Sunday, September 11, 2011

Chocolate and...Wine!

Who doesn't love chocolate? I know I do and I probably don't enjoy it enough. I also never knew which kinds of chocolate to pair with wine or that you could and should pair it with wine. Well, the folks at Brix Chocolate provided some samples of their chocolate to me and on one of the cooler evenings recently, I decided to put their chocolate to the test!

I know you are all wondering what the difference is between their chocolate and any other chocolate out there. What makes it so special? There is an interesting story behind this. Brix Chocolate was developed by Dr. Nick Proia, an Ohio physician who met with friends to taste wine on a weekly basis but felt their practice of eating high fat cheeses with the wine defeated the purpose of drinking the wines for health purposes. There are many health benefits to eating chocolate. Chocolate is good for you, most of us already know this. It is full of antioxidants, helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure. When paired with red wines, it gives you a double dose of benefit--good for your heart, good for your mind! After much experimentation, Dr. Proia chose chocolate from Ghana, in its purest form, for its fruity notes and thus Brix Chocolate was born.

I will admit, I was a bit skeptical but I tried to use the same skills that have made me a great wine taster and apply them to the chocolate--with amazing results. It was a tasting I truly enjoyed.

Brix Chocolate is sold in several ways: It comes in block form or in individual packets called "Brix Bites" of which I received samples. They make four kinds. I was able to sample three of the four.

The first was the Brix Milk Chocolate. I'm a sucker for milk chocolate. It's my favorite and I never ever thought about pairing it with wine. But, it does go with wine, very well in fact. I sampled this one with a Rose', as mentioned on the label. The creaminess of the chocolate paired so nicely with the strawberry and pomegranate flavors of the wine. It was like the chocolate softened the wine and made it taste richer! Other varietals it pairs well with is Port, Ice Wine and Pinot Noir/Burgundy.

Next was the Brix Dark Chocolate. I paired mine with a Zinfandel (though it can also be paired with Syrah/Shiraz or Merlot). This version contains 60% cacao and is the perfect compliment to a spicy, fruity red wine. Not too bitter but not too sweet. Still rich enough to hold its own but not overpowering so the fruity flavors of the wine stayed intact. Very nice!

Lastly, I decided to sample the Brix Extra Dark Chocolate on the evening of #CabernetDay with three different Cabernet Sauvignons. With 70% cacao, this is great chocolate to pair with a layered, but sturdy Cabernet! Also pairs nicely with Bordeaux blends and Barolos. I must admit this was my favorite pairing of the three. I would venture to guess this chocolate would even pair well with the spicy, fruity Zinfandel I had tried earlier.

I highly encourage everyone to try these different chocolates and pairings. Not only are they delicious but they're a very healthy way to enjoy some decadence with your wines. For more information on Brix Chocolate and how you can purchase it, please visit their website, You can also follow them on Facebook at

I'd like to thank Brix Chocolate and my friend Ryan Wycoff for enlightening me with this delicious treat! Cheers and here's to your health everyone!

"You Saw It Here First"...This post was created solely for "Cellarmistress' Cellar Talk" by Grace Hoffman. Grace is an Italian-born, American-bred wine blogger/educator with an all-consuming passion for wine and all it encompasses.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Magic In A Little Corner Of Sonoma...

One of the things I love the most is when I can come out to wine country and spend several hours enjoying wine with great friends and relishing the time spent there. Perhaps one of the most scenic areas of California wine country is in the Sonoma Valley, especially the Valley of the Moon Highway and the rustic country atmosphere of the towns of Glen Ellen and Kenwood. I'd always wanted to venture this area by myself, in my car, and stop at places along the way. I finally got to do this and the first place I went to was Eric Ross Winery to visit my friend Eric Luse, the winery's owner and winemaker.

I had met Eric several years ago at the North American Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Rosa. I sat at his table for dinner and found out he was originally from Iowa so we struck up a friendship. He is an inspiration to me as his passion for winemaking and photography has brought him to do what he loves the most. I have to tell you, this little winery is so cute! The decor is whimsical--their logo is a rooster so the winery is filled with beautiful artwork depicting roosters. The atmosphere is extremely friendly and the wines...Well, these are beautifully handcrafted wines and this winery is definitely worth seeking out! It is tucked away in a small corner of Sonoma County and to me, it simply radiates magic!

I sampled several wines during my visit, enjoying them along with several other groups of people who stopped in and out during the few hours I spent there.

The first wine I sampled was the 2010 Lodi Bokisch Vineyard Albarino. Yes, Eric makes an Albarino. It's wonderful! I took one with me back to Iowa. Stainless steel fermented, its bright shiny acidity and citrus flavors are the perfect combination for Summer. $25.

Eric makes an amazing Pinot Noir that I cannot say enough great things about. One sip of this wine and you will fall in love. The 2009 Saralee's Vineyard Pinot Noir is pure heaven. Rich, velvety and beautiful. It makes me swoon everytime I think about it! $45.

One of the most interesting wines I sampled was the 2009 Gout de la Vigne, "Taste The Vineyard" Syrah from Alder Springs Vineyard in Mendocino County. A lot of people are skittish about Syrah. This one would make you change your mind. Dark fruits, smoky, smooth finish. I savored it! $45.

With Winter around the corner, I love a good Zinfandel port next to the fireplace. The 2008 Old Vine Zinfandel Port is made from Dry Creek Valley fruit. So chocolately-rich, it's more than a dessert wine. It's an experience! $48.

Eric had a special surprise for me and he let me sample the 2010 Struttin' Red, which hadn't been bottled yet. Here he is posing with the wine and the new artwork. Can't wait for this release. It'll be a nice, easy drinking everyday red wine!

But alas, all great things must come to an end and I needed to make my way to my next venture. Eric showed me a really neat little book titled, "The Wineries In The Heart Of Sonoma Valley." He contributed photographs to the book and it is just a beautiful rendition of a guide to the area. I highly encourage everyone to pick up a copy when you visit and please do visit and experience these wines for yourselves.

Eric Ross Winery is located at 14300 Arnold Drive in Glen Ellen, CA. They are open for tasting Thursday through Monday from 11-5. For more information, please visit their website, For more information on the Sonoma Valley area, please visit

I'd like to thank Eric Luse and his staff for their warm and wonderful hospitality. I'm so glad I visited and will visit again very soon!!

"You Saw It Here First"...This post was created solely for "Cellarmistress' Cellar Talk" by Grace Hoffman. Grace is an Italian-born, American-bred wine blogger/educator with an all-consuming passion for wine and all it encompasses.