Live in the Yakima Valley - Red Wine & Chocolate


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Joe Schmitt writes a weekly blog called The Good Life, featuring information about the region’s history, culture, climate and economy.  The blog also showcases new residents, clubs and organizations, outdoor recreational opportunities and local events.



Red Wine & Chocolate

Red Wine & Chocolate

February 05, 2014

For the last 25 years the Yakima Valley has been host to a growing “Red Wine and Chocolate” event.  Local wineries organized the event to stimulate business during their slower season and it now draws thousands of visitors to their tasting rooms each year.  This year Red Wine and Chocolate will take place on February 15th and 16th with over 25 wineries offering pairings, music and other promotions.

Visiting local wineries is one of the big benefits of living in the Yakima Valley.  Having said this - wine tasting can be a little intimidating at first.  Wineries and wines can be difficult to pronounce.  The process of tasting can be almost scientific.  And fundamentally how do you know which wines are good and why.  Serious questions can start floating around in your head before you even take a sip.

Get over the intimidation and enjoy this experience is my advice.  I learned early on to simply ask for advice and help when navigating wines and wineries.  Tasting staff at the wineries are tremendously resourceful and there to help you learn about wines and discover your personal favorite(s).  A lot of our wineries are family owned so chances are good that you are talking to the winemaker or expert on premise.

With the Red Wine and Chocolate event coming up, here's some advice I picked up from a couple experts.  “When looking to pair red wine and chocolate the most important ‘rule’ is that the wine you are pairing is sweeter than the chocolate,” said Geoff Howell, Sommelier and Cellar Master for Gilbert Cellars.  “This runs across the board when pairing any wine to food, the reason being that if the food is sweeter it will make the wine taste biter.”

Howell recommends choosing darker, single-origin chocolates and less-tannic and more fruit forward wines.  Try Theo 74% Columbian Chocolate or other dark chocolate variety with high cacao percentage with a Washington State Syrah or Malbec from a warmer vintage.

“Both red wine and chocolate have tannins, making them an ideal pair,” said Eric Miller who holds a B.S. in Global Wine Studies.   “I’m a fan of the Dove dark chocolate paired with a Port or Syrah.”

Here are some general tips from the pros on wine tasting:

  • Don’t be afraid to use the spit bucket!  There’s no reason why you can’t swallow some or most of the wine if you’re out to enjoy yourself, but considering that most wineries pour at least 1 ounce (generally 1.5 to 2) per wine, you can easily enjoy a glass or more per stop.  After having a mixed glass of wine in your system your ability to taste and gauge the quality of the wine is severely diminished
  • Limit the number of wineries in a day to 3-4.  If you choose to do 4 or more, use the spit bucket and hire a driver
  • Schedule the higher-quality wineries at the beginning so as to be able to enjoy (and remember) them more
  • Comparison is the key to developing your palate in wine.  When out visiting tasting rooms, look for subtle difference in the 3 Syrahs or Cabs that the winery offers or take advantage of any vertical tastings or older vintages that they may have on special

Yakima AVA Celebrates 30th Anniversary New Signs to Help Visitors Find Local Wineries | Yakima Valley  Wines Garner Acclaim | Yakima Valley Wines, From Nowhere to Number One

Resources:  Wineries Express | Yakima Wine Association |Rattlesnake Hills | Transportation Options


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"You get the best of both worlds over here. If you get an itch for the city, you're only two hours away, but here you're close to hiking, camping, fishing, boating, and great wineries!" - Sarah Cassell Frenzel, Valley Resident