The Art of Wine And Chocolate: Chokola At The Cellar

 

Want to seduce someone this Valentine’s Day?

Think about sharing a glass of wine (or two or three) with your sweetheart. Wine is pure liquid sensuality: Its heady bouquet stimulates the appetite, while at the same time quelling hunger. What other drink is described as both ‘voluptuous’ and ‘muscular’? And when you pair wine with the decadent caress of luxurious chocolate, the combination is impossible to resist.

The intricate flavors of chocolate and wine linger on your tongue – and often the complex, deep, hidden tastes are subconscious. Make them rise to the surface by pairing your chocolate with the perfect wine.

Some people like chocolate more than others and some people like wine more than others. Some people like different kinds of chocolate. But when you pair wine with chocolate, you are approaching something like gastronimic nirvana

Some chocolates go with wines better than others. The general rule is that a wine should be as sweet, or a little more so, than the chocolate. Acidic wines are not usually recommended with chocolate.

When drinking wine with chocolate, you are usually talking about dark chocolate, the king of chocolate. The best ones usually have the cocoa content on the label. You’ll usually see a range from 60% to 85%. The higher the cocoa content, the sharper the taste. 85% can be a rather bitter dose, perhaps better off left to baking.

Chocolate (real chocolate),is the confectionery match to wine. Clearly this is because the process of making chocolate is very similar to winemaking. For one thing, both cocoa beans and wine are fermented with the same type of yeast.

But despite the affinity for one another, many wine and chocolate pairings fight for the same palate space making the whole experience underwhelming. However there are a few wine and chocolate pairings that will induce an ecstasy bordering on orgasm, and fortunately here in Taos we have experts in each arena to help us with this conundrum.

When paired properly, these two (just like you and your significant other), bring out the best in each other!

Winners of the 2018 Good Food Award (for two of their bars) Chokola, are partnering up with the Cellar, for a Valentine’s Day, perfect pairing.

When I dropped in on Debi and Javier at Chokola last week, they were still riding on the high of their recent win.

The fact they won for two of their products alone puts them into a league all of their own, but you wouldn’t know it just by going into their shop on an early weekday afternoon.

Javier was in the back as always, turning cacao nibs into the mouth watering chocolate they are now famous for, while Debi, apron tied around her waist was working up front with Suki Dalury (who can’t resist her little side gig in Chocolate Heaven.)

“We are so thrilled,” Debi said, “it was such an honor to be there with all the other amazing artisanal producers.”

The Good Food Awards focus on authentic and responsibly produced food. They grant awards to outstanding American food producers and the farmers who provide their ingredients. The Annual Awards Ceremony and Marketplace is held in San Francisco to honor the Good Food Award recipients who drive their respective industries towards craftsmanship and sustainability while improving the agricultural landscape and building strong communities.

In its eighth year, Good Food Awards are given to winners in 15 categories: beer, cider, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, confections, preserved fish, honey, oils pantry, pickles, preserves, spirits, and their newest category, elixirs. The Good Food Awards Seal, found on winning products, assures consumers they have found something exceptionally delicious which also supports sustainability and social good.

I told Debi I had been checking my voicemail when an Instagram alert popped up enabling me to see the video live streamed from the ceremony. I watched as Alice Waters, the groundbreaking Bay Area Foodie extraordinaire, presented the couple with their awards.

“She was amazing,” Debi smiled as if still in disbelief. “She was so tiny but she gave us such big hugs.”

After a bite of their chocolate, I have no doubt that she did. I’m certain those hugs came from a place of deep gratitude.

We chatted a bit about the ceremony and the excitement attached to the experience itself – being in the company of cutting edge, artisanal, bespoke manufacturers from all over the country. The response to their chocolate was overwhelmingly positive, and Debi said people loved the Art packaging (Chokola contract local artists to design the wrappers.)

“Erin Currier’s were the most popular,” Debi smiled.

I asked Debi about them pairing up with the Cellar (during the Holidays) and now, for Valentine’s Day.

“We tried it quietly during the Christmas Season,” said Debi, “but I think we needed to promote it a bit better.”

“We really want this partnership to work.” She continued, “because it is such a classic pairing.”

“We don’t sell the (liquor filled), bonbons here (at Chokola), so it’s great to have an outlet for them, and besides when it’s done properly the combination of wine with chocolate is magic!”

For those of you who don’t know, Debi’s bon bons are her long time specialty and are an art unto themselves. I’m always so sad when I have to bite into them, desecrating their beauty – but after one bite, I’m seduced by the sensual delight unfolding on my tongue.

As we talked Suki brought a plate to the table.

“It’s a flourless Chocolate Torte,” she said, as she put it down right in front of me.’It broke so now it’s to sample.”

Sadly, I could not resist.

I took a bite, then another and another before pushing it away. Light yet dense and delicious, it seemed utterly sinful to indulge any further.

But I easily could have.

From there I headed to the Cellar to ask Angelica what she had in mind for the pairing planned for Valentine’s Day.

“Port and Chocolate.” She answered without hesitation.

“And maybe some Moscato as well.”

“They are classic desert wines,” she explained, “and because they are even sweeter than the chocolate, there’s no competing on the palate.”

Sweet wines, fortified and as smooth as the Food of the Gods provided by Chokola. I could already anticipate the velvety combination melting in the mouth.

“Port with chocolate is a favorite combination,” Angelica explained. Being a dessert wine,

Port is sweet. It is also stronger (in alcohol) than a regular table wine. The mixture of dark chocolate and port in the mouth is to taste  the aforementioned gastronomic nirvana. Fortified wines (like Port and Moscato), are made when grape brandy is added to a wine and can either be dry or sweet. Most fortified wines are higher in alcohol content and have a longer shelf life after they are opened.

Port is made in the Northern part of Portugal along the Douro river. The wines are produced using several varieties of traditional Portuguese grapes which are collected and fermented together in open tanks where the grapes are stomped daily as the wine begins to ferment.

At a certain point in the fermentation process, the wine is strained and blended with a neutral grape spirit  that stops fermentation and creates the fortified wine. After this process, there are a series of winemaking steps that lead into the different styles of Port Wine.

“Port is classified into two groups: barrel aged and bottle aged port.” Angelica told me.

“Barrel Aged Port is designed to be aged and consumed in the long term. Bottle Aged Port is designed to be consumed in the short term.”

Also known as Moscato, Muscatel or Muscadel, Muscato is a fragrant dessert wine produced as both a sweet semi-sparkling wine (Moscato d’Asti) or a sweet still wine.Moscato wines are produced in many countries including Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, and smaller countries like Greece, Moldova, Lebanon and Slovenia to name but a few. The Muscat grape itself can range in color from white to black and are high in sugars and flavonoids (antioxidants).

Moscato has growing in popularity in the U.S. in recent years, being an approachable sweet wine that pairs easily with a variety of foods.

Sweet Moscato and Moscato d’Asti wines are very good served chilled on their own as a refreshing summertime wine.

In Spain and Portugal, Moscato is typically used to make fortified wines and brandy.

Obviously this is a very general overview, but it’s a long known fact among gastronomes, both Port and Moscato pair perfectly with Chocolate, and on Valentine’s Day, the Cellar will have tastings of all three, in combination, all day, and invite you to join them in this decadent and luxurious indulgence!

“It’s going to be fun,” promises Angelica.  “I’m planning on having plenty of Chokola chocolates to sample, and am opening several bottles throughout the day!”

Bring your partner (and your I.D.), and prepare to be transported directly to that Bacchanalian Paradise reserved for Lovers. 

For more on the Cellar at Cid’s, please visit their site linked below. Ditto Chokola.

The Cellar

Chokola

 

All images c/o the Cellar (by Joshua Cunningham), and Chokola.

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