Chocolate is a food of the Gods. So thought the Maya about chocolate and I bet you may agree.
You may not, however, know how time consuming the production of chocolate is: it takes 400 or so cocoa beans to make a single pound of chocolate. Those cocoa beans go through an intense process to go from raw bean to roasted and fermented to ground cocoa to a bar with sweeteners that you want to consume; this process takes from two to four days to make one bar of chocolate.
Wine also is a food of the Gods and very time consuming, especially if you want a wine to go with CHOCOLATE like a port or port style dessert wine.
For a BIG birthday, I splurged and bought myself some special Ports which you can read about in Ports: Vertical Heaven. In that post I also explain that Port refers to a wine based fortified beverage from Portugal. Back in the day, the British added brandy to wine so it would last longer. According to Graham Port’s blog, the Instituto do Vinho do Douro e Porto (IVDP), the regulating body for the Douro region, provides these guidelines for identifying a true Port wine:
- Only fortified wine produced in the Douro Demarcated Region which conforms to the technical characteristics defined by the IVDP is Port
- The maker must be registered and authorised by the IVDP to produce Port
- The label must be approved by the IVDP
- The bottle must bear the IVDP issued and numbered seal of guarantee
For Chocolate Day, I splurged and bought some chocolates and opened one bottle of Port and three dessert wines, and we tasted them together. While not all dessert wines are fortified with port, the ones I tasted are.
Oh yeah baby.
The chocolates: Marich chocolate strawberries, blueberries, and salted cashews; Divine dark chocolate with hazelnuts and cranberries. We also combined the chocolates with Lancaster caramels.
The dessert wines: Sandeman Founders Reserve Porto, Kachina Port Sonoma County CA, Cantara X Lodi CA, Silver Fifty Cask Santa Barbara County.
Sandeman Founders Reserve. Under $20. 750ml. Widely Available.
On our way to Burning Man this year, I realized that I didn’t have any Port. And I like Port. So in Bishop at Vons I grabbed this bottle of Sandeman Founders Reserve, because it’s an easy go to kind of Port. Good with ice on a hot night. Good straight on a cold night. Good to saute portabellas in (and I had a portabella). Aged for five years, this Porto, named for the founders, offers the fruit and fire that distinguishes classic Porto: Sandeman Founders Reserve culminates two hundred years of expertise. Red gemstone in color, red fruit aromas, rich fruit flavor, simple pleasures. Because I went to Burning Man with my 11 year old, I didn’t drink very much and brought this bottle home and opened it the other night to have with a chocolate cookie. Pairs well with evenings, campfires, and chocolate and walnut cookies. Find this Sandeman Porto wine near you.
Kachina Vineyards, Sonoma County Port. Under $35. 500ml. 18% alcohol. Sold Out.
Kachina Vineyard’s Port blends Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon from Lammerding Ranch in Alexander Valley with Dry Creek Head-Pruned Syrah from the eastern foothills producing a wine that is rich, dark, not too sweet, lots of balanced fruit that’s great with chocolate, chocolate covered fruit or fruit forward desserts. Because it is more on the sweet side, you can go with a more sweet dessert or chocolate. Only 40 cases.
While the very fruit forward yet brightly acidic Kachina Port is indeed sold out, you can still purchase their Sonoma County Dry Creek Zinfandel Port for $34. Off-grid, Kachina Winery operates 100% on solar energy. Vineyards are pesticide free and they are working toward getting their Demeter biodynamic certification. Note: this wine was a gift that I received at a Wine Bloggers Conference.
A blend of 56% Zinfandel and 44% Petit Sirah, this is a big bold dessert wine with a beautiful deep gem color, a rich fruity nose, and brightness and depth on the palate. A Port is a wine to linger over, and discover. As you spend time with the Cantara Cellars Project X you’ll find it full of holiday spices especially cinnamon and clove. While it has 20% alcohol, it is not syrupy but intense in every other way. This wine is a great way to finish off any meal whether it is a cheese plate (remember the creamy blue cheese!), fresh fruit with creamy cheeses, dried fruit or nuts covered in chocolate. Note: this wine was a gift.
This is the most unusual wine of the four and not just because it is a “tawny.’ I won this wine at the Celebration of Harvest Silent Auction in Santa Ynez along with two bottles of 1998 and 2010 Nebbiolo. While there were many interesting auction lots, this one was one of the more interesting and valuable to me and I was very excited to win it.
As far as I can make of the story from sleuthing around (and forgive me and correct me if I’m wrong), but winemaker Ben Silver graduated from Amherst, Mass with a BS in Animal Sciences and a BA in Italian from the University of Mass, then landed a harvest intern Lab Technician position with winemaker Daniel Gehrs at Zaca Mesa Winery in Santa Barbara County. After harvest, the winery offered him a full-time position as the winemaker’s assistant. In 1998, Benjamin took over winemaking at Zaca Mesa. In 1996, Benjamin began to experiment with small quantities of Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, and Nebbiolo. He left Zaca Mesa in 2000 to launch his own label, while also taking over the winemaking program and vineyard re-development for the owner of White Hawk Vineyard. During these transitions, a few barrels of wine were shuttled around and eventually this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Mourvedre and Syrah evolved into this tawny dessert wine. Pair with chocolate or blue cheese before during or after dinner –consider trying it with a blue cheese burger! This wine would also pair well with anything with walnuts or walnut oil. Aged an average of 10 years, produced only once.
Overall, as we paired these dessert wines with chocolates, we found that the Sandeman was best with more simple chocolates, the Kachina and X was fabulous with the chocolate covered dried fruit, and the Silver with chocolate covered nuts with sea salt and caramel.
Missed out on Chocolate Day? There’s still time to find a Port or dessert wine to enjoy on Halloween on Saturday Oct. 31 with that bowl of candy for trick or treaters!
Or even better– consider bringing one of these beauties to your next holiday party!
One last word of advice: it is HARD to pair chocolate and wine. It is EASY to pair chocolate and PORT. It is also easy to pair port with hearty red meats, blue cheese and more!
PS The special gold trimmed/rimmed glasses in this post were my grandmother’s on my father’s side– aren’t they lovely?