This guest-post comes to us from Mira Advani Honeycutt, author of California’s Central Coast, The Ultimate Winery Guide: From Santa Barbara to Paso Robles. She frequently contributes wine and travel pieces to the Good Food Blog.
When was the last time you had dessert with fine wines before dinner?
Well, we did just that and invited a few friends over to help conduct my favorite pairing — chocolate with Cabernet Sauvignon. Our dinner table was anchored with an assortment of fine Godiva chocolates, then we asked each of our guests to bring a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon (or a Cab blend). The bottles ranged from Napa and Bordeaux to Paso Robles and Chile’s Colchagua Valley.
We had a cornucopia of chocolates from milk strawberry, white vanilla bean and milk salt caramel to 72% dark chocolate and a 50% dark chocolate with sea salt. Then there was a tray of assorted chocolate truffles with fillings ranging from cheesecake gateau, crème brulée and red velvet cake to vanilla mousse, tiramisu and chocolate lava cake (a difficult match with the Cabs).
For me the velvety rich texture of Cabernet Sauvignon with aromas of cocoa, black currant and cassis is a perfect companion to chocolate. That may not be the case with everyone. Many people prefer a chocolate with Champagne, Late Harvest dessert wine, Port or Zinfandel. To my surprise, the group of friends had favorable comments about the Cabernet and chocolate pairing.
The Bordeaux wines both from Margaux, a 2003 Chateau Kirwan and 1996 Chateau du Tertre seem to hum along with almost all the chocolates. The long age on du Tertre had mellowed its tannins so it stood up well to the sweetness of white vanilla bean chocolate.
The smooth tannins from a 1997 Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon with notes of cinnamon and cocoa beans matched well with a variety of chocolates including the milk strawberry and the velvety vanilla mousse truffle. With layers of toasty oak and black cherries, the opulent and luscious 2005 Heitz Cellar from Trailside Vineyard paired beautifully with the 72% dark chocolate, giving the wine a long finish on the palate. The milk salt caramel was a good match with both Heitz and the 2009 Daou Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.
During the tasting it was obvious that we all had individual tastes and palates as each had a favorite pairing. However, one comment was unanimous — dark chocolate with sea salt was a sure fire hit with pretty much all the wines in our selection including a 2009 Montes, the Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. The hint of sea salt in the dark chocolate just adds a layer to the Cabernet and heightens the chocolate/Cab pleasure experience. I even heard a comment in the group, “Sea salt overcomes my dislike for dark chocolate!”
Although the selection of the truffle chocolates was delicious, the consensus was that the varied and complex flavors overpowered the wines. This sweet selection could be best left to pairing with Champagne.
As our tasting concluded, it was now time for dinner – penne with pesto chicken and Ceaser salad that was followed by a selection of cheeses.
So on this Valentine’s Day, I’m not suggesting have dessert before dinner, but do try some fine Cabernet Sauvignon with your favorite chocolate.