The Culture Club

The Culture Club



Pairing food and wine is simply finding a balance of flavors.

Sparkling wines, triple-crème cheeses and chocolate, all holiday favorites, share a lexicon of potential descriptors including creamy, buttery, sweet, spicy, luscious, luxuriant, nutty, robust, acidic, salty and umami.

The processes for crafting all three also share similarities. Cacao beans are often fermented using the same species of yeast used to ferment wine grapes (and beer, for that matter). Yeast is also at play in some cheesemaking, helping to form the white fluffy rind on the surface of soft ripened cheeses.

So, why not enjoy them together this holiday season? We think you’ll be glad you did.

Our second pairing is newcomer Volo Chocolate’s 62% dark milk chocolate bar with brown butter and almonds and Andante Dairy’s Picolo triple-crème cheese.

Jeff and Susan Mall, former owners of Zin restaurant in Healdsburg, recently returned to Wine Country after a stint as executive chefs at a resort in Mexico. While south of the border, the couple fell in love with Mexican-grown cacao and the ancient fire-roasting technique still practiced by some of Mexico’s chocolatiers. Fire roasting imparts a unique depth of flavor to Volo chocolate bars, and the addition of brown butter and roasted almonds plays brilliantly with the nutty, slightly sweet Picolo.

Andante’s brilliant cheesemaker Soyoung Scanlan adds crème fraîche to the curd while crafting this Jersey milk cheese, giving it a creamy, but never bland, mouthfeel and taste. The stone-ground chocolate and almonds serve as an exciting contrast to the creaminess of the cheese.

Finally, we recommend pairing Iron Horse’s Rainbow Cuvee with Volo’s 73% Deep Dark Chocolate and Marin French Cheese Company’s Triple Crème Brie.

Volo sources its cacao from the mountainous Chiapas region of Mexico, and the 73% packs a powerful flavor punch. Fire roasting, then the addition of sea salt from Baja California and unrefined sugar, adds to the richness of character in this bar.