Depending on how old you are, you may remember classic television game shows like The Dating Game and The Love Connection. These shows sought to connect compatible people and entertain those of us who watched. Here at My Vine Spot, your host Dezel seeks to marry food and wine on the blog show -- The Wine Connection. Red roses and dinner reservations typically claim the spotlight on Valentine’s Day, but wine and chocolate are a popular combo, too. It’s a pairing idea that I personally don’t do too often. It is also a pairing, that in my humble opinion, sounds good but can be fairly tricky when placed in front of you. At the end of the day, food and wine should complement one another -- bringing out each other’s best traits. The conundrum: sweeter chocolates have a rich sweet flavor and unsweetened chocolate has a strong bitter flavor. Both, sweet or unsweetened chocolate can overwhelm a wine or bring about bitter flavors that wouldn’t exist if you enjoyed each on their own. That being said, I’m very open to trying new food and wine pairing ideas and recently took advantage of two opportunities to marry wine and chocolate and make a gastronomic connection.
Rodney Strong Vineyard Chocolate Fantasy Exploration
The first event, The 23rd Annual Wine and Chocolate Fantasy Exploration, was put on by Rodney Strong Vineyards. This sinfully sweet event took place at Rodney Strong Vineyard’s Healdsburg, California, tasting room. This year they also did an online pairing event. Several bloggers and I had a chance to try four chocolates [Chocolate by Numbers 55%, 61%, 72% and Peter’s Chocolates 72%] with varying levels of cocoa and sweetness and taste each alongside Rodney Strong’s 2009 Knotty Vines Zinfandel (SRP $18.50), Alexander Valley 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $25), and “A True Gentleman's” Port (SRP $30). The higher the cocoa percentage the less sweet the chocolate is – thus the 55% contains the highest level of sugar.
“A True Gentleman's” Port
On their own, the wines were pretty nice – and fell in a category I call big (higher octane) and balanced. The Zinfandel offers nice red and dark berry fruit, cedar, dusty spice, soy, and peppery notes that extend to the palate. For its size, the wine has good balancing acidity and versatility and had fairly positive, nuanced results with all four of the chocolates [55%, 61%, 72% cocoa]; though I think a better match for the Zinfandel would be BBQ or grilled burgers. On the other hand, the Alexander Cabernet Sauvignon has inviting cherry, plum, cassis, and baking spice scents with soft tannins, a smooth texture, and a medium length finish. For my taste, the chocolates overwhelmed this wine to various degrees – as I was getting more of the chocolate flavors and no longer tasting the wine. I also got some slight bitter flavors as a result of this pairing. The wine that made the best connection was the “A True Gentleman's” Port. The 61% and 72% seemed to be the sweet spot with this wine. This port-styled wine offered generous ripe red fruit, dark berry, plum flavors, and a dash of sweet spice with a little trailing heat on the long finish (the first day). The chocolate dampened the heat and the residual sweetness in the port played nicely with the chocolate. This was the best pairing of the night for me, and what it said was the sweetness level in the chocolate needs to paired with an equally sweet (or sweeter) wine for positive results. For the drier reds, in this case the Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, the stronger the chocolate (e.g. dark, bittersweet) the more full-bodied the wine should be.
The Crusher Rosé of Pinot Noir and Le Belge Truffles
My second pairing opportunity, a pink wine and truffles, came compliments of my friends over at Balzac Communications and Marketing. For this connection, we paired a bottle of The Crusher 2011 Clarksburg Rosé of Pinot Noir (SRP $18) from Don Sebastiani and Sons with a package of truffles from Le Belge Chocolatier in Napa. On its own, the [dry] Rosé was quite tasty offering bright aromas and flavors of strawberry, raspberry, and light citrus notes with lovely, food-friendly acidity to balance the fresh fruit flavors. The chocolate truffles (semi-sweet) were [very] delicious on their own as well. One pair was filled with a red jam and the other pair filled with caramel. When pairing the wine with the chocolate, the red filling had a nice interplay with the bright red berry fruit components in the wine. Conversely, the caramel filling combined with the chocolate sort of blanketed the wine; letting only a little of the wine’s bright red fruit shine through. Overall, good connections – but the latter may ultimately do better with another mate. As we wrap this show up, I would like to know some of your favorite chocolate and wine pairings – feel free to drop me an e-mail. Also, Valentine’s Day chocolates will be deeply discounted soon, so get out and pick some up and host your own chocolate and wine pairing event at home or repeat what I've done. I left links to the wine producers and chocolatiers below. Happy Valentine's Day!
Click here to visit the Rodney Strong Vineyard website.
Click here to visit the Don Sebastiani and Sons website.
Click here to visit the Le Belge Chocolatier website.
Click here to visit the Chocolate by Numbers website.
Click here to visit Peter's Chocolate website.
Also, check out http://www.chocologo.com/ -- they sell a do-it-yourself chocolate and wine pairing kit.
Have a question about this post, friends? Feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and as always, Happy Sipping! Stay tuned ...more to come.
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