Wine and Chocolate Pairing Gathering

Thanks in no small part to Bob Cochran who led our event, this tasting was an unqualified success.

The idea this time was to pair up various chocolates with wines and then explore how they interacted with one another.

You can also do standalone chocolate tastings but we liked the idea of the combination.

We had to iterate a bit to decide which chocolates and wines to pair together but we started with a vague idea of the chocolates that we were interested in. Essentially a milk chocolate, a mildly bittersweet and a bittersweet chocolate.

Bob did some great research and guided us to the wines appropriate to our chocolate choices. He also found a very helpful article in the March or April Wine Spectator – a pull-out actually- that had a lot of useful tips.

In the end we went with Hershey’s Cacao Reserve chocolates and created some custom place-mats at .

We supplied wine aroma wheels that we picked up from Sherlocks – nice laminated plastic ones that can withstand a few spills if necessary and supplied tasting charts and glass place-mats courtesy of Recognose’s Wine aroma dictionary site . Specifically, head to the Wine Education Resources link at the bottom of the page for these and other very useful PDF files. Everybody got a copy of the PDF Wine aroma wheel to take with them in case they wanted to experiment on their own.

Here is how the tasting setup looked:




The tasting seemed to be well received. Bob, Kim, Bonnie, Denise, Don and Nathalie were there to enjoy the experience.




Denise *did* learn the hard way that wearing white to a wine tasting may be hazardous to your clothes.


Here, in the order we sampled them, are the wines and paired chocolates:

First was a wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma County called Sebastiani 2003:

2280 This was paired with Hershey’s Santo Domingo Cacao Reserve which has 67% cacao. The wine on its own was a delight but paired with this chocolate it took on some wonderful nuances as each element pulled aspects out of the other. I think this wine by far was the most popular of those we tried.

Next we sampled a dessert wine from Campbells called Rutherglen Tokay:

2284This was paired with Hershey’s Arriba Cacao Reserve which has 50% cacao. The wine was fairly sweet, not as sweet as the ice wines that I’ve tried but pretty strong on its own. When your palate is exposed to the paired chocolate they complemented each other very nicely. When I tried the stronger chocolate with this wine the two were quite discordant with one another.

Finally, for the “official” wines, we actually sampled a port. Dow’s Fine Tawny Porto.

2286This was paired with Hershey’s Java Cacao Reserve which has 37% cacao. I find port quite potent and this was no exception. But again, it drew some of the wonderful milk chocolate flavors out of our chocolate and the chocolate likewise complemented the wine. Also again, trying the other two chocolates with this particular wine was not at all as satisfying as was the sweeter milk chocolate that we’d chosen to go with it.

As a post tasting treat, we elected to try a sparkling wine, Banfi’s Rosa Regale 2005. This wine claims to enhance the flavor of chocolate on the label, but did not not seem too satisfying with any of the pure chocolates that we used with the other wines.



We did, however, have a great dessert that we had picked up from Douceur de France called “Chocolate Lovers”. This excellent, complex chocolate pastry worked very well with the Rosa Regale and they worked together superbly to round out the evening of wine and sweets.

Overall we learned an awful lot about the similarities between both chocolate and wine tasting and experienced some of the synergy that can be attained by proper pairing of these two most wonderful creations.

Wine Tasting (from July, 2006)

We got some friends together to do a wine tasting party while in Toronto this past July. The theme was *supposed* to be “Canadian Shiraz’s”. But *some* folks didn’t read their email and we had a slightly broader Spectrum.

The wines sampled were “Naked Grape (Unoaked)” (Canadian), “Jackson-Triggs Proprietor’s Selection” (Canadian) and “Paringa – 2003” (Australian).


I personally was unable to render a quantitative distinction between the wines but ultimately I rated them, from favorite to less-so: Naked Grape, Paringa, Jackson-Triggs.

Mich’s ratings were: Jackson-Triggs and the other two tied for second place.

As a group (myself not included as I was doing the poll taking) we blindly re-tasted the wines and:

3 of the 5 chose Paringa as the favorite (one vote each for the other two), then for second place Naked Grape won 3 votes, Paringa second and no votes for Jackson-Triggs. Finally 4 folks chose Jackson triggs as their third choice with one person choosing Naked Grape for this honor.



Wine Tasting Party – Australian Shiraz

Mich and I hosted our first wine tasting party yesterday.

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Since it was our first attempt we decided to keep it REALLY small and low key.

We spoke with Bob Cochrane at our local East Cobb Sherlock’s and he was instrumental in helping us decide on the wines we would sample for this first attempt.

I visited’s Wine Education resources and used their “Nine Wine Glass Place Mat”. I also had to choose a score card and had many excellent options to pick from (thanks JB!) and eventually settled on this excellent offering from “The American Wine Society”. This appealed to me because there was plenty of room to make notes on the various wines plus a good description of the evaluation characteristics plus a take-away wine aroma wheel that complemented exactly the laminated, colored wheels we had purchased from Sherlock’s to help prompt us through the aroma evaluation.

Mich picked up 24 wine glasses from TJ Maxx for an excellent price which meant that we would not need to be constantly washing glasses throughout the evening.

We decided that we would focus on a single varietal (Shiraz) and primarily one country (Australia). This drove our wine selection.

The wines we evaluated where (in order):

  • Penfold’s Thomas Hyland Shiraz 2003 (Australia)
  • Nine Stone’s McLaren Vale Shiraz 2003 (Australia)
  • Grant Burge Miamba Shiraz 2003 (Australia) < -- unanimous favorite among our guests

For contrast we then chose two non-Australian wines to demonstrate how much variation there can be in a single varietal.

  • Perrin Cote Du Rhone Villages 2003 (France)
  • Rock Rabbit Syrah 2003 (California)

There was quite a lot of agreement that the French wine had the “silkiest” texture and it rated very favorably with the Grant Burge offering edging it out as the overall favorite in the end.

After a palate-clearing glass of Argyle Brut Champagne we then offered our “Wow” wine for the evening – Peter Lehmann Shiraz (Australia). Now, “Wow” wines are very palate specific, and most of the people sampling these wines were not experienced wine tasters so I think – in retrospect – I would not have gone past the 5 principal wines of our tasting were I to repeat this tasting theme. The “Wow” was more of a “hmmm” but I don’t know how much of that was due to the wine I’m not even sure that the Californian got a fair shake as I know my taste discriminatory abilities were long gone by then. Steve, easily the most experienced taster among us suggested that the wine may have needed much more time to “breath” than I had allotted and that’s a fair assumption as I had not opened this bottle until nearly halfway through the evening. I had allowed all of the other wines a good couple of hours breathing time.

Overall I believe the evening was a success and hopefully marks the beginning of a series of such tastings in which we’ll explore many more varietals, vintages and appellations.