It seems appropriate to toast the New Year with a post about our recent visit to California Wine Country, in which friend and fellow blogger Susan Cooper arranged chocolate and wine pairings for us in selected wineries of Napa, Sonoma, and Lodi. What could be better than five women travelling the scenic hills of California in a comfortable van with our fun-filled designated driver (Elizabeth Scott), tasting wine, fine chocolate, and exotic cheeses? That’s what Chocolatouring is all about!
pure indulgence: chocolate and wine pairings in California wine country
From our comfortable base in Elk Grove, California (located in Sacramento County, and just south of the city of Sacramento) we visited a variety of wineries beginning with Beringer, the first winery in the Napa Valley to offer public tours. It is a large and well-established company, originally founded in 1876. Beringer is actually located in the community of St. Helena, and has a historic estate where you can taste, shop, meander, and participate in a variety of special events. Check out their website if you plan to be in the area. We enjoyed the Beringer wine pairings with Scharffen Berger Chocolate— which is made in San Francisco, and now owned by the Hershey Company.
For $20 each, we were able to taste four wines and four chocolates. I particularly enjoyed the Beringer Merlot and the Scharffen Berger 42% milk chocolate. If money is no object, go to the tasting room in the Beringer mansion and taste the reserve wines. The award-winning Reserve sells for $80/bottle, but has a rating of 97.
Our next stop took us down the road to the more laid-back community of Sonoma, where we had a delicious tasting of Meadowcroft Wines paired with a variety of delicious cheeses. Meadowcroft is a small winery that produces excellent quality wines and has won several awards. I loved the 2011 Chardonnay, which paired nicely with the blue cheese and nuts on our tasting slabs.
We completed the tasting with a wine-infused chocolate truffle courtesy of Anette’s Chocolates by Brent located in the Napa Valley. I wish I’d had time to visit with Brent and learn about his chocolate operation. Maybe next time, but on this trip, we opted instead for a tour of the Meadowcroft vineyard, complete with a personal serenade from our handsome guide. Meadowcroft also has a gorgeous events venue for weddings and special events. We enjoyed a picnic lunch on their grounds.
I think the most fun tasting was the following day in Lodi, when we visited Fields Family Vineyard and Winery. This is a small boutique winery making some excellent red wines. I was enamoured with the 2011 Old Vine Zin. The full-bodied Zinfandel is a deep red colour and appealed to me as it is much “meatier” than many other California reds. We had fun with Michael Perry, the “direct to consumer” manager of the winery who worked hard to create purposeful pairings of his wines with various different chocolates.
Exploring Lodi was fun. It is an unassuming community of just over 60,000 inhabitants that claims to be the “Zinfandel Capital of the World.” Based on the wines I tried, I could go along with that.
Cheers and thanks to author, blogger, illustrator, wine enthusiast, good friend and host extraordinaire, Susan Cooper, for making our visit to the Sacramento Valley and Wine Country a fabulous diversion. Please join us back here the week of January 13th, when we’ll take you to the International Chocolate Show in Pasadena, California.