What oh What to Pair With Chocolate? TAHOE Festival Answers This Important Question!

The Chocolate, Wine and Roses Festival, held in November 2009, answers the important question for wine aficionados and chocolate lovers: what wines to pair in order to extend the sumptuousness of chocolate.

This event is another instance of the do-good, taste-wine, eat-well opportunities that Tahoe neighbors and visitors can experience each year at the lake. Benefitting Tahoe Women’s Services and Project MANA, the Festival held at the North Tahoe Event Center, Kings Beach, should go on your calendar next autumn.

Ta-Dum! A new winery debuts at this Festival – the Big Woody Wine Company, located in Incline Village at sailing coordinates 39° N, 120° W. Alan Richards, president (who owns a goodsized vintage wooden Chris Craft boat, thus the winery’s name) poured his 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, sourced from Lake County. This is similar to a vin de pays from the Southern Rhone, with the raisinated fruit of a village wine. 13.7% alcohol. $15/bottle. The 2007 Chardonnay from Sonoma is akin to southern-Rhone white - think Granache Blanc/Viognier with some floral aromatics and backbone to stand up to foods. 13.0% alcohol. $15/bottle.

The Big Woody wines were wonderfully paired with a dozen different chocolates hand made by Aaron Zendner, chocolatier extraordinaire of Mr. Z’s Micro-confectionary, based in Incline Village. My favorite of Aaron’s array was an amazing chocolate covered toffee sprinkled with chopped nuts. This is NOT for the calorie-conscious.

Truckee River Winery, which has just opened a tasting room, has expanded its offerings. They poured their 2008 El Dorado County Pinot Gris, very flavorful , an unfiltered wine with the characteristic Pinot Gris coming through nicely, with a crisp finish, 13.4% $12/bottle. This wine was awarded the People’s Choice Award at the Chocolate-Wine-Roses Festival.

On the way to taste the wines presented by Joseph Nase of Moody’s/Baxter’s Northstar, we took time to watch Brooke and Thomas McCarthy, owners of Bite Catering of Incline Village, put together a wonderful Choco Taco, comprised of a slice of ripe persimmon, topped with house made Ghiradelli Fudge and finished with pomegranate and fresh fruit tidbits.

This could be a difficult pairing to make, but Nase recommended two very different wines, both of which went beautifully. The 2007 Banyuls by M Chapoutier is a classic with chocolate. Somewhat prun-ey in the nose, but then delights the palate with raisins, nuttiness, molasses, black raspberry. Made from very old Grenache vines, 16% alcohol. About $20 for a 500 ml bottle.

The second wine, a Lot XIII Charles Krug Napa Valley Zinfandel Port is a limited release wine that presents a toffee-delight to the nose and carries through in taste. There are oak aromatics at play here too, and berry jam. “Crafted in the spirit of the Solera style, thirteen vintages create a seductive history of our Port in one glass,” notes the Krug website. “This elegant and weighty Port lingers on the palate, slowly drifting to a chewy, yet supple finish.” Yes it does. It is a delight with chocolate. 18.1% alcohol, $35 for a 375 ml bottle.

The 2007 Gold Note Zinfandel, Fair Play (southern El Dorado County) CA, is an amazing wine from Kevin Foley, winemaker at Gold Note. This Zinfandel keeps winning awards. Foley characterizes it this way: “an aromatic fruit nose rich with strawberry, raspberry, and blackberry flavors. This gold-medal Zin is smooth, powerful, and full-bodied with a well-balanced dry finish with notes of caramel and spice.” 16.9 % alcohol. $30/bottle

Nevada City Winery offered their Late Harvest Zinfandel as their chocolate pairing wine. Sourced from grapes in the Sierra Foothills, it is richly flavored with, a mildly sweet taste counter-balanced with crisp, fruity flavors. 14.8% alcohol. $18/ 500 ml bottle
Dawn Bertsch, one of our favorite young sommeliers in the Lake Tahoe area, poured two wonderful chocolate-pairing wines on behalf of Chambers & Chambers Wine Merchants. Dr Loosen 2007 Riesling Kabinett is not only a great aperitif wine, but a dinner wine due to a fine lingering aftertaste and a spicy, tangy minerality. It’s low alcohol, 8.5%, makes it very refreshing . $20/bottle.

The Cossart Gordon Madeira Bual was aged 15 years in Oak, to reach its 19% alcohol level it is an inviting wine, fruity, and with well rounded fruit, touch of cinnamon, and a lasting finish. $38/ 500 ml bottle.

Although it will be another year before this benefit is held, please remember that these charitable organizations deserve and need your support year-round.

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© 2009 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in November 2009.

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