While cheese may seem to be a more natural pairing with pinot noir, many people might think that chocolate pairs with pinot noir as well. We find many winery tasting rooms that offer chocolate pairings. There are chocolate companies that have created chocolates that are marketed to pair with specific wine varieties. And there are chocolates that have been infused with wine. But ask pinot noir producers if pinot noir pairs with chocolate and they might look horrified.
Chocolate will compete for space in your mouth just like wine does. White chocolate can be cloying and milk chocolate creamy and dark chocolate bitter. Do any of these really work with wine, let alone pinot noir? At World of Pinot Noir, the concept of pairing pinot noir and chocolate was tackled and again we had to painstakingly taste both sparkling and still pinot noir with chocolates to see if they actually work together.
Instead of chocolate bars, we enjoyed the decadent truffles created by Santa Barbara-based Jessica Foster Confections. A 12-year-old company, Jessica Foster offers 30 different flavors of truffles.
Each truffle is hand-dipped in dark chocolate resulting in a thin shell.
There is no sugar added to the chocolates and they are not too sweet. In selecting the truffles for the tasting, the goal was to try to match the body of the wine to the body of the chocolate.
J NV Brut Rose
Russian River Valley
Truffle #1: White Chocolate Lavender with Marcona Almonds and Sea Salt (made with local lavender from Santa Ynez and local sea salt)
Truffle #2: White Chocolate Meyer Lemon
Pairing: The J NV Brut Rose has strawberry, raspberry and cherry characteristics and the two years sur lees add a yeasty, toasty character. The white chocolate in both truffles is light and fluffy and both truffles paired well with the wine. With the White Chocolate Meyer Lemon, the sparkling wine cut the tartness of the lemon and created a mineral note. But for me, the White Chocolate Lavender was the better of the pairings as the lavender notes just sang with the wine.
Anne Amie Vineyards 2011 Marilyn Brut Rose
Chehalem Mountains AVA
Truffle #1: White Chocolate Popping Rose
Truffle #2: Cocoa Dusted Caramelized Almonds (caramelized sugar, toasted almonds, dipped in bittersweet chocolate)
Pairing: The tart strawberry of the wine was in perfect harmony with the White Chocolate Popping Rose truffle that was dusted with pop rocks. The juxtaposition of the sparkling wine with the pop rocks is what stood out. The bubbles accentuated the pop rocks and then the chocolate popped. The sweetness of the rose water was lovely with the fruitiness of the wine.
Westwood 2014 Pommard Selection Pinot Noir
Annadel Gap Vineyards, Sonoma County
Truffle #1: Milk Chocolate Salt & Pepper
Truffle #2: Milk Chocolate Honey Almond
Pairing: The Westwood Estate Winery 2014 Pinot Noir showcases notes of dark red fruit and medium acidity. With the Milk Chocolate Honey Almond, the honey and creaminess really rounded out the acids in the wine. But it was the Milk Chocolate Salt & Pepper that was the stunning pairing. The really dark notes from the pepper elevated the fruit notes of the wine.
Much to our surprise, there was no bitterness in the wines when paired with the truffles. The acidity in the sparkling wines cut through the fat of the chocolates instead of fighting it. With high-quality chocolates that are not too sweet, such as the Jessica Foster Confections, the fruit notes of the wines are highlighted. These pairings proved that pinot noir, with the right chocolates, can work together.