You know times are dark when it’s only mid January and you’re on your second diet.

You know it’s bad, too, when your pet suggests you get out once in a while.

When chill and clouds prevail, and the motivation meter for setting about in search of a column is set to hunker, I must confess I sometimes scramble to unearth a topic. No, not every week. But you have no idea how close you came to reading about my fickle vacuum cleaner. I’m saving that one. Usually, ideas pop like the proverbial light bulb. Like this one from last weekend, for instance.

Last October I purchased a Bear Creek Wine Trail passport for $30. With the passport, I’m able to visit the 11 wineries on the tour and receive tastes of three different wines each one carries. In addition, any wines purchased at that time are 10 percent off. It’s a fine and economical way to try before you buy. Passports are available at any of the participating wineries along the trail. I realized that, as with my international passport, it boasted few stamps — three, I think. So, I grabbed a friend to hunt down a couple I’d never tried.

We began with Grizzly Peak Winery nestled on Nevada Street, among the oaks on the slopes of their namesake in Ashland. During winter, their tasting room is open on weekends from noon to 4 p.m. Most local tasting rooms remain open in winter, though their days or hours may be reduced.

Winter winetasting offers definite advantages. For one, it’s winter, so the sun isn’t beating you over the head, making you wish you were at the lake instead and forcing you into fisticuffs with the shade-hogging couple — the couple who brought a seven-course picnic supper, Dostoevsky and sleeping bags. Also, there is no bumping of elbows at the tasting bar. We chatted in uninterrupted leisure with Naomi Fuerte, wine-savvy daughter of owners Al and Virginia Silbowitz, while enjoying a splash of their delicious white tempranillo (a first for me) and a luscious 2012 reserve syrah.

Grizzly Peak offers intimate indoor concerts for a $25 to $35 ticket price during the fall/winter season, with performances by traveling musicians who happen to pass through town. February shows include a romantic evening with Gypsy Soul for a Valentine’s Day delight. Follow Grizzly Peak on Instagram or check their website for a calendar of events.

We said goodbye to Merlot, the cat, and moved on from Grizzly Peak.

Our second stop took us around the corner and through the woods to the forested end of Siskiyou Boulevard and Weisinger Family Winery, a second generation concern now with son Eric at the helm. According to William, our entertaining sommelier, Weisinger’s is the oldest winery in Ashland and the first one that greets visitors coming to our valley from the south.

The first thing I noticed as we walked into the tasting room was the old-timey music setting the mood — 1940s style, a personal favorite of mine. William said he loved it too and played it as an homage to his grandmother. He regaled us with stories and helped us decide which of the many varietals to try. By then, we needed food, so for $15 William fixed us up with a sumptuous platter of meat and cheese, crackers, olives, dried apricots and nuts. By the time we left, William felt like one of the family. I may have called him Willy as I left.

Though I enjoy the solitude of winter tastings, one aspect of the quest most tasters embrace is meeting like-minded folks. It is a friendly endeavor, and stories often surface with surprise and delight. I love stories.

Weisinger’s gold-medal winning tempranillo came home with me for a future special occasion (a fast-approaching birthday, perhaps).

So, don’t allow old lady winter to blow you off the notion of wine tasting. Enjoy the slower tempo, the less harried experience, when you can savor the flavor.

— Peggy Dover is a freelance writer living in Eagle Point. Email her at pcdover@hotmail.com.