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Our Director of Marketing, Cathy Wisloski, was on WCAX last night, talking about pairing our chocolate with local wine from Shelburne Vineyard. Watch the clip below for some great pairing notes, and read more about the pairings she mentions:

1. Lake View White with our Crème Fraîche Truffle: This wine has a light crisp flavor profile, with a little acidity and a little sweetness. The crème fraiche folded into our smooth milk chocolate in this truffle means there is a slight tartness to its flavor. Together, the sweet crispness in the wine offsets the tanginess in the truffle, creating that elusive, third flavor that only the perfect pairing can produce.

2. Louise Swenson with our Bergamont and Tea infused truffle: The astringency of the tea in this truffle is blended with the richness of the chocolate. Together, the chocolate highlights the fruitiness of the wine, and the wine lifts out the orange spice in the truffle.

3. Duet Ice Wine with our Caramelized almonds: In this pairing, the rich, luscious, thick body, of the wine is complemented by the buttery, rich flavor of the caramelized almonds. Together, the nuttiness in the almonds and the hints of apricot in the wine combine to create an incredible desert pairing

4. Vermont Marquette with our 70% dark Peru Chocolate: The Peruvian origin of the beans in this dark chocolate means it contain deep cherry notes, and these help to bring out the subtle spiciness of the Vermont Marquette, which is rich in a deep red fruit flavor.

Is all this talk making your mouth water? Come Visit Us at Shelburne Vineyard this Saturday, February 9, from 11 am to 5pm, to try it for yourself!

How To Host a Chocolate Tasting

Posted on November 20, 2012 12:44 PM by Caitlin

Like it or not, the holiday season is fast approaching. To many, this means the joy of being surrounded by friends and family, be it for a Thanksgiving feast or for a carol-singing session around the Christmas tree. One thing is for certain, though: the season is full of opportunities to entertain. Hot cocoa and cookies is still a great traditional way to placate the grandkids (and we do have some delicious hot cocoa, if you’re so inclined,) but if you’re looking to become the host that everyone is talking about this season, read on.

For the true foodies out there, chocolate is more than just a delicious confection. Sure, it comes with health benefits, but it also comes packed with a variety of different tones and flavors that can be parsed and paired with everything from beer and wine to cheese. To impress your guests, host a chocolate tasting or pairing party. Here’s what to do:

First, you’ll want to make sure to learn how to taste chocolate. As tempting as it is just to eat it, to truly gain an understanding of all of the varieties of flavor in each different chocolate, you will want to make sure you involve all of your senses in the process. Here’s what we suggest you look for when tasting chocolate. And if you want to know how we do it, read our notes on our Sensory Panel.

To host a chocolate tasting party in the purest form, try looking at our single source bars. The beans in these bars come from just one location, so the flavors vary tremendously. You always want to start with the lightest chocolate first, so:

  1. 54% Dark ChocolateStart with our 54% Dark Chocolate. This isn’t a single source – it’s a combination of beans from Ghana, Sao Thome (an island off of the west coast of Africa,) and Tanzania – but it’s a great place to get your chocolate bearings, since this is the dark chocolate we use most frequently to make our truffles and other treats. Try and think about all of the flavors involved. What do you taste under the “chocolate” flavor?

  2. Sao Thome 70% Dark ChocolateMove on to our Sao Thome. This should taste quite different from the 54%, and not just because it is a little more bitter due to the higher cocoa percentage. Can you discern some earthy flavors? Maybe a slight hint of vanilla? Some people even taste a bit of olive.

  3. Peru 70% Dark ChocolateNext try our Peru. This is the same cacao percentage as the Sao Thome, but the beans come from the other side of the world. Can you taste the difference? It is much creamier, and has much fruitier tones than the Sao Thome. Can you taste a slightly unripe banana? There are also some nice floral tones in there. One thing to note about our Peru, is that, unlike most of our chocolate, which is made with about 20% cocoa butter, our Peru has 40% cocoa butter, making it deliciously smooth and creamy.

  4. Tanzania 75% Dark ChocolateNow taste our Tanzania. This is a 75%, so it’s a little higher in cocoa than the last two you tried, but again, for something so close in cocoa content, it tastes surprisingly different. How does this compare to the Peru and Sao Thome? What types of flavors can you pick out? Perhaps a ripe banana? We use this one to make our delicious fudge sauce (available only in our retail stores) because the fruity tones blend deliciously with ice cream.

  5. African Blend 80% Dark ChocolateAs a penultimate step, move on to the African blend. At 80%, this is the highest cocoa content chocolate we produce. It is made from the same blend as the 54% (Ghana, Sao Thome and Tanzania). How does this compare to the others? What can you taste?

  6. And finally, we have worked our way through higher and higher cocoa percentages so now go back and try one more bite of the 54%. Has the taste changed from what you originally perceived? Are you surprised?


Of course, doing an entire tasting like this means two things: first, that, by the end, unless you take very small bites of each (which I suggest you do!) you’ll most likely have had enough chocolate to last you the rest of the evening. Second, you will also realize quite quickly that it is important to have water on hand, if only to cleanse the palate a little.

If you’re looking to do a pairing, though, alcohol is also a great way to refresh your palate. The natural acidity, particularly in beer, will help rid your mouth of some of the fat residue left from the chocolate. To find beer and wine that pair nicely with chocolate, use the flavors you discerned in the chocolates to find drinks with similar or complementary tones. Here’s what we came up with when we hosted a party.

We also have a history of pairing our chocolates with beer. Look through what we’ve done in the past here.

Finally, why not progress a little further, and involve another Vermont specialty: cheese? You can find some of our pairing suggestions for chocolate and cheese here.

Have you thought of a good chocolate pairing, or discovered an interesting flavor in one of our chocolates? Post your ideas for a chocolate pairing on our Facebook Page

Blue Bandana Chocolate

What do wine and chocolate have in common? Aside from the fact that they can pair very well together, quite a lot!

Last Thursday evening, the Echo Center hosted a wine tasting event, featuring wines from several terroirs in France and Italy. The wines were delicious, but what made the event extra interesting was the table of our Blue Bandana Chocolate that also made an appearance. With both high-quality wine and high-quality chocolate present, it wasn't a hard step to start to draw comparisons between the two, in terms of both tasting and origin.

Let’s take the concept of a terroir: A terroir, as Jason Zuliani from Dedalus Wine explained, is a sense of location and place for the grapes. As Jason put it, "this wine exists to communicate place." All aspects of that place can influence the wine, from the soil to the climate to the age of the grape vines. Here are two quick examples from the event:

The age of the vines played an important part in the flavors that came out. Older vines produce fewer grapes, and those they produce tend to be more concentrated, so that the older the vine, the more it can contribute to something in the flavor. For instance, there were two 2010 Riofavara "Nero D’Avola" Sicilian wines at the event: the "Spaccaforno" and the "Sciavè." Both are produced in the same year, but the Sciavè used older vines (43 years instead of 30). The difference in taste was clear! The older vines had a more rounded flavor with bolder tones.

The location and soil of the vines changes the flavor of the grapes created. For example, with the Chablis we tasted, there were two types: Chablis and Petit Chablis, both made from Chardonnay grapes and grown in the same town. But the Petit Chablis, had slightly less limestone in its soil, whereas the Chablis had more. As a result, the Petit Chablis was a bit more crisp and fresh, and the Chablis more rounded.

Now, let’s take these two examples over to chocolate:

Blue Bandana at Echo

The plants themselves: Cocoa trees have a lot in common with grape vines. For one thing, both have to reach maturity before they begin to produce. In the case of grape vines, this can be 3-5 years. For cocoa trees, it’s 5-6. In both plants, a lot of thought goes into the specific type of plant being used. In the cocoa world more and more farmers and producers are getting the skills they need to graft "super producer" trees onto trees that produce fewer cocoa pods. The wine industry is slightly ahead here, but it’s the same concept.

Location: Sourcing cocoa beans, and the soil type and area in which the trees are grown, is just as important with chocolate as it is with wine. We produce several varieties of chocolate from specific sources, including our Tanzania, Peru, Sao Thome, and, from Blue Bandana, a Madagascar and a Guatemala. All of these have differentiating tastes, based on the locations where they were produced. For instance, Madagascar is a huge spice producer, so when you take a bite of our chocolate, you can taste the hints of cinnamon and vanilla wrapped in chocolate. Guatemala, on the other hand, grows a lot of bananas, and those flavors translate into the chocolate itself.

So you see, terroir is important to both wine and chocolate!

Finally, what’s better than tasting wine and chocolate? Tasting them together to see how they work! From the various combinations around, we found two that were true winners:

Chocolate Pairing Set

1. The Blue Bandana Madagascar Black Pepper with the Sang Des Cailloux Cuvée Lopy: The peppery taste of the chocolate brought out new and different sweetnesses in the wine, and the chocolate just blossomed with the help of this delicious red from the Southern Rhône.

2. The Blue Bandana Guatemala with the 1997 Chablis: 1997 was a great growing year for the grapes, and age has only intensified the almost honey-like flavors in this wine. Taste it with the Guatemala and you’ll be amazed at how it brings out the fruit tones in what I often consider to be a very flowery chocolate.

And, for those of you who attended the event and want to remember, or for any of you who missed it and want to recreate it on your own, here’s the list of wines we tried. Don’t forget to continue to experiment on pairing them with our chocolate!

Domaine le Sang Des Cailloux
Winemaker: Serge Férigoule
Country: France
Region: Southern Rhone/Vacqueryas
2010 Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras
2010 Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras "Cuvée Lopy"
2010 Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras Blanc

Winemaker: Massimo Padova
Country: Italy
Region: Sicily/Eloro
2010 Riofavara Eloro Nero d’Avola "Spaccaforno"
2010 Riofavara Eloro Nero d’Avola "Sciavè"

Roland Lavantureux
Winemaker: Roland Lavantureux
Country: France
Region: Burgundy/Chablis
2010 Lavantureux Chablis
2011 Lavantureux Chablis
2010 Lavantureux Petit Chablis
2011 Lavantureux Petit Chablis
2008 Lavantureux Chablis magnum
1997 Lavantureux Chablis magnum

You wouldn’t expect to find Lake Champlain Chocolates at Palmetto Bluff’s Music To Your Mouth Festival – a week long celebration of the Low Country cuisine and lifestyle.  I was fortunate to attend the fourth annual event this year and joined Jim, as host of the Chocolate Decadence Cruise Aboard the Grace.

On a beautiful, sunny fall afternoon, we boarded the 60 foot antique motor yacht and spent two hours touring the May River.  Most of the guests were intrigued with the chocolate, cheese, beer, wine, and conversation; however for me, the highlight was seeing dolphins frolicking in the water.

Our menu began with Champagne, the ideal beverage for ANY chocolate!

We served an unexpected ‘cheese course’ next.  Fresh goat cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy spread on a simple cracker topped with a Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel.  Guests were surprised to see a whole caramel atop a cracker with cheese.  Once they tasted it and experienced the salty-sweet-sour explosion of flavor, they were convinced this should be on the menu for their next cocktail party. Next up was a Sharp Cheddar Cheese with Caramelized Almonds.  With most of the guests being from the Northeast and accustomed to a sharp cheddar from Grafton or Shelburne Farms, all agreed that the pairing with the caramelized almonds was good but would have been better with a more pungent cheese.

At this point, our palates were looking for liquid refreshment so we shifted gears and got into the beers.  The locally brewed Thomas Creek IPA, was a refreshing choice with the fruitiness of Dark Chocolate Covered Orange Peels.  We headed to the darker side next pairing the Thomas Creek Porter with our newest creation, the Peanut Chocolate Caramel.  The saltiness from the roasted peanuts balanced nicely with the chocolatey notes in the Porter.

Savory  and bold flavors were next – Blue Cheese alongside the Organic 70% Dark Chocolate Truffle.  The dairy notes from the butter and cream in the Truffle counterbalanced the bold, salty, and sour of the Blue Cheese.  While I’m not a big fan of blue cheese, the chocolate offered a nice ‘sweetener’ to cleanse my palate.

The Organic Vanilla Truffle, also in 70% dark chocolate was matched with Leitz’s Reisling, Rheingau which offered a sweet honeyed nose that was ripe, melony and pure. The palate was fresh and limey with overly bright apple fruit notes.

Our last pairing of the afternoon was to be with a single vineyard Zinfandel from Quivira's Wine Creek Ranch vineyard, a hilly area in Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley.  It was an enjoyable Zin, which became even more enjoyable after it was opened up a bit.   Not too jammy, hints of pepper, fresh thyme and a nice finish.  The plan was to recommend the Spicy Aztec Organic Chocolate with it.  I really liked this combination.  Jim much preferred the simple 54% Dark Chocolate.  We gave our guests the option of about six choices – seemed that most did indeed prefer the spicy Aztec with the spicy Zin.

A great time was had by all and it was fun to see these chocolate lovers at other events throughout the weekend, including Friday night’s Supper Club Block Party where I was fortunate to eat the food of the Bayou region by Bravo’s Top Chef Winner, Kevin Sbraga.  Not only was his food outstanding; his personality and conversation was equally enjoyable.  Both of us got to enjoy Saturday’s festival on the Green at Palmettto Bluff’s Village – eating and drinking food from the most talented local artisans.  Gail Simmons, from Food & Wine Magazine and judge of Top Chef, moderated the cooking demonstrations by other Top Chef competitors like Chef Kevin Gillespie of Atlanta’s Woodfire Grill and Chef Kenny Gilbert of Nippers Beach Grille in Jacksonville, FL.  They demonstrated that simple food is often most enjoyable and that holds true for chocolate pairings.  Experiment & intrigue the guests at your next event!


Host a Chocolate & Cheese Pairing Party

Posted on December 23, 2009 9:23 AM by Erin

Every year, it seems like more and more people are hosting their own New Year's Eve party instead of spending the night out on the town.  But with entertaining comes a lot of planning and hard work.  What will you do?  What will you serve?  One way to both keep it simple and have fun while you wait for the ball to drop is to have a chocolate & cheese pairing party.

Arrange different combinations of chocolates and cheeses around the room (with cards identifying each) for guests to sample and discuss.  Have them start with the mildest pairing and then work their way up.  You can even print out instruction cards, with advice on how to taste like a pro.

For guests to cleanse their palates between pairings, you might want to serve a dry sparkling wine such as Presecco (it is the holidays after all!).  Sparkling water, plain crackers, or baskets of fresh bread also work nicely.

Our friends over at the Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery came up with a few pairings to help you get you started (you can also watch Allison Hooper, owner/cheese maker, demonstrate these pairings on VPT Cooks Chocolate):

• Fresh Goat Cheese (Chevre) with Dark Sea Salt Caramels

• Sharp Vermont Cheddar with Dark Chocolate Covered Ginger or Ginger Lemon Organic Truffles

• Blue Cheese with 70% Dark Organic Truffles

• Hard Sheep’s Milk Cheese with Organic Honey Fig Truffles or with Organic Milk Chocolate Sea Salt & Almonds

• Bijou with Spicy Aztec Organic Dark Chocolate

• Bonne Bouche with Champagne Truffles

These are just a few suggestions; you could also browse your local cheese shop for other ideas and recommendations.  Just remember, as Allison says in the video, there are no absolute right answers for pairing...just have fun & enjoy!

Chocolate and Wine together. Seriously?

Posted on May 8, 2008 9:56 AM by Admin

Last night at the factory, we hosted a Chocolate and Wine pairing as a fundraiser for a local group, Queen City Police Foundation. At the event, 2 whites and 2 reds were paired specifically with an individual chocolate. Now, I know people are pairing wine with everything these days but I was still uncertain how the flavors were going to match up. I’ve only ever had solid dark chocolate with red wine.

Our local wine experts worked with our chocolate truffles and nuts to find the perfect match and here is what we had –

Prosecco with Milk Chocolate Covered Macadamia Nuts
Riesling with Grande Valencia Truffles
Monastrell with White Raspberry Truffles
Cabernet Sauvignon with 70% Dark Chocolate Truffles

Each wine and chocolate on it’s own was delightful, as one would expect. However, paired together, they were truly delicious. Who knew these flavors would work so well in tandem? So, here’s a tip. Next time you have a special gathering to host – bridal shower, rehearsal dinner, girls night, workplace social – why not try something new like a chocolate and wine pairing. Simply offering one or two of these to your guests will move your event from just another party to something memorable. But watch out, your guests will come to expect it!