On February 11th, I had an early Valentine’s Day celebration with my dear wife. I found a small event at Public Beer Wine Shop-- a chocolate and wine tasting. Public Beer and Wine Shop is Located on 4th street in Long Beach, California. This year they teamed up with Romeo Chocolates to provide chocolate and wine pairings. Romeo Chocolates was founded by chocolatier Romeo Garcia in 2014.
Garcia traveled to Belgium, where he studied alongside more established chocolatiers. Currently, he makes chocolates by hand, alongside his mother, who he affectionately nicknamed “Momma Chocolate.”
Garcia was at the event to not only provide the chocolates, but to walk us through the proper ways to indulge in each type. The event was sold out. There were 25 guests in attendance and I don't think any of us will look at chocolate the same way again.
The first course was a series of handcrafted chocolate tasting squares: one square was 54% semi sweet Belgian dark chocolate, and another square was 70% Honduran cacao.
Like a wine tasting, Romeo showed us a special way to eat the chocolate squares in a series of steps:
1. Pinch and hold your nose.
2. Take a deep breath and hold it.
3. Exhale and place chocolate on your tongue.
One will find that these steps will enhance the flavors and notes of the chocolate, as the taste buds will become more sensitive and better absorb the chocolates.
The 54% Belgian, semi-sweet chocolate tasted much sweeter than most dark chocolates with over 50% cacao. The 70% Honduran chocolate had some obvious notes of coffee. The milk chocolate had hints of cream and caramel in it.
The wine they paired it with was a 2015 Tank Garage Winery Stars Like Ours sparkling rose. Personally, this wine didn’t really go with the chocolate, but it was tasty. The wine’s makeup was: 72% Pinot Noir, 22% Grenache Noir and 6% Syrah Noir. The wine had hints of Melon and Apricot, but frankly, the Apricot was probably the only note prominent enough to catch
The second chocolate was a Milk Chocolate Ganache Bonbon, shelled in 33% milk chocolate. The milk chocolate bonbon was a wonderful mixture of milk chocolate and cream. This one will be a favorite for anybody who prefers milk chocolate.
The third course of chocolate was a Signature Dark Chocolate Bonbon, which contained: chocolate, cream, agave nectar, butter and was shelled in 54% semi- sweet chocolate. Public paired the bonbons with a Don & Sons Pinot Noir 2014. This wine had aromas of espresso, nutmeg, and toast. There were also undertones of vanilla, cherry parfait, graham cracker crust, and hints of caraway seed. This wine really blended well with the bonbons. Of all the wine pairings, this particular glass of wine blended perfectly.
On a side, if a wine cleans the palate so it feels like taking the first bite each time, it’s a good pairing.
The next chocolate was a 70% Single Origin Honduran chocolate with pistachio, Bing cherry, and sea salt. The Bing cherry and the sea salt brought a nice balance to the heavily concentrated cacao chocolate. I like pistachios, but I didn’t find this one to be necessary. The chocolate was paired with a 2013 Fiddletown Zinfandel. The wine had a nice sweetness from the notes of blackberries. This Fiddletown wine also had hints of black currants and caramel. However, the currants were more traceable than the caramel.
The next chocolate was a Belgian Semi-Sweet Bark with organic strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. The berries brought a nice balance to the darker chocolate. Garcia also added a chocolate covered strawberry, which was a nice addition to the chocolate. The Bodegas Monticello Reserva Rioja 2010, brought a nice balance. This wine had hints of black pepper and tasted more on the savory side. It also had hints of licorice, mint, vanilla and black fruits.
The final chocolate was a white chocolate with a Turkish apricot and almonds. The combination or sweet, crunchy, and fruity gave the chocolate a nice balance. The chocolate was served with a J.P. Chenet Sparkling Rose from France. The sweetness of the wine went well with the white chocolate.
Personally, I believe the milk chocolate bonbon with the pinot noir was best, but the bigger picture here is how one can take something so simplistic and turn it into something complex. As children, we enjoy things like chocolate, in a fairly simplistic manner. As a child, I’d eat my chocolate, savor the flavors and that was the end of it, whether it was Hershey’s, Nestle, or See’s. However, I can now see the complexity of flavors and aromas in a wine and chocolate pairing. This tasting opened my eyes, nose, and taste buds to the depth of quality chocolate and wine. The staffs from the Public Beer Wine Shop and Romeo Garcia were extremely friendly, entertaining and knowledgeable. This was a great experience and one I would recommend for all who are looking for a new "foodie" adventure.