The Sweet Life

The Sweet Life


Photo courtesy of La Forêt

Wine Country’s Artisan Chocolate Makers

Some of us are lucky enough to have had our doctors “prescribe” a square of chocolate a day—good for the heart, they say—and some of us are just “chocoholics.”

I recall as a child “overhearing” that big screen icon Elizabeth Taylor had famously proclaimed that chocolate was better than S-E-X.

In fact, Taylor and Rock Hudson are credited with inventing the chocolate martini while filming the movie Giant.

According to legend, the movie stars used Hershey’s chocolate syrup in their cocktail.

Let’s just say that chocolate has come a long way since then. The evolution of chocolate making in America is richly displayed throughout Wine Country, and we are fortunate to have an abundance of talented producers dedicated to their craft—and our enjoyment—right in our backyard.


Jeff and Susan Mall sold their popular Zin restaurant in Healdsburg a couple of years ago and headed (way) south to Rancho Pescadero near Todos Santos in Baja California, where they served as the coexecutive chefs for the resort known for its organic gardens and excellent food.

While there, CIA-Hyde Park graduate Jeff became fascinated with working with Mexican cacao beans and started experimenting with making chocolate, roasting the beans in the resort’s wood-burning oven before grinding them with unrefined sugar in a mélanger that uses real stones. In a nod to ancient recipes, the couple produced bars with flavorings like Mexican hot chocolate (almonds, cinnamon and chile) and cajeta (goat-milk caramel), in addition to high percentage dark chocolate bars.

The Malls returned home to Healdsburg this past August, and have decided to keep this good thing going, roasting cacao beans sourced from Mexico’s Chiapas and Oaxaca regions right here in Sonoma County.

Volo chocolate is on the dessert menu at Valette, the restaurant that took over the former Zin space, and you can look for these brand new chocolate bars to start popping up on specialty market shelves during the holidays.