As a wine label designer, I like to attend Bay Area wine events whenever I can. But I quickly realized my experience at Martinez's 2016 Wine & Chocolate Walk was going to be more about the neighborhood than the wine. It started as soon as my husband and I parked on Main Street in front of a quaint clapboard house with an abundant orange tree. As you can see, the sun was shining. Waiting in line for our wine glasses and maps, friendly people told us what to expect from this annual event held the Saturday before Valentine's Day to encourage downtown engagement. As we walked from store to store, each participating merchant poured wine and offered chocolates. At one point, we met a group of local young ladies who raved about Martinez and said of all the places they have lived in the Bay Area, Martinez had the most midwestern small-town feel about it.
Noteworthy around town is the presence of glamorous Marilyn Monroe. Posters abound because she once lived there with DiMaggio. DiMaggio's legacy is less prominent and a little rusty. I happen to like old signs with a story to tell so I'm glad "DiMaggio's Fine Foods" sign is still hanging on.
As for the wine, there were popular brands such as Gnarly Head, as well as relatively unknown picks. Two merchants chose their wine from nearby Viano Vineyards. My favorite tasting of the day was actually Viano's Vintage Zindandel Port. But that's probably because it was served with an incredible chocolate by Main Street Sweets—an expresso bean carmel with just the perfect amount of salt on top. Yes, I would have to say Main Street Sweets makes Martinez a destination in and of itself.
I've heard people also go out of their way to visit the coffee shops in Martinez, specifically States Coffee & Mercantile on Ward Street with it's red brick walls and stylish merchandise. Down the street from States is another cool space called ARTU4iA (pronounce Art Euphoria). We had a great time chatting with the owners whose creativity and talent is evident. ARTU4iA offers painting classes, daily studio space to rent, and arty birthday parties for kids. Lamorinda parents, take note.
After we had visited almost every store on the map and had our fill of wine and chocolate, we walked a few blocks to the water and witnessed a beautiful sunset. Ah, we are blessed. Wine, chocolate, friendly people, and a sunset on the water—if not a sensational experience, it was certainly low stress and sweet enough for the Saturday before Valentine's Day.