Letters from Lodi
An insightful and objective look at viticulture and winemaking from the Lodi
Appellation and the growers and vintners behind these crafts. Told from the
perspective of multi-award winning wine journalist, Randy Caparoso.
Wines, chocolates, chili: matches made in heaven (and for Wine & Chocolate Weekend!)
CHOCOLATES AND WINES, FOR ALL THE RIGHT REASONS
How fortuitous that two of the most wonderful things in the world – wines and chocolates – go so well together!
In fact, it has been suggested that chocolate may be as natural a match for wines as cheese! This is why, during the past three vintages, the official sponsor of Lodi Wine & Chocolate Weekend (coming up this weekend, February 7-8, 2015!) has been the high-end confectioner, Brix Chocolate.
There are reasons why we are into Brix Chocolate. Brix is the first line of chocolates specifically blended to compliment wine. Based on the finest single origin chocolate from Ghana, Brix masterfully combines the outspoken character of the single origin chocolate with the smoothness of the highest quality confectionary chocolate.
Dr. Nick Proia, an Ohio pulmonologist, developed Brix when it became obvious to him that no chocolate on the market paired well with wine. It seemed foolish to Dr. Proia to eat these fat-laden cheeses after dinner, while trying to benefit from the health effects of wines. As a result he developed four basic variations of Brix Chocolate; each designed to match with many of the styles of wine found particularly in Lodi wine country:
Brix Extra Dark (70%) is specifically formulated to pair with the deepest, sturdiest varietal red wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Malbec, Mourvèdre, and more unusual "big" reds such as Charbono, Tannat, Touriga and Aglianico. Having a very high cocoa content, this Brix blend can stand up to the generous tannins found in these styles of red wines – a wine/chocolate match made in heaven!
Brix Medium Dark Chocolate (60%) may be the most versatile of the Brix blends. While its cocoa content is high, it remains composed enough to enhance the fruit forward wines it was originally designed to match; such as softer, rounder styles of Merlot, Cabernet Franc or Syrah, most Zinfandels or Primitivo, as well as zesty, medium bodied reds such as Barbera, Sangiovese, Grenache (a.k.a. Garnacha), Tempranillo, Graciano, or Alvarelhão.
Brix Smooth Dark Chocolate (54%) was originally designed in 2011 to match with sparkling wines; but it is perfectly balanced so it complement a number of lighter, fragrant white wines, both dry and sweet, while carrying enough structure to stand up to medium-bodied or aged reds as well. Brix's 54% is an easy match with fine, perfumed styles of Pinot Noir, but may be even better with Port style dessert reds or "Late Harvest" styles of Zinfandel. You may also be surprised by how well Brix's Smooth-Dark goes with aromatic varietal whites such as Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris, Albariño, Verdejo, Verdelho, or Vermentino.
Brix Milk Chocolate (46%) is a chocolate designed for lighter, fruit-forward reds or sweet dessert wines. The addition of high quality milk chocolate to the single origin Ghanaian product results in a milk chocolate like no other, both creamy and spicy. Enjoy 46% Chocolate especially with medium-sweet Muscats, or easy drinking pink wines (soft White Zinfandel or even dry rosés made from grapes like Grenache, Sangiovese or Barbera).
CHOCOLATE CHILI – ANOTHER LODI WINE COUNTRY TRADITION
You can also expect to find a number of Lodi wineries serving their versions of "chocolate chili" during Wine & Chocolate Weekend.
Why? Because chilis made with the use of pure, unsweetened chocolate as an ingredient goes so darned well with the rounder, lusher, juicier styles of red wines grown abundantly in Lodi. As the Andrews Sisters once sang, it’s just a fact, mon.
For some 20 years, Mike Metcalf and his wife Brenda have been serving some of Lodi’s best breakfasts and lunches at Avenue Grill on W. Lodi Avenue – it is where the Lodi locals eat. The Metcalfs also make a killer chocolate chili; a recipe for which they have graciously shared with us, giving you an idea of what you may be savoring during Lodi's annual wild and wonderful Wine & Chocolate Weekend (purchase tickets here!):
Avenue Grill’s Lodi Chocolate Chili
- 2 tbs. vegetable oil
- 2 ½ lbs. ground chuck
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ tbs. ground black pepper
- 1 ½ cups diced yellow onion
- 1 ½ cups diced green bell pepper
- 64 oz. diced tomato in juice
- 1 pkg. Carroll Shelby’s Original Texas Brand Chili Kit
- 3 tbs. unsweetened cocoa
- 2 tbs. ground cumin
- 16 oz. can Hormel Chili, no beans
- 32 oz. pinto beans
- 32 oz. kidney beans
- In an 8 quart pot, heat oil on medium high heat, add ground chuck
- Season with salt and pepper and cook until almost done (slightly pink)
- Add onions and bell peppers and cook until onion is translucent
- Add diced tomatoes, Texas Chili mix, cocoa, cumin and chili
- Simmer covered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally`
- Add beans and continue to simmer 20 more minutes
Pop open a Lodi Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Tempranillo or Garnacha, and enjoy!