For months we’ve watched passengers take the ferry from Mukilteo to Whidbey Island and talked about doing it ourselves.
It’s one of those things that’s in your backyard and seems like something you’ll eventually do. However, because it’s so close and because you believe you can do it at any time, you never get around to doing it.
When my original Valentine’s Day weekend plans fell through because of work schedules, I decided it was the perfect time to finally head over to explore Whidbey Island. I researched tons of parks and beaches we could visit, but as the weekend drew near, it was obvious the weather was not going to cooperate with those plans.
That’s when I stumbled upon a weekend event’s calendar highlighting the Red Wine and Chocolate Tour hosted by the Whidbey Island Vintners and Distillers Association for Valentine’s Day. Perfect!
The tour included four wineries and a distillery and I thought we could share one tasting so we didn’t have to be concerned with driving around. Brian has more of a sweet tooth than me so I abdicated the chocolate tastings entirely to him.
I also found another distillery and winery that were not included on the tour where I thought we could begin or end or have lunch depending on how we felt and how the day was shaping up.
We drove onto one of the Saturday morning ferries and before we knew it we were on Whidbey Island. Our first stop was right off the ferry dock–the unassuming Cadee Distillery and Tasting Room. This wasn’t part of the tour but I thought Brian would like tasting the various whiskey and gin since he wasn’t likely to enjoy the wine tastings as much as me.
This ended up being one of our favorite stops– I highly recommend it and hope we can take other friends and family there as well! We were taking a few pictures outside when this friendly Scotsman stuck his head out out the front door to see what we were doing. When Brian explained that we enjoy photography and that I write this blog, he immediately set about emailing me a wine and spirits blog he likes to follow that has exceptional photography.
We were the only ones there for the duration of our tasting and Colin was a perfect host. He had us in the back looking at his distilling process and showing us some of his experimental projects, and he outlined the profiles of each of his spirits . His family has been in the business for more than 500 years, and his son is carrying on the legacy back in Scotland. We ended up with a bottle of gin and Cascadia rye whiskey as well as a lunch recommendation and list of other wineries to try.
Our first winery of the tour was Comforts of Whidbey and the tasting room was packed. We registered and received our glass, but it was chaotic trying to secure a spot for our tasting. They were only tasting whites and I wasn’t over the moon for anything I tried, but Brian enjoyed the mango fudge! I would probably go back when the weather is nicer since it appeared there was more room outside.
We drove to Langley and popped in the Whidbey Island Winery, which wasn’t on our list but that Colin had recommended. They were doing their own vintage tasting for Valentine’s Day but the room looked busy so we opted for the regular tasting in the less crowded front room.
I really enjoyed their reds, especially the Sangiovese, but was disappointed we couldn’t try the Lemberger, which is native to the island. I had never heard of it so in a leap of faith we decided to just buy a bottle. (Authors Note: The bottle was consumed in due course when we returned home and we both really liked it–we will be back for more!)
We were ready for lunch and decided to check out Prima Bistro in Langley on Colin’s recommendation. Oh. My. Gosh! Amazing French-inspired cuisine! The waiter had to check on us three times before we could make up our minds on what to order. Everything we picked was incredible–I’m not sure it would have mattered what we picked. Awesome recommendation.
The rain started spitting as we were leaving the restaurant so we didn’t get to spend much time in Langley, but there were tons of cute shops and restaurants along the water. It would be fun to stay in town and explore.
Our next stop was Spoiled Dog Winery, which had a lot of character. It was pretty busy–likely everyone grabbed lunch and then resumed their tasting tour– but Brian got to pet their dog while I tasted the wine (Penn Cove Red was the best I had) so everyone was happy!
We buzzed up the road to Whidbey Island Distillery and it was also packed. We ended up parking in the grass and making our way downstairs to a dark and high-energy tasting room. While we didn’t like the whiskey here as much as at Cadee, what set this distillery apart is that they manufacture liqueurs!
The owner and distiller was there and we really enjoyed sitting in the next room with him and learning about how he created the unique still he uses and that his son is helping him patent. I didn’t know anything about liqueur production but they basically make wine into brandy and then soak the berries in it for months before pressing it out. They are so sweet, but I loved their ideas for pouring them over ice cream, mixing them into margaritas or mojitos, etc.
We had a short drive to Bayview and found the Blooms Winery tasting room in a cute shopping area. There was a restaurant next door I had originally thought we could try but we were still full from lunch and being plied with chocolate at each stop! We found some room at the tasting bar and I ended up with a bottle of their Cabernet Sauvignon, which was surprisingly good.
Our last stop was Holmes Harbor Cellars in Freeland. We were winding down at this point so we didn’t stay long, but I was surprised how many people were just beginning their tour! You could go to any stop in any order, but geographically it made sense to do things in the order we did or backward, so there were quite a few people starting at this location. They had these gigantic homemade truffles for the one wine pairing, and I willingly caved and shared that tasting with Brian.
There is so much more to Whidbey Island than a wine tour, although there are tons of other wineries we didn’t visit and want to try the next time we are there. High on my agenda for our next visit will be exploring the multiple seaside towns and all of the beaches. Whidbey Island is definitely a local adventure worth taking!