When J proposed, he brought a box of the best little chocolates in the world, See’s Candies Bordeauxs. So not only are they my favorite but they are extra special to me. Five years and one week after getting engaged, we were treated to a wine and chocolate pairing courtesy of See’s Candies. Many Bordeauxs were enjoyed!
I guess this is kind of a disclosure statement: I received an invitation to an event at See’s Candies in Tustin. Everyone received free See’s swag but I was not asked to write about it. I want to share what I learned about wine and chocolate. Magic words, aren’t they?
Before I continue, I must warn you that this will be decadent. Pecan Bud passion and seductive Scotchmallow may not be appropriate for all audiences. By reading this, you acknowledge that I am in no way responsible for how much you may spend on chocolate and wine after you read this.
What was the occasion?
See’s Candies has a problem. A good problem…. On the big chocolate holidays they have lines out the door at stores nationwide. Valentines, Mother’s Day, Christmas are all crazy. The rest of the year…not so much. So, how to provide better service during the busy times but operate leaner during the down times?
Their answer: open stores that expand to twice the size during busy seasons. The very first one of these large concept stores opened in Tustin, California. This Wine and Chocolate Tasting night was something of an unveiling a few days before their grand opening. I’m still not really sure how I got invited….
See’s Candies brought in Domaine Somm who selected California wines to be paired with featured candies. There were 5 wines to taste, 3 reds and 2 whites, and several varieties of See’s Candies for the pairing. To walk into this store was to salivate uncontrollably.
Thanks to Gina, founder of Domaine Somm, we got to learn a bit about wine! (Gina, I apologize if I completely butcher wine descriptions.)
Click here to see the wines featured at this event for sale online.
Wine and Chocolate Pairings
2012 Ceàgo Muscat Canelli – This was my second favorite wine of the night. Light, fresh, and not too sweet, this wine is described as having ripe pear and lemon flavors. Being a very versatile wine, it can work with spicy dishes and a variety of chocolates:
- Key Lime Truffle, which paired the best with this wine. I would never choose a Key Lime Truffle as I prefer dark chocolate over white. However, when paired with the Muscat Canelli, the tangy key lime and cream center became interesting and unique and I actually preferred this pairing over the other two dark chocolate options.
- Dark Raspberry Cream. Not being into the fruity chocolates, I will say the wine made this chocolate taste much more smooth.
- Scotchmallow. These are a fun candy. Honey marshmallow floats above a thick layer of caramel, and both are wrapped in a big dark chocolate hug. I like Scotchmallow and I like saying “Scotchmallow”. Unfortunately, I didn’t think the wine and the Scotchmallow were that special together. I felt like I tasted the caramel less with the wine.
2009 Cargasacchi Vineyard Late Harvest Pinot Grigio – This was a surprise. While being a thicker wine, reminding me of crème brulée, it was crisp and fresh. It smelled beautifully and warmed me up. The Pino Grigio was paired with:
- Peanut Brittle, and they were excellent together, especially with the touch of saltiness.
- Apricot Delight, with bright apricot chunks covered in white chocolate and toasted coconut flakes. I’m not really a fan of Apricot Delight, but the toasted coconut flakes combined with the Pinot Grigio was fun. So I finished the candy.
2010 Rowland Tebb Pinot Noir – My favorite wine of the evening, and of course the most expensive. As soon as I smelled it, kind of smokey and sweet, I realized this was probably the most interested I’d ever been in a wine. Described as having lively red fruit flavors and soft tannins, it was paired with:
- Milk Pecan Buds. Crunchy pecans in chocolate with rich vanilla caramel. How can you go wrong? The Pinot Noir complimented the caramel really well, sort of bringing it out. Sipping this wine and nibbling on this chocolate together was sinfully easy. You could transition between sip and nibble with much pleasure and little to no thought of how much you’d already had. Of course, I was 3 tastings in by then so….
2012 Trig Point Merlot – Think of cherries, plum, blackberries and a smidge of butterscotch, the merlot is described as having firm but not harsh tannins. I really enjoy merlots and this one was probably my third favorite of the evening, paired with:
- 62% Dark Chocolate Bar. A premium, smooth dark chocolate that melts into creamy richness! The pairing was exciting, with wine and chocolate actually making each other taste better. Of all the pairings, these two were the least sweet and sugary, so it was a welcome break. If you’re a big dark chocolate fan, then put this on your wish list.
2009 Easton Wines Zinfandel – A dark and fruity late harvest that literally smelled like fruit jelly. Yes, that is my super refined description. It tasted every bit as sweet as it smelled and the fruity flavors lingered a bit on the tongue. I could only sip this wine due to the sweetness, but it did pair beautifully with:
- Dark Bordeaux – My absolute most favorite, which is why it made an appearance when we got engaged. I dream about the creamy brown sugar center. I adore those tiny chocolate sprinkles, collecting each one that tries to escape when I bite into the Bordeaux. I’m eating one right now…. I just wish the Bordeaux paired well with a less intensely sweet wine.*
- Dark Caramel Patties – A better pairing for those not looking for a monster sugar rush. The wine will pair well with the Milk Chocolate Caramel Patties as well, but I prefer dark. Caramel patties are better for nibbling, as the caramel is thicker than truffle or cream fillings. I liked switching from sipping the sweet wine and nibbling the caramel.
- Dark Raspberry Truffle – To be honest, this truffle was a bit much for me with the fruity wine. I will say, the wine did make the raspberry flavor pop! If you like fruit flavored chocolates, this would be a great pairing for you.
Things I Learned
- *Sweet for Sweet. While pairing a wine with a chocolate is as much about the individual personalities of each, you generally need to have a wine that is as sweet or sweeter than the chocolate. Otherwise, they could make each other taste bitter. And now I know what I’ve been doing wrong this whole time.
- Cold is bad for Chocolate. Don’t put your See’s Candies in the freezer or refrigerator, unless you don’t mind them losing their fresh taste. The freezer is the worst for changing the composition of the chocolate, ending up with a watered-down taste. The ideal temperature for keeping your chocolates is between 70 and 73 degrees F. This is the temperature they keep the stores.
- 2 to 4 Weeks is the general time limit on your See’s Candies for the best taste. When you purchase, ask them about the self-life of your specific selections for a more accurate time frame.
- Hundreds of pounds of chocolate move through stores each day during the holidays. Tustin Store Manager, Jennifer, told me that it’s common to go through 10 to 12 five pound boxes of popular varieties EVERY DAY. During their peaks, they place orders twice a week.
- Mary See’s kitchen had black and white checkered floors, which is why her son decided their candy shops should as well.
- Aged Chocolate. Apparently See’s Candies ages their chocolate. I have no idea why, but I assume there are benefits for the flavor. This extra step/cost is one that See’s finds worth it because it distinguishes their chocolate from the competition.
- Special Candies, like this luscious Mint Truffle only come out during specific seasons. I didn’t realize they had seasonal candies and now I want to meet them all.
- Pay by the pound, not the size of the box. If you want to make a custom box for a gift or for yourself, you can ask the folks behind the chocolate counter to tightly pack a 1/2 pound box or loosely pack a 1 pound box. Perhaps you want to make a “1 pound box” only look full when you give it to your mother in law, or perhaps you want to take as many as you can in a more compact box when you travel. Who knows? You have options.
Get directions and hours to the brand new See’s Candies store in Tustin.