By Andy J. Gordon
It was a night of decadent indulgence at the Grove on Wednesday, October 7, 2009. CHOCTOBERFEST was a unique event that offered the opportunity to try multiple wines, beers, and gourmet chocolate treats.
As someone that attends many wine events, I frequently try wine and chocolate pairings. However, it is unusual to be able to sample craft beers along with artisan chocolates. This evening offered the best of both worlds. There was a wide selection of fine wines, and several choice brews to satisfy any palate. In addition, the T. J. Martell Foundation, the charity that conducts leukemia, cancer, and AIDS research benefited from the event.
Ian Blackburn, the gracious host and founder of Learn About Wine (www.learnaboutwine.com), suggested we start the evening with beers. I offered no resistance and sampled several of the selections. New Belgium Brewery (www.newbelgium.com), from Fort Collins, Colorado, offered two particularly tasty selections. The refreshingly crisp Mothership Wit is an organically produced Belgian White with hints of citrus and spices. Their 1554 is a black, but not too heavy, ale, which is brewed with chocolaty malts from a recipe dating back to the year it is named after. Both selections went especially well with the amazing chocolate cookies from Chatty Cookies (www.chattycookies.com).
Skyscraper Brewing (www.skyscraperbrewing.com) from El Monte, California, served their delicious Bulldozer Honeyweizen, a crisp wheat ale with a subtle honey flavor. The Backhoe Brown Ale, a 6.3% alcohol-content brew, is a heavyweight that was too much for my taste, but mellowed out considerably when combined with one of Intemperantia’s (www.intemperantia.com) chocolate confections or a Chatty Cookie.
Bootlegger’s Brewery (www.bootleggersbrewery.com), from Fullerton, California, brought some very interesting beers. Their Pumpkin Ale, made with cinnamon, nutmeg, molasses, and brown sugar was like Halloween in a glass. Plum Riot, a 7.8% specialty brew, was deceptively light and so fruity that it almost did not taste like beer. Their best selection, Golden Chaos, a Belgian style ale, packed a powerful 8.5%, but tasted light and sweet with a fruity aroma.
In spite of my exhaustive trek through beer country, I left a little room in the tank for some wine. Highlights of the evening included Cline Cellars (www.clinecellars.com), whose 2007 “Live Oak” Zinfandel from Contra Costa tasted great with the dark chocolate caramels from Amella Caramels by Artisan Cocoa (www.amellacaramels.com). Cline’s 2005 Late Harvest Mourvedre dessert wine went nicely with the dense Chatty Cookies. Four Vines (www.fourvines.com) served a pleasant, slightly spicy, 2007 “Maverick” Zinfandel from Amador County. Hope Family Wines’ (www.hfwines.com) 2006 Treana Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah had a full body, fragrant aroma, and smooth finish. It paired well with the chocolate and cookie treats. My choice for best bargain was their 2007 Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles. With a nice aroma, smooth flavor and subtle tannins, combined with a very friendly $12 price tag, it definitely goes on my list as a daily drinker.
CHOCTOBERFEST was an evening to remember, and a concept that should be repeated. It was quite surprising to discover how beautifully beer can pair with chocolate. Wine drinkers who love chocolate have always had their favorite pairings, and this event has proven that beer lovers can keep drinking their brews with no need to switch to vino, even when presented with chocolate desserts.
Photos courtesy Learn About Wine.