Chocolatouring in California Wine Country

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.


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 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.


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.


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 (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.

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.

35 Responses

  1. 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

  2. I’m green with envy Doreeen

  3. Becc says:

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

    • Doreen 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

  4. Jason B 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

  5. Jeri 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 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.

  6. 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 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.

  7. 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

  8. A.K.Andrew 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 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. 🙂

  9. 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

    • Doreen says:

      Hi Pat: Yes, I consider the BHB group to be one of the best discoveries I have made online. It’s an amazing group of people. Always new ones coming and going, but the core remains the same. I’ve made some great friends there as you can see. Cheers!
      Doreen recently posted…Chocolatouring in California Wine CountryMy Profile

  10. 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 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!

  11. 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!

  12. 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

    • Doreen says:

      You’re most welcome, Jacquie. I absolutely love the internet for enabling us to make friends all over the world from the comfort of our homes. And then, should we desire, we can take those virtual friendships off the screen and into the real world and what a joy that can be. Cheers!
      Doreen recently posted…Chocolatouring in California Wine CountryMy Profile

  13. 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

    • Doreen says:

      Hi Catarina: Elizabeth Scott from BHB was also among us. She helped organize the tour and was our excellent driver. It was indeed much fun! I am hoping that at some point, my chocolate travels will take me to Sweden and I will meet you there. Cheers!

  14. 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

    • Doreen says:

      Thanks, Susan. Elizabeth was indeed great. I had alluded to her as our “fun-filled designated driver” but have now added her name there in the post as well, as both Mary Ann and I really appreciated how much the two of you did for us (and Cheryl.) Cheers!
      Doreen recently posted…Chocolatouring in California Wine CountryMy Profile

  15. 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

  16. Cheryl says:

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

    • Doreen says:

      Thanks so much, Cheryl. It was terrific meeting you, and sharing the experience with you, Elizabeth and Mary Ann. I hope we can do it again soon. 🙂

  17. 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 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!

  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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