Local vintners offer wine, chocolate tasting for Valentine’s weekend

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If you go

Southwest Washington Wineries Valentine’s Chocolate & Wine Tasting returns this year with nine venues offering activities such as live music.

• Bader Winery: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 13 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 14, free, 711 Grand Blvd., Vancouver, http://www.baderw...

• Bethany Vineyards & Winery: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 13 and noon to 5 p.m. Feb. 14, $5, 4155 N.E. 259th St., Ridgefield, http://www.bethan...

• Confluence Vineyards & Winery: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 13 and 14, $8, 19111 N.W. 67th Ave., Ridgefield, http://www.conflu.... Live acoustic music in the afternoon on Feb. 13 and 14.

• East Fork Cellars:

11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 13 and 14, $5, 24415 N.E. 10th Ave., Ridgefield, http://www.eastfo.... Live music by Kevin Neil from 2 to 4 p.m. Feb. 14.

• English Estate Winery: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 13 and 14, $5 (free for wine club members), 17806 S.E. First St., Vancouver, http://www.englis...

• Gougér Cellars Winery: 2 to 8 p.m. Feb. 12, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 13 and noon to 5 p.m. Feb. 14, $10, 1812 Washington St., Vancouver, http://www.gcwine.... Live music from noon to 6 p.m. Feb. 13.

• Olequa Cellars: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 13 and 14, $3 (with an additional charge for chocolates if available), 24218 N.E. 142nd Ave., Battle Ground, http://www.olequa...

• Rusty Grape Vineyard: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 13 and 14, $5 (free for wine club members), 16712 N.E. 219th St., Battle Ground, http://www.rustyg.... Live music by Kirby Swatosh at 7 p.m. Feb. 13 after the tasting.

• Three Brothers Vineyard and Winery: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 13 and noon to 6 p.m. Feb. 14, $5 (free for wine club members), 2411 N.E. 244th St., Ridgefield, http://www.threeb...

Wine and chocolate individually delight the palate; when combined, they reach another level of decadence. So say the owners of the nine Clark County wineries and vineyards presenting this year’s Southwest Washington Wineries Valentine’s Chocolate & Wine Tasting.

This weekend’s wine tour expands on the previous year’s, which included six venues and lasted just one day. Couples looking for a romantic outing can sample new wines, nibble on chocolates and enjoy live entertainment.

Certain wines and chocolates pair better together than others, says Walt Houser, co-owner along with wife Bethany of Bethany Vineyards & Winery in Ridgefield. They’ll be releasing a new red table wine this weekend, as well as a 2005 syrah. The couple also will serve brownie cupcakes from Simple Elegance Catering, their daughter Michelle Anderson’s business.

“We think syrah really goes well with the chocolate flavor,” Houser said. “Syrah is kind of peppery, spicy. Those spices in the wine make the chocolate so good, and the chocolate makes the wine so good. They’re a match, we think.”

Rusty Grape Vineyard agrees. It also will have a syrah available for tasting, paired with treats from McMinnville, Ore.-based Majestic Chocolates. Jeremy Brown, co-owner along with wife Heather of the Battle Ground vineyard, likes coupling syrah with dark chocolate infused with chipotle or cayenne pepper. Pinot noir, conversely, does well with berry-flavored chocolate, he said.

“It’s kind of a lighter-bodied wine. We tend to pair that with fruit-infused chocolates. It helps bring out the oaky, earthy tones in the pinot,” he said.

There’s no rule keeping people from enjoying milk chocolate with a nice glass of chardonnay, but most local wine experts agreed that when it comes to pairing wine and chocolate, red wines with dark chocolates work best.

Stacey Waddell, who along with her husband Jeff owns East Fork Cellars just outside Ridgefield, looks for confections that are at least 70-percent cacao to go with robust red wines.

“You’re tasting more of the chocolate itself, not just sugar. You want to be able to taste the flavor of the chocolate, because that’s what complements the wine,” she said.

For Gary and Bonnie Gougér of Vancouver, the Valentine’s weekend event allows them to combine their two passions and businesses. The couple own Gougér Cellars Winery in downtown Vancouver and Brownies from Heaven.

Bonnie Gougér makes all the Brownies from Heaven treats from scratch. She starts with a chocolate brownie, hides a truffle inside, covers it with cream cheese, then coats it with chocolate ganache. Brownies from Heaven come in raspberry, mocha, peanut butter, mint and coconut, and Bonnie developed a new muscat flavor to introduce this weekend.

“The muscat is so intense. It’s got really rich apricot flavors to it. It goes so well with the port,” Bonnie said.

She’s also experimenting with chipotle and blue cheese varieties. A blue cheese brownie might sound unusual, but Gary Gougér has tried it and dubbed the treat “amazing.” Bonnie’s brownies, as well as hors d’oeuvres, will be available for sampling this weekend, along with wine. Gougér Cellars Winery is releasing a port, a rosé and a muscat ottonel.

The wine tour makes a great prelude to a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner for couples, but it’s also good for group dates, Brown said. And he hopes the event will help familiarize the community with its local wineries.

“It’s nice to preview what the county has to offer in terms of wine,” he said.

Mary Ann Albright: maryann.albright@columbian.com, 360-735-4507.