If you go
What: Valentine's Wine and Chocolate Tour.
Where: 13 wineries across Clark County.
When: Noon to 5 p.m. at most locations, Feb. 16-17. Call individual wineries for details.
Cost: Varies at each winery.
Information:Southwest Washington Wine
If thoughts of Pacific Northwest wines bring to mind the Willamette Valley in Oregon or Columbia River Gorge, you might want to also look a little closer to home.
Clark County is actually a budding scene for new craft wineries.
The area has at least 13 of them, and their number is growing, said Michele Bloomquist, owner of Heisen House Vineyards in Battle Ground.
"Clark County actually shares the same climate as the Willamette Valley," Bloomquist said. "It's a mystery why wine in Washington developed in the eastern part of the state while wine in Oregon developed west of the Cascades. Wineries in Clark County are sort of a well-kept secret."
But it's a secret that local wineries don't really want to keep.
So for the past five years, they've been luring visitors from near and far with a festival of wine and chocolate pairings over Valentine's weekend.
This year's Wine and Chocolate Festival will feature a host of Clark County wineries, each with some sort of chocolate concoction and a sampling of their locally made wines.
"The exciting thing about Clark County wine is that all of these wineries are kind of mom-and pop-organizations," Bloomquist said. "It's great because the person that's pouring the wine is the person that made the wine. That's rare in the wine industry."
Each winery plans to offer different combinations. Three Brothers Winery will serve couture cupcakes by Haute Cakes. Rusty Grape Winery will have chocolatiers demonstrating their craft. English Estate Winery will offer truffle tasting with free photographs. And Gouger Cellars will present a chocolate-filled Danish pastry called "ebelskiver" and chocolate fondue with strawberries.
"I think it's going to be a really good event," said Gary Gouger, owner of Gouger Cellars. "There's going to be a lot of people out and it's going to be really fun. I think I may leave here about 10 pounds heavier."
Many of the wineries will focus on how to pair various wines with chocolate. Heisen House will let visitors try chocolates from Smitten Artisan Truffles paired with several of their wines, Bloomquist said.
"White chocolate or white chocolate with fruit pairs well with white and sparkling white wines," Bloomquist said. "Reds go better with dark chocolate or chocolate with berries or chili. I think milk chocolate is a bit too sweet, so a dark tends to pair better."
Most of the wineries will be open from noon to 5 p.m. or noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday for the event. And there's plenty of room for visitors, Bloomquist said.
"It's fairly popular," she said. "We usually see four to five times our normal traffic. It's a fun thing to do on a weekend."
Confluence Vineyards and Winery
19111 N.W. 67th Ave., Ridgefield
Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. $10 per person.
East Fork Cellars
24415 N.E. 10th Ave., Ridgefield
Noon to 6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Prices vary.
Three Brothers Winery
2411 N.E. 244th St., Ridgefield
1 to 6 p.m. Friday, noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. $5 per person.
Bethany Vineyards and Winery
4115 N.E. 259th St., Ridgefield
Noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. $5 per person.
24218 N.E. 142nd Ave., Battle Ground
Noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $3 for chocolate tasting, $5 for wine tasting.
360-666-8012, http://olequa.comRusty Grape Vineyards
16712 N.E. 219th St., Battle Ground
Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. $7 per person.
Heisen House Vineyards
28005 N.E. 172nd Ave., Battle Ground
Noon to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, $5 per person.
1812 Washington St., Vancouver
Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, $25 per person includes tasting, food and logo glass.
1804 N.W. 119th St., Vancouver
By appointment only.
Seventh Son Cellars
120 N. Third Ave., Ridgefield
1 to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $3 per person.
English Estate Winery
17806 S.E. First St., Vancouver
Noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Prices vary.
Burnt Bridge Cellars
1500 Broadway (15th and Broadway), Vancouver
Call for information.
Moulton Falls Winery
31101 N.E. Railroad Ave., Yacolt
4 to 9 p.m. Friday, noon to 9 p.m. Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Prices vary.