Prior to joining Ghirardelli as a chocolatier, Kevin Tamaki spent nearly a decade with several wineries in Northern California.

Ghirardelli Chocolate Co.’s Intense Dark line of chocolates pairs up with a broad range of wines as the company’s chocolatier and wine expert, Kevin Tamaki, and Candy Industry’s staff reveal.

“There’s nothing better than agood friend, except a good friend with chocolate.”
Linda Grayson

Imagine a good friend with wine and chocolate. Is there any better way to double one’s pleasure? As cited earlier in our first wine pairing article (November 2010), more and more chocolate makers and consumers are finding the pleasures of both multiplied when combined.

In this instance, Ghirardelli Chocolate Co. teamed up with members of Candy Industry’s staff to take readers on an intensely flavorful journey.

The trip begins with Ghirardelli’s line of Intense Dark chocolates, an all-natural line of dark chocolates featuring different cacao contents as well as a mix of wonderful inclusions. Kevin Tamaki, Ghirardelli’s chocolatier who’s also worked at wineries for nearly a decade, worked with panels in pairing not only wine but “nibbles” with the chocolate to further develop tasting adventures.

The rule of thumb when sampling wines is to start with the lightest and end with the heaviest. Naturally, there are always exceptions to the rule, especially when doing tastings.

Another good tip involving sampling wines is to let the wine breathe. Thus, tasters should give the glass a swirl. Often, a thin film will show up on the glass, known as “legs” in wine circles. Wines with “legs” have body to them.

After swirling, a good healthy sniff of the wine’s aromas is paramount. Here, tasters can savor the essences lingering in the wine.

Prior to swallowing, take in some air and then swish the wine inside the mouth back and forth to ensure a full explosion of all the wine’s characteristics. Enjoy the moment. Think of the wine’s taste progression, the first encounter, the lingering middle and the finish.

Candy Industry, following general recommendations from Ghirardelli Chocolate, chose the wines for pairing with the company’s Intense Dark line. Chocolatier Kevin Tamaki chose the same wines and provides his comments alongside Candy Industry’s staff as a comparative review of the pairings.

Hazelnut Heaven

Deep roasted hazelnuts perfectly complement this sweeter dark chocolate, adding a delicate crunch to the surrounding velvety smooth dark chocolate. The mouth-watering aroma of intense chocolate shines through with bright notes reminiscent of ripe berries, and finishes in the rich flavor and texture of premium finely chopped hazelnuts.

2008 Murphy Goode Chardonnay

The aromas and flavors of red apple, pear and tropical fruits have streaks of lemon crème with nice minerality and hints of vanilla.

Kevin Tamaki: Vanilla notes in the wine helps create a sweet impression that pairs well with the sweet chocolate and the roast notes of the hazelnuts. The acidity in the wine helps clear the palate, leaving it ready for more.

Candy Industry: Wine’s acidic aftertaste accentuates the hazelnuts; sweetness of chocolate cuts bitterness of the wine; oakiness pairs well with hazelnuts.

Sea Salt Soiree

This slightly sweeter dark chocolate is blended with coarse crystals of sea salt, delivering savory peaks of saltiness. Slow-roasted almonds add a familiar nutty texture, completing the symphony of salty and sweet flavors that come together as the perfect everyday indulgence.

2008 Edmeades Zinfandel

The 2008 Edmeades Mendocino Zinfindel’s tannins are soft and supple, the cherry fruit is vivacious, and the addition of Petite Sirah and Syrah adds a nice rural feel with earthy notes and some nice structure.

Kevin Tamaki: The round, soft character of the wine works with the sweet-salty play of the chocolate.

Candy Industry: Interesting combination, combining salt and pepper flavors. Chocolate brings out cherry flavors in wine. The pair, together, is chewy and satisfying; perfect marriage.

Toffee Interlude

This slightly sweeter dark chocolate is blended with abundant crunchy toffee and caramelized almonds, both adding buttery, rich caramel notes and flavor, as well as textural highlights. With a seductive, yet soothing aroma, this bar has a complex texture and blends the perfect balance of sweet and salty flavors.

Kevin Tamaki: This wine with its sweet, nutty flavors should work very well with the sweet, caramel notes of the toffee and caramelized almonds; accenting the nuttiness and brown notes of the bar.

Candy Industry: Sherry brings out the salt in the toffee. Dessert pairing works well; compliments the sweet nuttiness of chocolate.

Alvear Cream Montilla

This cream sherry has a deep walnut color with enticing aromas of caramel, roasted nuts and vanilla. The palate is sweet, balanced, and flat-out delicious.

86% Midnight Reverie

This deep, full-bodied flavor is noticeable up front and even throughout with hints of dark cherries, dried plums and a roasted flavor from the high cacao content. The supremely smooth texture has a fine, crisp snap with overall round, warm chocolate notes that linger for a lasting, enchanting finish.

2009 Barnard Griffin Syrah

Stylish and fruity, offering a stunning array of dark berry and thickly layered plum flavors. Hints of pomegranate and black licorice chime in on the long, satisfying finish.

Kevin Tamaki: The full-bodied, round, dark berry notes of the Syrah should bring out the red cherry notes of the chocolate. The tannin level of the wine should stand up to the high cacao content of the chocolate.

Candy Industry: Blackberry and pepper notes of the wine help smooth out high cocoa content of the chocolate. Chocolates balances out the palette, resulting in a smooth finish. Nice contrast.

60% Evening Dream

Milder, perfectly balanced chocolate notes have ripe red fruit flavors and lots of character creating an impeccable 60% cacao. Light, yet vibrant chocolate notes shine through this creamy dark chocolate with exquisitely smooth texture and creamy mouthfeel.

2007 Salviano Vendemmia

Very concentrated, elegant and subtle to smelling, full and intense, with an excellent bouquet that comes from both pure aromas of the grapes and particular notes appointed by development of noble rot. Aromatic and acidic freshness, which makes the wine pleasant and inviting.Candy Industry: The chocolate balances out some of the overly sweet edges off the wine. Sweet pairing detracts from both the wine and the chocolate.

72% Twilight Delight

This slow-melting, pure dark chocolate is highly aromatic, with mocha, blackberry and dark chocolate notes throughout. With 72% cacao, the intense chocolate flavor is highlighted by the silky smooth texture and creamy mouthfeel. This sensuous chocolate has a long finish and delightful, lingering flavor.

2008 Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2008 Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon offers up-front aromas of ripe red fruit, followed by similar vibrant and rich berry flavors.

Kevin Tamaki: Maybe too mellow of a cabebernet to pair with the 72% cacao. May work better with the 60% Evening Dream with less cacao and more sweetness.

Candy Industry: Chocolate brings out very floral, even perfumery elements in the wine. Interestingly, wine seems to introduce tannins into the chocolate. Perfect balance of dark and sweetness.