“I treat my wine and chocolate pairings similar to my food and wine pairings,” Holman says, “and follow what I call the Golden Rule of Wine: If you like it, drink it!”
Not one to stand on formality, she says, “Essentially, forget the rules and go with what you enjoy. Choose wines and chocolates that you enjoy on their own, and then let the characteristics of each enhance the experience.”
To illustrate this, she and her husband, Jacob Holman, winemaker at Les Bourgeois, set up a small tasting on a Sunday afternoon. They recently discovered Jcoco, a chocolate company based in Seattle that they really like. “They have the most amazing flavors,” she says, “and come in perfect tasting portions of one ounce.” For every chocolate bar sold, the company donates one serving of food to those in need.
“As in life, it’s all about balance,” Holman says of pairing chocolate with wine. “Each side has to hold its own without overpowering the other and bringing out the best qualities in both the chocolate and the wine.”
Glenn Bardgett, wine director of Annie Gunn’s Restaurant and Smoke House Market in Chesterfield, agrees with Holman that personal taste and preference are key, and offers some classic combos he has learned through experience.
“Dark chocolate (60 percent or higher) loves to be served with deep, rich, dark reds such as Zinfandel but also responds very nicely to a beautiful ruby port,” Bardgett says.
Milk chocolate, on the other hand, does not like intense reds.
“A sparkling pink is my go-to wine for milk chocolate,” Bardgett says, “because most of these wines have a raspberry or strawberry character that complements the chocolate, and the bubbles help cleanse the palate of the sugary component of milk chocolate.” One of his personal favorites for this is Stone Hill Winery Brut Rose, from Hermann.
Tasing notes from Rachel Holman, Les Bourgeois Vineyards
Bali Sea Salt Toffee in Milk Chocolate
With all the health benefits of dark chocolate, everyone’s childhood favorite milk chocolate has become the black sheep of the chocolate world, but this Jcoco chocolate bar elevates what milk chocolate can be. The sea salt and caramel of the milk chocolate round out the decadent toffee notes, which creates a fun pairing with our Fleur Du Vin, a bright, blended wine that is broadly appealing with soft character and fruity aromas.
Cayenne Veracruz Orange in White Chocolate
I am a longtime unapologetic white-chocolate hater — especially when it comes to wine pairings. But this amazing little Jcoco gem has changed my perceptions and allowed for the often-left-out white wine to get in on the pairing fun. This creamy bar boasts citrusy aromas and finishes with a fun kick of cayenne pepper that complements our Winemaker’s Select Vidal beautifully. This wine has just the right amount of acid and structure to complement this dreamsicle delight.
Arabica Espresso in 60 percent Dark Chocolate
For a reliable and classic wine and chocolate pairing, I always go for dark chocolate. I love the subtle nuances that our Burning Barrel Norton brings out in this bar. Both the chocolate and wine have delicate cherry undertones that keep you coming back for just one more taste.
Barbara Gibbs Ostmann serves on the Missouri Wine and Grape Board.