Chocolatouring in California Wine Country

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It seems appropriate to toast the New Year with a post about our recent visit to California Wine Country, in which friend and fellow blogger Susan Cooper arranged chocolate and wine pairings for us in selected wineries of Napa, Sonoma, and Lodi. What could be better than five women travelling the scenic hills of California in a comfortable van with our fun-filled designated driver (Elizabeth Scott), tasting wine, fine chocolate, and exotic cheeses? That’s what Chocolatouring is all about!

pure indulgence: chocolate and wine pairings in California wine country

From our comfortable base in Elk Grove, California (located in Sacramento County, and just south of the city of Sacramento) we visited a variety of wineries beginning with Beringer, the first winery in the Napa Valley to offer public tours. It is a large and well-established company, originally founded in 1876. Beringer is actually located in the community of St. Helena, and has a historic estate where you can taste, shop, meander, and participate in a variety of special events. Check out their website if you plan to be in the area. We enjoyed the Beringer wine pairings with Scharffen Berger Chocolate— which is made in San Francisco, and now owned by the Hershey Company.

wine-and-chocolate

At Beringer Winery, we were able to sample four wines and four different types of Scharffen Berger Chocolate.

For $20 each, we were able to taste four wines and four chocolates. I particularly enjoyed the Beringer Merlot and the Scharffen Berger 42% milk chocolate. If money is no object, go to the tasting room in the Beringer mansion and taste the reserve wines. The award-winning Reserve sells for $80/bottle, but has a rating of 97.

Our next stop took us down the road to the more laid-back community of Sonoma, where we had a delicious tasting of Meadowcroft Wines paired with a variety of delicious cheeses. Meadowcroft is a small winery that produces excellent quality wines and has won several awards. I loved the 2011 Chardonnay, which paired nicely with the blue cheese and nuts on our tasting slabs.

meadowcroft-tasting

Meadowcroft Winery offers a wine and cheese with chocolate pairing.

We completed the tasting with a wine-infused chocolate truffle courtesy of Anette’s Chocolates by Brent located in the Napa Valley. I wish I’d had time to visit with Brent and learn about his chocolate operation. Maybe next time, but on this trip, we opted instead for a tour of the Meadowcroft vineyard, complete with a personal serenade from our handsome guide. Meadowcroft also has a gorgeous events venue for weddings and special events. We enjoyed a picnic lunch on their grounds.

serenade-at-meadowcroft

We gals really enjoyed being serenaded by this handsome young guide at the Meadowcroft Winery.

I think the most fun tasting was the following day in Lodi, when we visited Fields Family Vineyard and Winery. This is a small boutique winery making some excellent red wines. I was enamoured with the 2011 Old Vine Zin. The full-bodied Zinfandel is a deep red colour and appealed to me as it is much “meatier” than many other California reds. We had fun with Michael Perry, the “direct to consumer” manager of the winery who worked hard to create purposeful pairings of his wines with various different chocolates.

crushed-grapes

It was interesting to see the crushed grapes fermenting at Fields Family Winery.

Exploring Lodi was fun. It is an unassuming community of just over 60,000 inhabitants that claims to be the “Zinfandel Capital of the World.” Based on the wines I tried, I could go along with that.

susan-cooper

Susan Cooper (right) sure knows how to show a girl a good time.

Cheers and thanks to author, blogger, illustrator, wine enthusiast, good friend and host extraordinaire, Susan Cooper, for making our visit to the Sacramento Valley and Wine Country an incredibly fabulous diversion.

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Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

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34 Responses

  1. Grace says:

    What a wonderful trip! On another note, your book just arrived and I can’t wait to dive into it maybe with glass of wine and some chocolate!

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Yahoo, Grace! I’ll forward to your thoughts on my book once you’ve had a chance to ‘digest’ it. Reading with wine and chocolate at your side is definitely the way to go! Enjoy!

  2. Cheryl
    Twitter:
    says:

    It was a wonderful time with great friends! Susan was an extraordinary host. :)
    Cheryl recently posted…My Time As A Verizon AmbassadorMy Profile

  3. Sherryl Perry
    Twitter:
    says:

    I always enjoy taking these little “trips” with you Doreen! Your writing style and images help me forget that it’s going to be -7 degrees tonight. :) It was great to see the picture of you at Susan’s. I wish I could have been there with all of you!
    Sherryl Perry recently posted…Facebook Business Pages, WordPress Widgets #FridayFindsMy Profile

  4. Susan Cooper
    Twitter:
    says:

    It was a wonderful adventure all around for all of us. It would be hard for me to express just the how fun it really was. I and Elizabeth had a blast hosting Cheryl, you and Mary Ann. :)
    Susan Cooper recently posted…Homemade Granola: RecipeMy Profile

  5. Catarina says:

    What a wonderful idea, Doreen, Susan and Cheryl. Hope I will be in the States in the future and meet up with you!
    Catarina recently posted…Can Mary Barra lead General Motors?My Profile

  6. Looks like a fabulous trip and what fun to meet virtual friends face-to-face! I’ve a few of those relationships myself that have proved to be enduring friendships. Thanks for taking us tripping with you :)
    Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) recently posted…Where’s The Justice…Great Gams!My Profile

  7. Gabbi says:

    Is there anything better than wine, chocolate and cheese? Only being in California. I was just out there visiting my family. On my next trip, I’d like to do a wine tasting tour since I’m of age. Great post. Thanks for the suggestions!

  8. Greg says:

    Look at you gals! Sounds like a great adventure Doreen. I’m going to (seriously) try my first glass of wine + chocolate now.

    Dark choco + boxed wine; let you know how it goes.

    If money were “no object” I would definitely be out in Napa too :)
    Greg recently posted…9 Answers to “Why Do You Blog?”My Profile

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Hi Greg: Just to clarify, not all wine goes with all chocolate. As I say in the post, and allude to in my book, the pairings must be deliberate and purposeful. i.e. not any wine will go with every kind of chocolate.

      Here is a sure match you might like to try: Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt bar pairs very nicely with a Malbec from Argentina. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

  9. Patricia Weber
    Twitter:
    says:

    Thanks for sharing this fabulous time with us. I could smell the chocolate and taste the wine. How I am going to work now?? What a wonderful gift to be able to meet up with fellow online bloggers. That’s enough to to enjoy!
    Patricia Weber recently posted…2014 Mantras or Intentions, instead of Resolutions or RevolutionsMy Profile

  10. A.K.Andrew
    Twitter:
    says:

    Wow! Sounds like a fabulous trip Doreen, and so sorry I missed it this time. It’s great for me to hear about Meadowcroft wines in Sonoma . It is more laid back in Sonoma, but there’s a lot of wineries, so it’s great to have a recommendation. I’ll let you know when we’ve been.
    Happy New Year Doreen:-)
    A.K.Andrew recently posted…6 Resources for Writing InspirationMy Profile

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Thanks, A.K. Happy New Year to you as well.

      Yes, it’s such a shame that we were so close in meeting, but it didn’t happen. Well, if my dream comes true and Chocolatour is the big success I know it should be, I’ll be back in CA before you know it! Looking forward to it. :-)

  11. Donna Janke says:

    Wow. Sounds like a lot of fun. I want to make that trip now.
    Donna Janke recently posted…I, You, She: Story and PerspectiveMy Profile

  12. Oh, yummy. This sounds like a delightfully decadent time. And you got to hang with our fellow bloggers! I think I would have enjoyed the Meadowcraft outing the best, not only because of the serenade (bonus!) but also the wine plus cheese plus chocolate. Really, does anyone need anything else?!
    Krystyna Lagowski recently posted…Volvo: Sweet on safetyMy Profile

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      You bet, Krysyna! I could have definitely spent the entire day at Meadowcroft. It had a wonderful vibe, and the wines were terrific, too. Happy New Year to you.

  13. Jeri
    Twitter:
    says:

    Looks like a lovely time was had by all. I’ve only been to California wine country once, but would love to go again someday. There’s so much to see and do and eat and drink!
    Jeri recently posted…JeriWB Blog Resolutions 2014My Profile

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      For sure, Jeri. I could easily have spent 2 weeks there. California is such an amazing state. So much variety of experiences to be had! I definitely hope to return soon.

  14. Jason B
    Twitter:
    says:

    It looks like you had a wonderful time. I have never been to California wine country, but this post makes me want to go.
    Jason B recently posted…January Debt UpdateMy Profile

  15. Becc says:

    All I can say is that I am green with envy!
    Becc recently posted…The Anxiety of Food IntolerancesMy Profile

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Don’t be envious, Becc! I see you live in Australia. There is some cocoa being grown in Australia, and you now have some artisanal chocolate being produced there. Have you tried Daintree?

      The nice thing about artisanal and bean-to-bar chocolate is that it is usually chemical, additive, and allergen free.
      Doreen recently posted…a taste of the Los Angeles Chocolate SalonMy Profile

  16. I’m green with envy Doreeen

  17. Penny Sadler says:

    Doreen, I so wish I’d done this when I visited Napa Valley in March. I did have a chocolate and wine pairing at Castello amorosa which was divine. My favorite food combo.
    Penny Sadler recently posted…Fiesta Santa Barbara: Photo EssayMy Profile

  1. January 9, 2014

    […] Beringer is actually located in the community of St. Helena, and has a historic estate where you can taste, shop, meander, and participate in a variety of special events. Check out their website if you plan to be in the area.  […]

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