Valentine’s Day – Pairing Wine With Your Favourite Chocolate

Pairings for Dark, Bittersweet and Semisweet chocolate: The strong flavours of dark and bittersweet chocolate can be paired with stronger red wines. While some of the wines may seem too tannic to pair with chocolate, the cocoa butter decreases the harsh dryness of the tannins. Rich, bold red wines and Tawny fortified wines (Port) are ideal pairings for these chocolates. I have also included a fruit beer to show something different.

  • Lindemans Lambic Framboise Beer $11.00+ deposit 650ml :– 375ml $7.00 + deposit. I love the flavours of Chocolate and Raspberry together. Add the bright acidity and effervescence of a good Lambic beer and this could become an addiction.
  • Phillips Longboat Chocolate Porter $6.00 + deposit: Even the names suggest they should be a great match; Chocolate Porter and dark chocolate. A rich and satisfying experience.
  • Penfolds Club (fortified “Tawny ” style) $24.00+ deposit: Now available at Liquor Plus, Australia’s favourite Tawny. The rich, nutty, raisin and spice character of this great Tawny is a classic pairing with dark chocolate and for good reasons. The finish long and lingering. Yum!
  • Lopez De Haro Rioja $19.00+ deposit: The beautiful aromas and flavors of dark berries, toasty oak, vanilla and notes of spice and cocoa mellowed by barrel and bottle aging are the perfect match for bittersweet chocolate.
  • Earthquake Zinfandel $38.00+ deposit: Strap yourself to your seat and get ready for this 16% ABV brooding monster to rock your palate. Keeping everything in balance when the alcohol hits 16% is tough to pull off but the Michael-David Winery seems to do it every time. Luscious, rich fruit with silky tannins and dark chocolate flavours lurking in the mid-palate, this seductive wine is perfect for dark chocolate and romance.
Pairings for Milk Chocolate:
Milk chocolate has a higher percentage of sugar and smaller percentage of chocolate liquor. With all that sugar and its milk content, the result is a milder and sweeter product. Some of the flavours in milk chocolate include brown sugar, vanilla, and honey along with the milk and cream flavours. Try smooth, rich, red wines with softer tannins or soft, rich white wines:
  • Apothic Sweet Red Wine $17.00+ deposit: A blissful combination of Zinfandel, Merlot, Syrah and Grenache. Unctuous berry, plum cherry fruit with flavours of toffee, vanilla and creme brulee in the finish. Should be pretty good!
  • Ca Montebello Sangue di Giuda  $16.00+ deposit: A unique red dessert wine with hints of of violets together with raspberry and blueberry jams. The slight fizz or frizzante, as the Italians call it, add to the fun of this wine. Bring on the milk chocolate.
  • ChocolatRouge $20.00+ deposit: Experience true decadence in a luscious blend of rich chocolate flavors and fine red wine. Made for milk chocolate lovers.
  • Murphy Goode Pinot Noir $18.99 + deposit (sale price till March 2): Smooth and stylish, this affordable Pinot Noir can strut its stuff with even the humblest milk chocolate.
  • Quinta Da Prelada Ruby $25.00+ deposit: Don’t be shy: team-up this fresh, fruity Ruby Port with silky smooth milk chocolate and pamper yourself.
Pairings for White Chocolate:
White Chocolate is made without chocolate liquor and thus is not considered a true chocolate. White chocolate is a rich product made with cocoa butter, sugar and milk solids. It has sweet flavour notes including cream, milk, honey, vanilla, caramel, and/or fruit and pairs well with soft fruity white wines. I bet you are wondering if I can find additional ways of saying; pair it with, or team-it-up with ………? Well the truth is I have exhausted my vernacular. So I suggest you try these pairings and let me know in 30 words or less if I got it right.
  • Ca Montebello Moscato $15.00 + deposit.The sensual richness of the fruit in this Moscato will make you wonder how you managed to enjoy white chocolate without it.
  • Blufeld Riesling $15.00+ deposit: Stylish Riesling full of citrus and stone fruit flavours with an elegant finish.
  • Zanatta Damasco $18.00+ deposit. The rich, luscious fruit and light spritziness of this Vancouver Island favourite may surprise you how well it works with white chocolate
  • Quail’s Gate Gewürztraminer $20.00+ deposit: An elegant and balanced Gewürztraminer with hints of spice.
  • Kettle Valley Viognier $27.00+ deposit. Luscious mouth-feel, full of apricot and white peach flavours. A rich and sensuous wine.

Everyone’s palate is different. So, pairing beverages with food or chocolate is more an art form than a scientific process. However, there are some basic rules that work and I have tried to follow them.  I would be delighted to know if these suggestions work for you.

Mike Sly is a Product Consultant at Liquor Plus Royal Oak and can help you with any wine questions you have on Fridays & Saturdays


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Wine to the Wise: Garrigues 2011 Cotes Du Rhone

This is truly a treat and here is why.

Did you know that 95% of all BC wine is purchased and consumed in BC. The same goes for almost all wine regions in the world – the best of the region stays in the region. That is what makes this Cotes du Rhone as well as the Domaine de Caillou Chateauneuf de Pape and the Les Quartz Cotes du Rhone such true treats. These are items that have never graced our stores shelves before as they have always been purchased and enjoyed in France and in exclusive collections in the UK. I’m not sure how John at TerraRosa imports did it, but I’m glad he did.

Although priced slightly higher than most of the Cotes Du Rhone’s you see on the market everyday (Guigal $22, Perrin $17, Montfaucon $24) it is a true treat that we not see again.

Primarily Grenache (85%), Syrah (10%), and an equal blend of Mouvedre, Cinsault and Carignan (5%) this wine is showing incredible depth and complexity for a wine of this price and as young as it is.

The aromas are complex, layered and focussed on raspberry, blueberry and blackberry compote with hints of savoury spices, wet earth and subtle smoke.

The palate is complete from the front through the mid-palate and long finish. As complex and layered the aromas are the palate is equal to the task. More of the ripeness shows through on the palate than in the aromas, but I’m liking revelling in the waves upon waves of flavour profiles.

This wine makes and great gift or sharing glass because of it rare-ness but is also a real delight with roasted Turkey, duck, any number of charcuterie items and, tourtiere.

There is very limited quantity on this wine and its big brothers, so I suggest getting it now.

Bang For The Buck Score: 9.2/10


Look also for Les Quartz Cotes du Rhone $39, and the Domaine de Caillou Chateauneuf de Pape ( $95

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Wine To the Wise: Cusora Rosso

It seems that there is more and more white noise in the world today and the wine world has not been spared. I’m impressed how the iconic wine labels of Bordeaux, California and even BC have been able to capitalize on the chatter and continue to drive prices up. Don’t get me wrong I love the great iconic wines of the world, however I don’t think that they provide true value to you and I in the everyday world. I have long since held this view and it has become the central principle in my work as the wine buyer for Liquor Plus; my enjoyment of a wine is significantly increased if I feel that the wine over delivered for the price. To that end I spend most of my days, weeks and travels seeking wines that over deliver for their price. I focus a lot of attention on wines that can be purchased for anywhere between $12 and $20. The next category I spend time against is $20 to $30. In both instances I have found the greatest joy as there are literally thousands and thousands of wines on the world market that over deliver for the price and most often these are not made by household names. This definately the case for the wine I am speaking about today – Cusora Rosso from Sicily, Italy.

First off Sicily for many years was the backwater of the Italian wine trade. Focus was on Chianti (Tuscany), Piedmonte and the Veneto regions (Amarone). Today it is rapidly growing in volume and profile, but still dwarfs that of the regions above and to me this makes Sicily prime for seeking new, high value wines.

Being a warm region means that the wines often are juicier and more powerful than their elegant, refined cousins to the north, but this juicier, more powerful nature is exactly what makes the wines of Sicily more attractive to North Americans. The wines of Sicily for the most part are closer in nature and characteristic to those of California, Australia and South America than they are to the wines of Tuscany, Piedmonte, Veneto, France or Spain.

Combine taste profile and price and you have the perfect combination for a great everyday wine that performs well above its pay grade. The Cusora Rosso is a blend of Syrah and Merlot and juicy, brimming with lots of ripe plum and black fruit flavours, while showcasing savoury spices like pepper, sage and rosemary. There is even a kiss of cinnamon on the finish.

Let this wine breathe for 30 minutes as right out of the bottle the wine will seem closed and tannic. In 30 minutes it will blossom into its full expression.

I would pair with anything that is simply seasoned and grilled including denser fish. A big plate of fresh tomato based pasta or a simple pizza of tomato sauce, fresh mushrooms, pepperoni and cheese would be wonderful with this wine. Of course, if you so choose, this wine avails itself to more complex culinary feats as well.

Bang for the Buck Score: 8.6/10


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WINE11: Domaine de Chaberton Valley Cab 2009

I am firm believer that us cork dorks and most winery agents are experts at speaking wine speak, however the vast majority of consumers that I deal with have no time or patience for wine speak. They simply want to know how this wine will make their day better and if it is better bang for their buck than all the others on the shelf. Here’s a story about a wine that would appeal to both the cork dork and the person simply looking for the best buy for the price.

Last Friday we planned on having lamb steaks for dinner so I was thinking Cotes du Rhone would fit the bill perfectly. Just before I left the office the local agent for Domaine de Chaberton came into the office with a sample of their 2009 Valley Cab. I took the sample, picked up a bottle of 2010 Cotes du Rhone went home to craft dinner.

While making dinner I opened the Cotes du Rhone to let breathe. About 45 minutes later we were ready to sit down to dinner so I poured a glass of the Cotes Du Rhone and a glass of the Valley Cab. I know that the characteristics of each wine would be like comparing apples and oranges, however after a long week I was more interested in slipping in slipping into a lovely glass of wine, than I was about breaking the wine down. I tasted both and stopped in my tracks.

I have to say that the $19 Valley Cab blew the doors off the $30 Cotes du Rhone. It shows rich aromas, complex palate full of flavour, and a long juicy finish. It showed strength in both worlds. It appealed to my cork dork side and my hedonistic side. On the other hand the Cotes du Rhone was good and certainly showed lots of complex aromas, texture and finish, but it was missing that sensual hedonistic quality to truly justify the price to anyone other than a cork dork.

There is only about 120 cases of the Valley Cab 2009 left from the winery and I bought it all as it is truly a treat. A treat as a wine and a treat in making a really nice guy smile. Go out and get some and enjoy it with friends or in those self serving hedonistic moments that we all have, either way you won’t be disappointed.

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BREW11: Fuller’s Vintage Ale 2013

I just got word that the Fuller’s 2013 Vintage Ale is soon be released in BC, however for those of you that want to see the difference a year makes, there are a few bottles of the 2012 version kicking around Liquor Plus Duncan and Liquor Plus Cobble Hill. Personally I plan on getting a 2012 and tasting it against the 2013. I’m sure I will love both but I’m really looking forward to seeing the differences. After all diversity is why I love what I do.


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The quality of the initial still wine, the selection of the yeast best suited to the style of a particular Champagne House, tiny bubbles and the persistence of the bubbles are what separates Champagne, both vintage and non-vintage from the rest of the pack.

The very best Champagnes come from just 17 villages or Crus within the Champagne region. Only Champagne that is made with grapes grown in these specific villages can be classed as Grand Cru Champagnes. Jean Dalbray is from the village of Verzy, one of the Grand Cru villages.


So, whilst boutique Champagne houses like Jean Dalbray don’t have the cachet of the Grand Houses such as Moët & Chandon, Louis Roederer, Tattinger etc.. it doesn’t mean their product is not up to standard.


Jean Dalbray has the opulent character, finesse & elegance of great Champagne without the hefty price tag. Next time you need pampering, grab a bottle of Jean Dalbray, you won’t be disappointed. Ah, tiny bubbles….




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Wine to the Wise Oct. 18, 2013: Punto Final Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Single Vineyard. It sounds impressive doesn’t it? It is supposed to convince you that the wine is worth a lot and that it is going to be a better choice than a similarly priced wine without a single vineyard designation. As always the wise wine drinker seeks those Single Vineyard wines that truly offer a great wine as well as the opportunity to taste the place.

A little while ago I was on a tour through the Mendoza and San Juan regions of Argentina. Did I taste some amazing wines! However there are not any regulations in Argentina around the terms of Single Vineyard, Reserve, Grand Reserve, Old Vines, etc. So it was critical to cut through the marketing crap and get to the truth about the wines themselves.

One of the wineries that I visited was Punto Final (Bodega Renacer). Their wines were awesome across the board, but I found true brilliance in the Malbec and stupendous-ness (yes I need a word like that) in the Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Single Vineyard Cab is truly sourced from a single vineyard and it is awesome and delivers massive value.

The vineyard itself is called the Renacer Vineyard in the Lujan de Cuyo region. The soils are gravely loam and the vineyard is at elevation with densely planted vines to increase the intensity of the flavours and the complexity of the wine.

The Cab is selected from specific blocks in the vineyard that have shown to be the best for Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose offers bright red berries and black currants with dark chocolate and savoury spices like black pepper and floral notes of purple flowers.

The palate is well balanced and elegant with tons of character and weight through the mid-palate. The finish is rich and lengthy offered sweet tannins that have some grip and allow this wine to work brilliantly with grilled meats, hearty stews and soups, firm mature cheeses and a hearty charcuterie.

What this really means is that this is a wine for the wise wine drinker.


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Wine to the Wise Oct. 16, 2013: Indesio Pinot Grigio

Me and a lot of cork dork colleagues of mine get together and lament about the explosion of Faux Grigio’s on the market. By Faux Grigio we are referring to the mass number of Pinot Grigio’s that have no business calling themselves Pinot Grigio other than a marketing guy said it would sell better.

Pinot Grigio should be fresh and alive and feature flinty minerality alone with grin generating citrus/lemon lime flavours. It should be quite straight forward and a real delight. Pinot Grigio is an everyday drinking wine. It is the kind of wine that has sustained the ‘paesanos’ of Northern Italy for generations and should a simple, earned bonus after a hard days work no matter what you do.

There a couple of wines that immediately come to mind when I think of true Pinot Grigio and the Indesio is one at $12 a bottle that is most affordable and true to its heritage.

There is real value in authenticity just like there is real value in a hard day’s work and the wise wine drinker always seeks out the authentic vs the marketing. Put down the Copper Moons, Naked Grapes, and even the Jacob’s Creeks of the world and get the Indesio and  improve your quality of life.

Here is a link to some more details on the wine:


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Wine to the Wise Oct. 15, 2013: Chateau Pilet 2010 (Bordeaux)

I’m by no means an expert on Bordeaux. In order to be considered an expert it seems that one needs to be able to recited far more facts and figures about Bordeaux and its wines than is required for any other wine region. I’m going to let the experts be the experts and rely on my taste buds to tell me where the value is. That is exactly why and how we have Chateau Pilet in our stores.

It’s no secret that Bordeaux is actually a marginal growing region (although global warming may change that) which means that when the vintage is great to awesome the wines are out of this world all the way up and down the price line. On the other hand as stratospheric as the quality may be in the best of years, the exact opposite happens in average to below average years. There are a couple of tricks I used to tell the great from the awful. One is the level of press and hyperbole the Bordelaise use and the second is tasting through scads of entry level wines.

When the rhetoric and praise for a vintage gets to a fevered pitch and is spiced with phrases like ‘better than expected’ and ‘incredible value’ I figure that the vintage was not so good and this has played out over my years of tasting.

To determine if Bordeaux wines are the wise wine buy, one must taste through the entry level as only in great years do the entry level wines truly impress. When I say entry level I mean wines under $20. Both 2009 and 2010 were fantastic vintages and the 2010 vintage is showcased by the breathtaking quality of the $18 Chateau Pilet.

Mostly Merlot this wine shows the remarkable elegance and complexity that has seduced generations of Bordeaux lovers. Ripe generous fruit, lush violet and floral highlights, spice, even a hint of eucalyptus greet your nose and palate. The body of the wine is like velvet and flows over your tongue to a juicy elegant finish.

Let it breathe for about 30 minutes and pair it with roasted or grilled red meats, stews, chicken or turkey pot pie, charcuterie.

Chateau Pilet is a One Time Buy, which means it was only on offer once and thus when there is no more stock it will become the stuff, or the wine of legend and a hallmark for the wise wine drinker.

Here is a link to more details:

Here is a link to a review of the 2010 Bordeaux Vintage:


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Wine to the Wise Oct. 13, 2013: Mission Hill Reserve Pinot Noir


It’s no secret that there are hundreds of wine competitions around the world. Most of them only linger as a footnote on a the bottom of a sell sheet, but a few of them make wise wine consumers and retailers stand up and take notice. About 2 weeks ago one such competition took place in London, England.

The Decanter Wine Awards are sponsored by the Decanter Magazine and if you don’t know the Decanter Magazine that’s okay but in terms of reporting on the wine world, for me it is the best in the world. Granted it is focussed on what is available in the UK which means most of the wines never see the light of day here, however its reporting and reviews are more broad based and authentic, I find, than those found in the American wine magazines such as The Wine Spectator and The Wine Advocate.

Back in 1994 the BC wine industry was in the back of the back water of the wine world. Other than for a few visionaries such as Harry McWatters and Anthony Von Mandl, the BC wine industry didn’t mean anything to consumers or the world wide wine press. That all changed when the Mission Hill Reserve Chardonnay won Best Chardonnay in the World at the Decanter Wine Awards . Within in minutes of the announcement the BC Wine Industry and Mission Hill catapulted to the tip of every buyers lips. Incidentally the Award was presented by Steven Spurrier. Steven Spurrier gained renown when he coordinated and executed what became known as the Judgement of Paris where previously unknown California, specifically Napa Valley, wines competed and won against French wines as judged by French Judges.

Two weeks ago Steven Spurrier once again took the stage to present the award for World’s Best Pinot Noir. In so doing proved that lightning does strike in the same place twice as Mission Hill’s Martin’s Lane 2011 Pinot Noir took the award for the World’s Best Pinot Noir Under L15.

The Martin’s Lane 2011 Pinot Noir was launched in March of this year and the 500 cases or so was sold out by June, and from what I understand you can try some of the remaining bottles at a few restaurants around Victoria including Cafe Brio, Oak Bay Beach Hotel, Hotel Grand Pacific and 10 Acres.

As you can well imagine all of us retail buyers were immediately on the phone with their local Mark Anthony rep to try and scoop up any remaining cases and we were all sadly disappointed. However I have one of the very best reps on the planet and she happens to work for Mark Anthony. Karyn Stewart is great at was she does because she understands and quickly plans to exceed her customers biggest needs. Karyn gave me a bit of wink wink nudge nudge and suggested the Mission Hill 2011 Reserve Pinot Noir.

Turns out the Mission Hill 2011 Reserve Pinot Noir is very similar to the Martin’s Lane. In fact the Martin’s Lane is a Reserve of the Reserve and so close in flavour, texture and character to the Martin’s Lane, that a taste of it is a taste of greatness.

For those of you that enjoy a world class wine for the sake of experience and in an effort to improve the quality of one’s life, this is the wise choice… while it is still available.

Here is a link to the Mission Hill 2011 Reserve Pinot Noir:

Here is a link to the Decanter Award:

Here is a link to Decanter Magazine:


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