A weekend for wine, chocolate
TRI-COUNTY AREA—Wine and chocolate have a long running culinary love story. Feb. 12 and 13 they’re married at the Keuka Lake Wine Trail’s Valentine’s weekend “Truffles and Tastes” wine trail event, where participants will have the opportunity to sample food-and-wine pairings, food-and-chocolate juxtapositions, and take home a gift box of souvenir truffles to reconsider with the wine they’ll also have discovered.
The eight participating wineries on the trail traditionally take a unique approach to event weekends. Because the wineries cover a geographic range and there are fewer of them than on other lake-based wine trails, these events have a concentration on a more leisurely appreciation of food with wine. At each winery, guests receive a small plate with samples of an appetizer, entrée and dessert, along with a sample of the featured truffle to enjoy while there. A whole truffle is provided for the gift box.
First, a word about truffles—in this instance, the confection referred to is not the mushroom but a handmade chocolate treat featuring chocolate, cocoa and cream among other ingredients. For this event, a different variety of truffle is being created for each winery, highlighting one of their wines, by Hedonist Artisan Chocolates in Rochester, N.Y.
A savory Swiss cheese and wine fondue with warm crusty bread from Keuka Artisan Bakery is featured at Ravines Wine Cellars on Route 54 in Hammondsport, says Abel Gonzalez, wine club manager, brother to Lisa Hallgren and a self-confessed foodie.
“Our niche focuses on drier, food-friendly wines and local artisan products,” Gonzalez says. “We look around at the bounty of Amish markets and cheese producers we want to support—there are amazing products right here! Bringing them into the tasting room and showing customers how the food and the wine can create that larger experience—” he breaks off and laughs. “There’s certainly passion involved here!”
Gonzalez and the Hallgrens met the chocolatiers of Hedonist Artisan Chocolates and introduced them to others on the wine trail. The Hedonist group was well-received, so they’re creating truffles for all the wineries on the Keuka Wine Trail for this event.
The Ravines truffle will be infused with their meritage red wine. Outside of this event, winery staff also recommends a combination of milk chocolate with their Chardonnay. “This pairing has almost achieved cult status in our tasting room,” Gonzalez says.
Locally-sourced foods as a complement to wine are also featured at Hunt Country Vineyard. Jonathan Hunt and Caroline Boutard-Hunt have an organic vegetable business and Marketing Manager Jim Alsina says they suggested a warming, hearty beef-vegetable soup to provide a savory option on a menu which otherwise leans toward sweets. Their dry red wine, Alchemy, is used in the soup, while a port infuses the chocolate espresso brownies served for dessert.
“And port is a classic pairing with chocolate,” Alsina says. “I think many people are just discovering now that we can pair chocolate and wine in desserts or enjoy them in separate pairings. That’s what we’re trying to do with this event.”
The Hunt Country truffle is cherry and apricot white chocolate infused with their Vidal blanc ice wine.
Wanting to highlight their Cabernet Franc and Gewurztraminer wines, Stacey McGregor of McGregor Vineyard Winery chose a menu of roasted green chili and pork stew followed by Mexican spiced chocolate cupcakes. A dark chocolate molasses truffle with their Russian Red wine will highlight one of their most popular wines.
“It’s a great time of year to get out,” says John McGregor. “It’s a low-key, quiet day to go around. You still get the sense you’re getting more attention from each winery than in the busy seasons like the fall. These winter events are a great way to have a relaxing time and still have the feel of a festive occasion. And we concentrate on providing a real over-the-top food and wine experience for people, something that’s going to stick out and be well worth the money spent.”
Tickets are $27 per person. For more information call the Keuka Lake Wine Trail at 800-440-4898 or 315-536-3791.