Thursday, November 29, 2007

Port and Chocolate Extravaganza

Decadence arrived in a new form at the Liberty Wine Merchants 16th Annual Port and Chocolate Extravaganza. Over 40 ports interspersed with sherries and dessert wines plus one of the tastiest food groups ever – chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

Following tradition, this delicious event was a fundraiser for Amateur Sports BC and brought together an eclectic selection of fortified wines and chocolate – oh yeah, I already mentioned the chocolate… right.

We quickly agreed there was no way we were going to be able to sample everything on offer, so a two-point plan of attack emerged – different and high end. Our first official “Oh Wow” was a 1987 Vintage Kopke. Luxuriously smoky and sinfully smooth, this port instantly conjured images of bespeckled gentlemen in brocade morning coats pausing between pages of the morning paper for a sip of coffee and a puff on their cigar. There was even a long, fat cigar reclining with elegant abandon on the table – just in case you missed the tobacco on the nose.

We tried some of the Penfold’s Grandfather Fine Old Liqueur Tawny and Peter Lehman’s The King – no wonder the Aussies call these ports “The Stickies.” The King, with its big time fruity nose and strawberry notes, practically begged to be paired with cheesecake – a dessert that sadly made no appearance here. Oh well, just have to settle for a Grand Marnier chocolate truffle.

Next up was a Barolo Chinato Cocchi from Piedmont, Italy. Frank’s eyes immediately got that “Oh my god” glint to them indicating something spectacular. “Now that’s a noseful! You won’t believe how much is going on here.” No kidding. Made from an eclectic selection of herbs including quinine bark, rhubarb, and gentian, this is like nothing either of us have smelled – or tasted.

I was just attempting to sort out whether the undertone was cardamom or fennel when Frank disappeared – simply vanished into the crowd. A couple of minutes later, he reemerged with a large chunk of dark chocolate in hand. Now you have to appreciate Frank doesn’t have quite the same relationship with chocolate I do – so this in itself was unusual. When he took a second bite, I was shocked. “This is the best chocolate pairing ever,” he announced. “Try it.” And he was right. The combination of exotic spiciness in the Cocchi and the rich, semi-sweet chocolate from Mink Chocolates was sensual and seductive – a perfect, if totally unexpected pairing and without question The Find of the Evening.

We probably sampled close to three dozen wines before sugar overload kicked, but fortunately for us, we paused for one final taste just before heading out the door – a Riesling Icewine from Chateau de Charmes. Named Wine of the Year at the 2006 Ontario Wine Awards, this is the one to refer to if someone wants to experience the full-on, buxom nose of petrol in a Riesling. A great balance between ripe fruit, texture, and acidity made this a close runner up for favourite of the evening.

Kopke: Vintage1987
Portugal ($66.99)

Penfold: Grandfather Fine Old Liqueur Tawny
Australia ($84.99)

Peter Lehman
: The King

Barolo Chinato Cocchi
Italy ($50.99)

Chateau de Charmes: Riesling Icewine
Ontario, Canada ($65.00 – 375ml)


Mink Chocolates
Teas Me Truffles

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