Hi there. I am Bayla Sussman, aka “Baylee the Chocolate Lady,” owner of Baylee’s Best Chocolates on Virginia 419 in Roanoke County. For the last few years, I’ve been your friendly hometown chocolatier. About 30 years ago, I started baking and working with chocolate after I was injured while working as an actor. I was pretty limited for a couple of years, but I could bake, and people really liked what I baked. The great thing about making and selling chocolates is the smiles. No matter how bad somebody’s day has been before coming in, people tend to leave the store in a good mood. We like to make people happy.
At this time of year, customers often ask me to pair chocolates with wines for Valentine’s Day. Chocolate-dipped strawberries with sparking wine immediately come to mind, but there are so many other possibilities:
- A basic dark chocolate truffle seems to pair well with a lot of different reds, from light, young Beaujolais to gutsy zinfandel.
- A chocolate with 72 percent cacao or higher can accentuate the tannins in wine and make a dry red seem drier, but if you don’t like a puckery-dry sensation, you might prefer that dry wine with a milder dark chocolate, maybe a 54 percent, to balance it out.
- With white wines, a little sweetness may be the way to go. I have found that white wine with a little spice or even a light citrus note can work; I have used my lemon ginger truffles or my traditional truffles with Rieslings, sauvignon blancs and even some chardonnays.
Ultimately, the most important consideration is: Does it taste good to you? Try some new flavors. First taste the wine, then the chocolate, and then try them together. Are they smooth? Do you taste more layers of flavor? Or does it taste sour? Is it an absolute disaster? (If so, it might give you a good laugh and make a good story.) Some combinations might surprise you. Last year, when Dave Gibbs, of Virginia Mountain Vineyards, and I were trying combinations to determine the program for our joint tasting, we tasted my Champagne Montagne truffle with his Virginia Chardonnay,” a steel fermented chardonnay. The flavors popped and absolutely came alive in my mouth. It was wonderful. (Shameless plug: we will be holding another joint tasting at Virginia Mountain Vineyards on April 20.)
Play with flavors, have fun with them, and you may find some new favorites. Do you have any favorite pairings you might like to share?