An Opportunity to Test Wine-and-Chocolate Pairings

Switzerland1 copyI don’t need much of an excuse to indulge in chocolate, whether it comes in the form of a bar or a cake or a hot morning beverage.

When Michelle and I took our pre-wedding honeymoon to Europe, one of our stops was the chocolate factory of Cailler, which is Switzerland’s oldest chocolate brand. That’s a shot of us on the way in. On the way out, we were carrying a couple very large handle bags filled with goodies for our family.

Well, mostly for our family…

If you bring up chocolate as part of a wine-pairing discussion, be prepared to witness a passionate debate. There are those who feel that wine and chocolate should never touch the same lips at the same time. There are others who believe that chocolate — dark chocolate, in particular — can make a wonderful pairing partner for big red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, as well as sweet wines such as Port.

Me? I’ve had better luck with the sweet stuff than the dry stuff, but I always keep an open mind about the topic. I believe that on any given day, the right wine paired with the right chocolate could produce culinary fireworks.

And I’m willing to keep trying until it happens. What’s the worst thing that could happen? I’d waste one piece of chocolate or one sip of wine? Those are chances I’m willing to take in pursuit of ultimate pairing partners.ChocolateSign

So, when we encountered this sign at the winery, the answer posed (translated in the lower right corner) was easy to answer.

The question: “For you, when is it time for chocolate?”

Our answer: “Pretty much anytime.”

Which brings me to the real reason for today’s post: the annual two-day Ghiradelli Chocolate Festival at Ghiradelli Square in San Francisco. Here’s what one of America’s iconic chocolate makers has in store for this year’s event:

  • Ghirardelli Chocolate Lounge (formerly the chocolate and wine pavilion): A place to sip and savor premium samples from local wineries, breweries, spirits makers and gourmet dessert vendors in the heart of the festival. This new and exclusive area of the event will require an additional “Lounge” ticket good for even more gourmet tastings. Open only to guests 21 years and older.
  • Ghirardelli Chocolate Earthquake Ice Cream Eating Contest: Festival attendees compete or just witness the hilarity as six lucky people eat the famous Ghirardelli Earthquake Sundae as fast as they can without using their hands. Battling each other and their own stomachs, competitors are sure to make this experience a memorable (and delicious) one. Children also compete with a smaller version of the Earthquake Sundae. There are three competitions on both Saturday and Sunday.
  • Chocolate School: “From Cocoa Bean to Chocolate Bar.” Ghirardelli’s own “Chocolate Professor,” Steve Genzoli, will take audience members through a tour of the delicious chocolate-making process. Learn every step a bean takes to become that mouthwatering chocolate bar.
  • Chef Demonstrations: Local culinary professionals work their delicious magic on both Saturday and Sunday on the festival’s Culinary Stage. Be engaged in all things chocolate and learn the inside scoop on many delectable delights. Learning has never tasted so good.

Best of all, proceeds from ticket sales benefit Project Open Hand, which provides meals to seniors and critically ill people. For ticket information, go to:

If you go, take a few Ghiradelli mini bars with you to the Chocolate Lounge and try them with some of the featured wines. Tasting is the best way to discover the combinations that work for you.

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