The thick fog that shrouded the chilly night only added to the ambiance of Main Street Tehachapi's 10th annual Valentine's Wine & Chocolate Tasting event held Saturday.
By the start of the event, downtown sidewalks were filled with yet another sold-out crowd, all anxious to pick up their wine glasses and maps and begin their independent treks to experience hand-selected wines from the 24 participating businesses.
This year's starting point was Stray Leaves Vineyard, located in the old bank building on Green Street. Veteran wine walkers as well as newcomers from far and wide showed up to experience the unique, small town experience of socializing and sampling the stock of local vineyards while pairing the wine with chocolates handcrafted by Linda Pettite of Linda's Cakes 'N Things in addition to other scrumptious appetizers.
"This is a great way for people to come down and see downtown businesses that they might not have seen before," said Charles White, of Main Street Tehachapi, adding, "and the fact that this particular starting point is going to be the tasting room for Stray Leaves Vineyard, and it will be open on a regular basis for wine tasting."
Proceeds of this year's event will also go toward a good cause.
"We do several different programs, but right now the main thing we're doing is funding the facade grants for downtown business owners to help them improve their businesses," White said of where the proceeds of the wine walk will be spent.
The participating shops stayed open late for the popular event, with their cash registers ringing throughout the night. Inside each featured business were pourers of specialty wines, and many of the shops included live entertainment.
"This is my first year pouring, and 24 years sober," said Scotty Fair, wine pourer for Sheridan's Antiques. "The wine I will be pouring will be 'Apothic Red,' a merlot that is very, very smooth. It is really good."
Other business owners found unique ways to promote their selected wines as well as their stores' wares during the event.
"We have five rooms, and each room features a different flavor," said Stefani Parks, owner of Bliss Interiors.
Found standing on the surrounding sidewalks selling roses of all colors as a fundraiser was the Tehachapi Club Basketball Regulators of Jacobsen Middle School.
"The proceeds will go toward the travel basketball team for this summer," said Tyler O'Brien of the Regulators. "We are trying to buy jerseys for our team.
As patrons wound in and out of the participating businesses, the city sidewalks were filled with laughter and good cheer. Here is a smattering of what walkers had to say:
• "We were the first ones in line to get our cups," said Cheryl Crowther, as she stood munching on strawberries with chocolate, salami and cheese.
• "The chocolate pretzels were really good," said her daughter, Sara Crowther, who accompanied her mother as the designated driver.
• "I am a veteran (wine walker)," said Crowther's friend, Patty Scott, holding a custom-made plate featured from a previous event filled with goodies from this year's event. "They (the treats) are phenomenal, so delicious. They outdid themselves this year!"
• "We love to get out on the town, and we love to support all the local shops," said Stephanie Ehrman, carrying her 2-month-old baby, Bryce Allen, and accompanied by her husband, Bryan. "We love to do the Ugly Sweater Wine Walk and Valentine's wine walk."
• "We are going to be relocating here," said Shayne Thompson of Wisconsin, who plans to move to California in December after a deployment in the National Guard. "A couple of my coworkers live in Tehahapi, and they told me to look into buying here before settling into Bakersfield. They said it has a small-town feeling, and the air is much cleaner. They also said the weather is much nicer, and that you actually have four seasons here, so we thought we would give it a look."
• "The people are very friendly here," added Thompson's girlfriend, Jan Davis. "We weren't expecting such a big event. We knew it was going to be big and interesting, but we had no idea the wine walk was going to feature so many stops."
• "This is our first time," said Leslie Terrell who attended the wine walk with her husband, Mike. "This is how we are going to be celebrating our Valentine's Day. We have been married for 11 years, and have been residents for 10 years."
• "I can't explain how much I love her," added Mike Terrell.
• "We have done a couple of other wine walks," said Jeanette Ashworth, who attended with her husband, Kent. "We plan to celebrate Valentine's Day by going out to dinner on the 14th. Our favorite part of the wine walk is seeing so many friends."
• "I'm going to take her out to dinner on the 15th, too," added Kent Ashworth. "It's just another day, but because we love each other."
• "This is my first wine walk," said Brad Kizzer, of California City. "This is not our Valentine's Day celebration. It was something our family decided to do. My mom and dad are here also, as well as my sister and brother-in-law. But, it's a good way to start off our night of amore."
• "This is my third wine walk," said Kizzer's sister, Brandi Rode, of Tehachapi. "My favorite part of the wine walk is the socializing and meeting people."
• "We love the food," said Kizzer's wife of eight years, Tara. "We plan to make our way down to Big Papa's."