So many things in life are needlessly intimidating (parallel parking, Pilates, and filling out tax forms among them). One thing you should never fret about? Perfectly pairing wine and chocolate at your next holiday get together. You may think that—like purchasing a private helicopter or hiring an adequate butler—this is exclusively the art of the upper crust. We’ll let you in on a dirty little secret. Anyone, armed with these five tricks, can pair wine and chocolate like a pinky-in-the-air-expert. Impress your friends and intimidate your enemies!
Yes—there is such a thing as too sweet, my friend. One of the biggest chocolate and wine pairing fails out there is totally avoidable and really a no brainer, when you think about it. This rule of thumb goes like this: Never pair a chocolate that is sweeter than its wine companion. Why? If that chocolate is too saccharine, it’ll make your wine taste like sour, tasteless vinegar. Yuck. Unless you’re pairing chocolate with sweet dessert wines (that’s a whole other post), go with a semi sweet-to-bitter medium-to-dark chocolate only. Is your wine fruity? Earthy? Nutty? Try a few different chocolates alongside your wine and watch as each brings out different elements in the wine. Ah, this kind of research can be pretty fun, huh?
Go for Quality
Chocolate and wine pairing is all about subtle nuances, so get the best quality chocolates that you can afford (it goes without saying that these Paso Robles wines are the finest on the market, so you’re all set there). When focusing on such a small nibble of this and sip of that, small details will come to the fore: the creamy texture of the chocolate; a whiff of floral bouquet in the glass. A cheap-o chocolate might be tempting to your wallet, but more often than not, you’ll end up with a mealy mess that no one wants to revisit. No need to go overboard on volume, however—a single, sublime square per guest per wine is ideal!
Pairing tip: With consistent scores from Wine Enthusiast soaring to 90 points and beyond, HammerSky Vineyards offers up top tier wines in a gorgeous environment (take a virtual tour of their tasting room here). With fruity notes of plum and raspberries, try the winery’s estate grown merlot with a fruity chocolate nibble.
Mapping and Directions: speedfind.com/HammerSkyVineyards
Another winning choice that brings the fruit allure to the fore? Sextant Wines 2014 Holystone Zinfandel, reminiscent of cherries and red currants (it also recently won 92 points from Wine Enthusiast).
The Dark and Light Side
This one’s easy to remember. The darker the chocolate, the darker your wine should probably be. A sultry, inky petite sirah is great with ultra dark cacao while a nutty chardonnay pairs well with a lighter chocolate speckled with hazelnuts.
Note: Some chocolates will showcase an acidity or fresh fruitiness perfect for lighter Rhone reds and refreshing whites.
Pairing Tip: A bold red meritage blend like Harmony Cellars 2011 Reserve Aria is a solid go-to for dark chocolate bliss that won’t over power either party.
Mapping and Directions: speedfind.com/HarmonyCellars
Try a slighter, fruitier chocolate with Soaring Hawk Vineyards 2014 Viognier, which brings bright flavors of lychee, exotic fruits and butterscotch.
Mapping and Directions: speedfind.com/SoaringHawkVineyards
The Truth About Tannins
Round, soft tannins in a big merlot go great with a smooth, silky chocolate texture, while a more bitter, gritty-textured dark chocolate will shine against a wine with more structured tannins, like syrah. Remember: If the tannins go too far out of whack from the texture of the chocolate, you the run the risk of totally missing one of the pairing’s most important attributes: mouthfeel. Ever hear of “melt in your mouth?” You want the pairing to do that.
Pairing Tip: The balanced tannins and luscious body of Opolo Winery’s 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon make for major mouth appeal.
Mapping and Directions: speedfind.com/OpoloVineyards
Keep it Simple
Health science (and common sense) has proven again and again that less is more when it comes to indulgence. When presenting a chocolate and wine pairing, invite guests to savor the moment, talk about their findings, then move on. A little goes a long way—and no one wants to endure a tummy ache or the startling realization that they’ve just eaten the equivalent of ten candy bars in one sitting. Sweet tooth begging for more morsels? Bake a chocolate cake and serve for dessert. If you’ve done your work right, they’ll have had their fill of treats and want a doggie bag to take home.
If you’re looking for a place to spend the night in Paso Robles, checkout:
The Adelaide Inn is an iconic, locally owned hotel known for its friendly staff and lush landscaping. With spacious rooms and a convenient location close to highway 101 and the event center – home of the California Mid-State Fair – this hotel is a great choice for most travelers.
La Bellasera Hotel & Suites is an elegant boutique hotel nestled in the heart of Central Coast Wine Country. Influenced by Mediterranean and Italian architecture, the luxurious accommodations reflect the aged sophistication of the Central Coast region and the relaxed nature of the California countryside.
Hampton Inn & Suites Paso Robles is nestled in the Central Coast wine region, home to over 200 wineries, beautiful beaches, mountains and diverse attractions. Relax and revive in a comfortable guest room with all you need for a successful stay. You can count on Hampton to deliver value, consistency and service with a smile. We love having you here®
Experience the pristine countryside of Paso Robles Wine Country at Lekai Ranch. Lounge on the porch of your private suite and lose yourself in the tranquility and stunning views of the vineyards and oak studded hills beyond. This vacation rental is located just minutes from some of the most distinguished wineries and a premier olive oil estate, and only 15 minutes from downtown Paso Robles’ restaurants, wineries and shopping.
Enjoy the elegance, style and natural beauty of California’s Central Coast at the JUST Inn®. Surrounded by vineyards, our JUST Inn Suites offer luxurious appointments like fireplaces, Tempur-Pedic®mattresses, Frette linens, hydro-spa tubs, and range in size from 600–1,200 square feet. An overnight stay includes breakfast and a tour of the winery and caves.