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NorCal Wine Blog

A Unique Pairing of Wine and Chocolate

Wine and chocolate pairings are popular and often delicious, but don’t always enlighten. Typically, some form of dark chocolate is offered with Cabernet Sauvignon or a sweet red, such as late harvest Zinfandel. With so many different types of chocolate (and wine) available, there is room for more create combinations that are not just tasty but interesting.

That was my experience at Benessere Vineyards. They offer chocolate and wine tastings year round. My pairing included three wines and three chocolates, all of which were good. Two were somewhat conventional pairings based on red wines, though the bacon-infused chocolate with old vine Zinfandel was a clever touch. The first pairing was a real surprise though.

We were sipping on 2009 Benessere Pinot Grigio Carneros and basking in the sun when Eric Hensel, Benessere’s director of hospitality, brought over a bowl containing a broken up chocolate bar. To our surprise, he told us that the chocolate was meant to go with the Pinot Grigio.


The wine is a good on its own. It has ripeness of fruit that might surprise frequent sippers of Italian Pinot Grigio. It’s not sweet though, with just 0.3% residual sugar. The Benessere wine oozed aromas of honey, apple, cardamom, vanilla and orange blossom. Somewhat surprisingly, flavors on the palate are more briny and citrus-oriented, though these more austere notes are backed by cooked green apple and nectarine. The mouthfeel is creamy yet balanced by acidity which also lends an interesting, slightly dusty texture.

But with chocolate? I’ve had chocolate with white wines before, but usually sweet whites such as Moscato d’Asti, Orange Muscat, or Sauternes. I was dubious, but gamely took a bite of the chocolate. It was milk chocolate with slivers of almond and the name Lindt embossed in every square. The chocolate was sweet, but not overly so, and the almonds crunchy and toasty. A bit of creamy chocolate coated my mouth after I swallowed.

Curious now, I took a sip of the Pinot Grigio. The citrus flavors of the wine were emphasized and the body seemed lighter than it had on its own. The wine cut through the chocolate that had coated my mouth, refreshing my palate. The almond flavors of the chocolate were highlighted. I was hooked and my preconceptions dashed.

Benessere Vineyards is a bit off the beaten path, north of the town of St. Helena and a few hundred yards to the east of Hwy. 29 (see map). When the weather is good, sitting at one of their outdoor tasting tables under the arbor is a very pleasant way to taste wine. If it’s cold or rainy, or you’d rather belly up to a bar, they have a nice little indoor tasting counter.

Benessere is open daily from 10am until 5pm, by appointment only due to local regulations. In most cases, you should be okay if you give them a call while you’re driving over. If you’d like to do a wine and chocolate pairing though, it’s best to give them one day advance notice. That way they can ensure they’ve got plenty of fresh chocolate on hand.



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This article is original to Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. Banner photo cropped from a work by Fir0002/Flagstaffotos, used under GNU Free Documentation License. All other photos by Fred Swan. All rights reserved.