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A&E >  Food

Sweet pairings

Treat your sweetheart to a tempting combo of wine, chocolates

Wine and chocolate go together like beer and bratwurst, milk and cookies, and cocoa with marshmallows.

But pairing wine and chocolate can be intimidating – especially if you’re shopping for your sweetheart, hoping to impress with a thoughtful Valentine’s gift. Have no fear. We’ve sought out the recommendations of three local winemakers, or you can ask your favorite local winemaker for a recommendation. Who better to advise how to get the most out of each sip of wine and morsel of chocolate?

Nodland Cellars

11616 E. Montgomery Drive, Suite 70, Spokane Valley

Phone: (509) 927-7770

At Nodland Cellars in Spokane Valley, wine and chocolate tastings are a regular event. Groupon sales have only added to their popularity. “I’m a chocoholic and I’m passionate about wine,” said owner Tim Nodland. In fact, he loves chocolate so much, he said, “I have to have a piece every day.”

Nodland has accomplished what most wine experts said couldn’t – or shouldn’t – be done: He’s paired chocolate with each of his wines. Even white.

When chocolatier Julia Balassa-Myracle opened her shop and Chocolate Myracles factory nearby, Nodland found a willing accomplice. He said, “We’re really happy partners in this. She knows everything about chocolate and I know wine.”

The tasting at Nodland’s begins with Bebop White, an off-dry riesling, and a Swiss white chocolate. Nodland recommends enjoying a sip of the wine first and then a taste of chocolate.

Next up: 2008 Bad Attitude, a red blend, served with a morsel of Swiss milk chocolate. “The high cocoa butter content actually softens the wine,” Nodland said.

The third pairing features the 2007 Nodland’s Private Blend and Venezuelan dark chocolate. The plum and cherry notes in the wine bring out the fruity tones in the chocolate.

This is followed by the winery’s 2008 Private Blend paired with Ecuadorian dark chocolate, which offers a great introduction to the grand finale: a 2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon poured into a tiny chocolate cup. If you still crave cocoa, a sixth chocolate treat is offered across the way at Chocolate Myracles, 11616 E. Montgomery Ave., Suite 23. Nodland recommends asking for the Bad Attitude truffle, made with Nodland Cellars red wine.

As a general rule, Nodland said, “Cabernet sauvignon with solid dark chocolate is a safe bet. Stick with that.”

Latah Creek Wine Cellars

13030 E. Indiana Ave., Spokane Valley

Phone: (509) 926-0164

Latah Creek owner Mike Conway is an unabashed fan of wine and chocolate pairings. “Every time we have a special event, we always have a table with wine and chocolate,” he said.

The winery features Brix Chocolate, a line of chocolates specially crafted to go with wine. The label tells you which wine to pair it with, making it a great choice for those new to wine and chocolate combinations.

Chocolate Myracles sweets are also available at Latah Creek. “Julia makes a truffle with our Maywine in the middle,” Conway said.

He enjoys serving Natalie’s Nectar in Myracle’s chocolate wine cups. “Natalie’s Nectar is a red dessert wine fashioned after an Italian wine called recioto,” Conway said. “It has a lower alcohol content than port, but similar sweetness.” He serves the wine at room temperature.

Another favorite is Latah’s Monarch Red or Monarch Petite Syrah paired with dark chocolate. “Big reds are delicious with dark chocolate,” he said. He prefers tasting the chocolate first and then following with a sip of wine.

Conway said the reason wine and chocolate go so well together is simple. “They have similar characteristics – the cocoa and coffee notes.”

Barrister Winery

1213 W. Railroad Ave.

Phone: (509) 465-3591

When Greg Lipsker of Barrister Winery hosts a winemaker’s dinner, the dessert is invariably something chocolate. And he always serves truffles at the winery’s special events and open houses.

“Chocolate and wine is one of those things you need to do a little research on to decide what you like,” he said. Then he laughed. “We try chocolates with every red.”

His favorite pairings have proven to be dark chocolate served with Barrister’s merlot or syrah. But he doesn’t turn his nose up at milk chocolate.

“Milk chocolate with pinot noir or port is a classic – a perfect winter pairing.”

While many prefer cabernet sauvignon with dark chocolate, Lipsker is not a fan. “The tannins in it will make the wine taste bitter.”

He said a good guideline to follow is, “The darker the chocolate, the darker the wine you’re going to pair it with.”

Lipsker offered these tasting tips: “Swirl the wine in your glass, breathe in the aroma, then sip and savor. Let the chocolate melt in your mouth, coax out all the flavors, then follow with another sip of wine. What you’re hoping for is a match made in heaven.”

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