Monday, January 24, 2011

Chocolate Wine or Wine & Chocolate?

I have never been a big proponent of wine and chocolate pairing, but this really takes the, uh, cake. Over the last few weeks we have had a handful of customers come in asking if we carry chocolate wine. My initial reaction was confusion followed by dismay. And then I received an e-mail from Taylor who was in Florida and was similarly dumbfounded by the image above; ChocoVine, really?! I can’t explain it any better than them: ChocoVine is "the great taste of Dutch Chocolate and fine Cabernet wine."

Maybe this sounds appealing to some but it seems utterly disgusting to me. I don't care how many years of research and what Dutch chocolate and which French wine, this is not my idea of bliss. No offense of course to those of you would like to have your (chocolate) cake and drink it too!

ChocoVine did get me thinking about the reality and the "rules" of pairing wine with chocolate. After all, Valentine's Day is right around the corner and wine and chocolate are what some would have you believe are the keys to a perfectly romantic evening.

For starters, wine and chocolate pairing is not a simple equation. There are almost as many varieties of chocolate as there are wines, so a simple “pair chocolate with Merlot” isn’t really enough to go on. Cacao (the seeds/beans from which chocolate is made) is perhaps the most important factor in successful pairing because the higher the percentage of Cacao the more intense, even bitter, the chocolate flavor.

Three overall guidelines that should help you on your way to wine and chocolate bliss are:

(1) The wine you choose should be at least as sweet as the chocolate.

If your chocolate is sweeter than your wine (say a creamy 25% cacao milk chocolate and a tannic Cabernet Sauvignon) the pairing will result in a sharp or bitter flavor. Stick to sweet dessert wines such as Tawny Port with milk chocolate and pair Cabernets and other tannic reds with bittersweet chocolate with 70 to 100% cacao.

(2) A convention in food and wine pairing in general is to match the two components by their weight. It is no different with chocolate.

Light bodied wines pair best with more delicate chocolates and full-bodied wines with more intensely flavored chocolates. A sec or demi-sec Champagne or sparkling wine, or a delicately fizzy Moscato D'Asti, will complement a sweet, buttery white chocolate (0% cacao). A spicy, fruity Zinfandel from California will complement a bolder, semi-sweet chocolate (50-70% cacao).

(3) Another food and wine pairing principle is to pair like flavors, which also works with chocolate.

A dark, toasty Malbec or Bordeaux will pair nicely with dark chocolate with nuts such as hazelnuts or almonds; a dry, nutty Oloroso Sherry will also do the trick. Merlot and Shiraz often pair well with chocolates with mint because those wines often present minty notes on the palate. Hungarian Tokaji, with its rich apricot and caramel notes, will deliciously complement a chocolate that includes toffee or caramel.

The best way to see which pairings appeal to your palate is to give them a try. Even trying pairings that are not recommended will educate your palate. While you do that, I will be ordering up some wine and cheese as dessert! ;) Cheers!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bubblicious Ideas for New Year's

We’re fans of the notion that Champagne and Sparkling Wine should not be reserved for New Year’s Eve.  However, with the dawn of the New Year approaching fast we can’t help but ponder what to drink for this annual, festive occasion.

To follow are a few bubblicious ideas for your fete whether it be a big, rowdy party or a quiet, intimate gathering. These are some of our favorites at every price point and none bring with them that instant threat of a throbbing hangover…  Unless of course you drink too much; that we cannot control!

Happy New Year - -have a safe and happy celebration and a happy, healthy, successful 2011. Cheers.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Boozy Gifts &Holiday Imbibing

Lucky for us the holidays provide ample opportunity for wine and spirits related merry making and gift giving. Make it lucky for you too by selecting one of these occasion-appropriate tipples for your festive gathering or holiday gift.

Hanukkah Celebration
The succulent and delicious 2008 La Follette Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast ($29.99) will complement your Potato Kugel impeccably. Greg La Follette has an accomplished winemaking career behind him (including Beaulieu Vineyards, Flowers, and Tandem Wines) and we have completely fallen for the Pinot Noirs from his namesake project.

Tree Trimming
Make your tree trimming festivities even more merry with J Vineyards CuvĂ©e 20 sparkling wine ($24.99). There’s nothing like some bubbles to perk up any get-together and this fresh, joyful sparkler from the Russian River valley will have you stringing lights and hanging ornaments with a big old grin on your face.

Secret Santa at the office
Chances are you are faced with finding the perfect holiday gift for some co-worker you met once when dropping paperwork off in accounting. Well, stress no more! The 2007 Flora Springs Merlot from Napa Valley ($19.99) will work with your budget and your colleague’s palate. Lots of red berry fruit and just a hint of spice make this Merlot exceptionally charming – and it’s always a good idea to win over someone in accounting.

Corporate Gift
Show ‘em what you got by presenting them with the latest small production gem coming out of the Napa Valley. The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from Zeitgeist Cellars ($62.99) is sold out at the winery but, oh, we

Monday, October 25, 2010

California Wines That Won't Spook Your Budget

As Halloween approaches, we thought it appropriate to offer up 10 California wines that won't make your blood run cold or spook your budget. We speak to people all the time that assume California does not offer as many great wine bargains as some other wine regions such as, say, Chile, or Argentina. Drink up and help us prove them wrong! You won’t be able to argue with these utterly enjoyable treats.

2008 Lucky Star Chardonnay California
Price: $9.99
This value Chardonnay is no joke. Quality fruit, subtle richness, and bold flavors combine to make a wine that drinks way above its’ price point. Seriously, we didn’t believe we could sell it for $10 bucks! And if you don’t believe us, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator have mentioned Lucky Star Chard in many lists based on the best of the best of global value wines.

2007 Avalon Winery Cabernet Sauvignon California
Price: $11.99
Avalon Winery only makes Cabernet Sauvignon and it is their goal is to make great inexpensive Cabernet. Well, we think they did just that! This wine is a ‘crowd’ pleaser for sure but that moniker seems to do it some injustice; it’s filled with ripe, juicy fruit and is impeccably smooth and balanced. A little birdie tells us that Avalon Cab is the house wine at Peter Luger’s Steakhouse.

2008 Laurel Glen Reds Red Wine Lodi
Price: $11.99
Raise your glass to this charming blend of Zinfandel, Carignane, and Petite Sirah from Laurel Glen. A great complement to burgers, pizza, pasta, or jovial conversation among friends, the Reds is full of sweet spice