Whether you’re craving a relaxing winery tour or an action-packed outdoor winter excursion, Ashland is a prime destination when kicking off an Oregon adventure. Home to award winning wineries such as Weisinger Family Winery, RoxyAnn Winery, and Irvine & Roberts Vineyards, it's no mystery why the city was named as one of the “Top 10 Best Wine Destinations in the World" by Wine Enthusiast Magazine in 2016. Winter adventure seekers will feel right at home spending time at Mt. Ashland Ski Area, which includes more than 200 skiable acres and 1,200’ of vertical drop.
The Oregon Chocolate Festival has been one of the top winter celebrations in the Ashland area for the last 14 years, and it will take place March 9-11. This year's edition within the vast and stylish confines of the Ashland Hills Hotel & Suites promises to be bigger and better than ever. Attendees will encounter a showcase of dozens of the top chocolate makers on the West Coast. Also featured will be a variety of local wine, cider, beer, and coffee makers showcasing their wares and interacting with guests. The festivities kick off with the Social Hour at the Stardust Lounge which has live music, craft cocktail demonstrations, as well as complimentary beer, wine, and chocolate. Fans of high-level cuisine shouldn't miss the unique culinary creations and wine pairings included at the Chocolate Makers Wine Dinner. Aspiring confectionaries can participate in the Learn How to Make Chocolate Truffles Workshop, taught by local chocolatier, Deena Branson. The Chocolate 5K Walk/Run is perfect if you’re looking to burn off a bit of the extra energy and enjoy the beautiful local scenery. A portion of the event’s proceeds will go to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the ASANTE’s Children’s Miracle Network. We interviewed Event Representative, Karolina Lavagnino, to learn more about this unique tribute to chocolate confections.
RAL: How long has the event been running?
KL: The Oregon Chocolate Festival is in its 14th year.
RAL: How many annual participants do you draw?
KL: We see between 1,500 and 2,500 people annually.
RAL: What demographic does your event attract? Children? Families? Couples?
KL: All of the above! It’s a great festival for couples, girlfriends getaway, families, seniors, and more.
RAL: What makes this event unique?
KL: Besides being able to visit over 50 vendor booths where you can meet chocolatiers and other artisan food vendors, you get to participate in workshops, watch chef demonstrations, attend Chocolate Maker’s Wine Dinner, run Charlie’s Chocolate 5K run, or go to seminars in town.
RAL: Take me through a day at the event. What can I expect as an attendee?
KL: Our attendees can explore and taste chocolates from all over the west coast. Our panel discussions and guided tastings highlight unique chocolates from around the world. People can learn about sourcing ingredients, varietals, and more.
There is also a Chocolate Dessert Contest where local pastry chefs present their submissions and get judged by three judges. One judge is coming from the Culinary Institute of America, Chef Durfee, who has won many awards representing the USA at the international pastry and chocolate shows. We also have a kick-off event on Friday night called the Social Hour with live music, chocolate cocktail demos, and complimentary wine and appetizers.
RAL: Tell us about the overall atmosphere?
KL: It's casual, fun, and sweet! People will find a spectrum of delicious chocolates and Oregon wines!
RAL: What can an attendee expect to find for local lodging?
KL: We have an excellent overnight package at the hip and retro-modern Ashland Hills Hotel & Suites (includes two CHOCOHOLIC VIP passes).
RAL: What does this event mean to the community?
KL: It brings many out of town guests who enjoy Ashland’s numerous boutique shops, art galleries, restaurants, breweries, wineries, and outdoor activities.
RAL: Does the event support a particular cause in the community?
KL: Yes, 10% of all tickets and 5K run revenue goes to support ASANTE’s Children’s Miracle Network, specifically the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit which helps premature babies thrive.
RAL: Why should people come to your event?
KL: It’s a great festival with a variety of attractions and something for everyone. There are a Spa Cocktail Party and the Chocolate Maker’s Wine Dinner for the adult audience and the kid's dash and chocolate treats for the little ones. We also have face painting and a photo booth which are always massive hits with the families.
For more information about the Oregon Chocolate Festival, please visit the event website.