Newport Beach, Calif., clink glasses before tasting a white w...

    Holmes Harbor Cellars owner Greg Martinez (center) watches as John and Julia Hollen from Newport Beach, Calif., clink glasses before tasting a white wine.

  • Holmes Harbor Cellars on Whidbey Island offers seven kinds of wine.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Holmes Harbor Cellars on Whidbey Island offers seven kinds of wine.

  • Holmes Harbor Cellars owners Greg and Theresa Martinez are shown here with their 21-month-old son, Michael.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Holmes Harbor Cellars owners Greg and Theresa Martinez are shown here with their 21-month-old son, Michael.

Whidbey Island's wine scene is heating up just in time for Valentine's Day.
Though the popular getaway is already a big draw for couples seeking romance, now there's another reason to fall in love with the island just a ferry ride away.
Red Wine and Chocolate, an event of the newly formed Whidbey Island Vintners association, will feature handcrafted reds from five Whidbey wineries paired with, oh yes, you heard right, chocolate.
"We keep chocolate out at the tasting room anyway because it goes so well with the wines," said Greg Martinez, who founded Holmes Harbor Cellars in Greenbank with his wife, Theresa, in 2005. "This will be fancier chocolate."
Martinez, who has traveled the world as a pilot for the U.S. Navy and commercial airlines, favors big, bold California-style reds made with Yakima Valley and Walla Walla grapes, just the thing to pair with dark chocolate.
Current red releases from Holmes Harbor Cellars include 2006 syrah, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and a blend, Red Etude.
Marrying wine and chocolate takes both of the indulgences to a new level, said chocolatier George Brunjes, owner of Chocolates by George of Freeland. Brunjes will use Holmes Harbor Cellars syrah to make truffles, which Martinez will pair with the same bold red.
"They blend together and complement each other extremely well," Brunjes said. "It's a wonderful smoothness."
Red Wine and Chocolate also will bring together two award winners.
Holmes Harbor Cellars' 2006 cabernet and 2006 Red Etude blend won bronze medals at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. Brunjes' Great Balls of Fire truffles, made with habanero and pepper sauce, won first prize in the candy category at ZestFest 2008, hosted by Chile Pepper Magazine in Fort Worth, Texas.
While Holmes Harbor Cellars features a new Tuscan-themed tasting room, Greenbank Cellars, another stop on the tour, will offer wines in a renovated 100-year-old barn with an antique, hand-carved back bar accented with stained glass.
David Moore, assistant winemaker at 10-year-old Greenbank Cellars, said the winery will offer a 2001 sangiovese, aged five years in oak, among other reds.
"This one, because of the long aging, would have some real interesting complexity and nuances and a really especially smooth mouth feel," Moore said. "It should be great with chocolate."
Whidbey Island Vineyards & Winery, just outside Langley, features a tasting room nestled among gnarly trunks of 20-year-old siegerrebe vines, a white grape that grows well in Western Washington.
Though the veteran winery produces an array of dazzling estate-grown whites, tasters at the event will be able to sample the operation's merlot, sangiovese, cabernet franc, syrah, lemberger and a special rising star, a Bordeaux-style blend called Composition.
"It's really taking on a life of its own," assistant winemaker Leah Waaramaki said of the 2003 and 2004 Composition vintages. "People are raving. It's developed a cult following."
Two newer wineries, Blooms Winery and FishTalk Vineyard, both of Freeland, will be represented with tastings at Greenbank Farm, a fourth and final stop on the tour.
Two other wineries, Whidbey Wine of Langley and Swede Hill Cellars of Clinton, won't be participating in the tour. Both, however, are members of the vintners group, bringing the number of active vintners on the island to seven.
That, combined with increasing dining opportunities at restaurants such as Frasers Gourmet Hideaway in Oak Harbor, opened in 2006, and the Oystercatcher in Coupeville, under new ownership, could be the magic number to turn Whidbey into a full-blown wine-touring destination.
"It makes it exciting," Waaramaki said. "It will be interesting to see what the next couple of years hold."
Sarah Jackson: 425-339-3037 or sjackson@heraldnet.com.
IF YOU GO
What: The newly formed Whidbey Island Vintners association will host Red Wine and Chocolate, a tour of south Whidbey wineries.
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 14-16
Where: Four tour sites will feature wines from five south Whidbey wineries.
Cost: Tickets, which are $20, include a souvenir glass and wine and chocolate tastings at participating wineries and tasting rooms. Tickets will be available before and during the event at each winery.
Information: Write Greg Martinez at winemaster@holmesharborcellars.com or call 360-331-3544.
Lodging: Search for places to stay at www.whidbeycamanoislands.com or call 888-747-7777.
WINERIES
Greenbank Farm, 765 Wonn Road, Greenbank; 360-678-7700; www.greenbankfarm.com. Taste wines by Blooms Winery (www.bloomswinery.com) and FishTalk Vineyard (www.fishtalkvineyard.com), both of Freeland, as well as loganberry wines from the farm.
Greenbank Cellars, 3112 Day Road, Greenbank; 360-678-3964; www.whidbey.com/wine.
Holmes Harbor Cellars, 4591 Honeymoon Bay Road, Greenbank; 360-331-3544; www.holmesharborcellars.com.
Whidbey Island Vineyards & Winery, 5237 S. Langley Road, Langley; 360-221-2040; www.whidbeyislandwinery.com.
SHOPS
Though these shops aren't on the tour, they also offer tasting opportunities.
2nd Street Wine Shop, 221 Second St., Langley; 360-221-3121. This shop, which opened in January 2008, sells Washington wines exclusively along with cheese from the Willamette Valley Cheese Co. Tastings are offered seven days a week. Taste four wines for $2 or eight wines for $4. Pay $2 to add cheese to your tasting.
Vino Amore, 1614 Main St., Freeland; 360-331-7661; www.vinoamore.com; Tastings are every Saturday for $5.




If you go

What: The newly formed Whidbey Island Vintners association will host Red Wine and Chocolate, a tour of south Whidbey wineries.

When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb 14-16

Where: Four tour sites will feature wines from five south Whidbey wineries.

Cost: Tickets, which are $20, include a souvenir glass and wine and chocolate tastings at participating wineries and tasting rooms. Tickets will be available before and during the event at each winery.

Information: Write Greg Martinez at winemaster@holmesharborcellars.com or call 360-331-3544.

Lodging: Search for places to stay at www.whidbeycamanoislands.com or call 888-747-7777.

Wineries
Greenbank Farm, 765 Wonn Road, Greenbank; 360-678-7700; www.greenbankfarm.com. Taste wines by Blooms Winery (www.bloomswinery.com) and FishTalk Vineyard (www.fishtalkvineyard.com), both of Freeland, as well as loganberry wines from the farm.

Greenbank Cellars, 3112 Day Road, Greenbank; 360-678-3964; www.whidbey.com/wine.

Holmes Harbor Cellars, 4591 Honeymoon Bay Road, Greenbank; 360-331-3544; www.holmesharborcellars.com.

Whidbey Island Vineyards & Winery, 5237 S. Langley Road, Langley; 360-221-2040; www.whidbeyislandwinery.com.

Story tags » DiningCoupevilleFreelandLangleyWine

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