By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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Today is the final day for the tour of eight local wineries, which are presenting pairings of red wine and chocolate from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The tour has taken place over the past two weekends.
“Saturday was the busiest day we ever had,” said Sara Gagnon, owner of Harbinger Winery in Port Angeles.
“More people are out and about, and they are jovial,” she said.
Gagnon estimated that at least 350 people had been though Harbinger's newly renovated tasting room at 2358 W. U.S. Highway 101, on Saturday alone, nearly as many visitors as came the entire first weekend.
“Sales seem to be up. It's great to see the economy coming back a bit,” she said as customers lined up to purchase bottles of wines they had just tasted.
Olympic Cellars reported similar turnouts for the tasting that combines the romantic elements of Valentine's Day and the freedom of a three-day weekend.
A new marketing campaign and an upturn in the economy were mentioned as a few of the reasons for the brisk business.
For those wishing to go on the tour today, a $30 ticket for the entire tour may be purchased at participating wineries.
With the ticket comes a commemorative wineglass, complimentary wine-tastings and samples of chocolate and chocolate-enhanced foods.
Those wanting to visit only a few of the wineries on the list can pay a $5 wine-tasting fee at each.
All wine tour participants must be 21 years old or older.
Many wineries also have been offering limited-edition bottles, which will go back in the cellars until the next event, said Molly Rivard, tasting room manager at Olympic Cellars, 255410 U.S. Highway 101.
The gift shop and wine floor at Olympic Cellars were busy Sunday, with lots of oenophiles — wine lovers — sampling selections of candy, chocolate chili and red wines.
“We're getting a lot of people from Seattle, Snohomish and Olympia,” Rivard said, adding that about half of the patrons enjoying the wine weekend were from the North Olympic Peninsula.
Camaraderie Cellars, 334 Benson Road, offered a fire pit in the outdoor tasting area, gardens and a cozy tasting room with a variety of sweet and savory chocolate offerings to go with their selection of wines.
“We've had at least 800 visitors in the last two weekends, said winemaker Don Corson.
The winery was offeringsoft chocolate cookies, pulled pork in a chocolate and wine-based sauce, and dark chocolate-drizzled kettle corn for the weekend.
The event doesn't just bring people out for the wineries but also introduces visitors to area restaurants, bed-and-breakfasts, and the beauty of the North Olympic region, Corson said.
Where else can people go on a wine tour, and also go kayaking, hiking, biking, or skiing on the same trip? he asked.
The tour includes Harbinger Winery, Olympic Cellars, Camaraderie Cellars and Black Diamond Winery, 2976 Black Diamond Road, all in Port Angeles; Wind Rose Cellars, 155 W. Cedar St. in Sequim; FairWinds Winery, 1984 W. Hastings Ave. in Port Townsend; Eaglemount Winery, 2350 Eaglemount Road, Discovery Bay; and Finnriver Farm & Cidery, 62 Barn Swallow Road in Chimacum.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.