Jan. 16 2015 05:21 PM

Bubbly wines and flavorful chocolates make a good match


An old police headquarters and boutique shop; sommelier and chocolate maker; champagne and fine chocolate: These things may not seem perfect pairings, but Dallmann Confections proves that each of the duos work together well. 

Owner Isabella Valencia and husband / sommelier Jayson Knack host about two pairing classes at Dallmann (789 W. Harbor Drive, Downtown) each month, with beer, wine, cheese, desserts and, perhaps most uniquely, champagne. 

The champagne pairing includes four or five chocolates and a few half-glasses. The sessions are more concerned with teaching attendees about these items and how to marry them than about getting your drink on—so don't come looking to catch a buzz. Knack gives helpful tips on purchasing sparkling wines and how to get the best bang for your buck. He possesses a deep well of knowledge, which he rapidly shares, and he'll indulge a few questions. His wife, the mastermind behind the chocolates, also imparts a great deal of information—on the history of Dallmann, the chocolate-making process and the flavors in front of you. 

During my visit last September, we started with a Cava (Spanish sparkling wine) paired with an amaretto chocolate made with toasted almonds and chocolate ganache. Our hosts explained that the wines were to be tasted in order from lightest to most complex, and the chocolates followed suit. This first chocolate brought out nuttiness in the wine, but when sipped with the next treat—a spicy passion-fruit caramel—the wine changed a great deal, with its own fruity characteristics coming to the forefront.

My favorite pairing was a rosé champagne and a heart-shaped rose-water caramel. Not only did these two pink indulgences look quite romantic together; their flavors were also artfully matched. The wine had a slightly floral nose, which mated with the herbal qualities of the chocolate. When the rose-water-infused center released its distinct aromatics, its liquid consistency also left a bit of a mess for some tasters—you've been warned. 

The last glass held a true French Champagne (read: from the Champagne region of France) and was a blanc de blanc, meaning it was made with 100-percent Chardonnay grapes. My initial impression of this was a strong yeast component, which left it with a scent of sourdough bread. The chocolate matched here was interesting in every way, its neon orange hue hiding white chocolate fused with yellow curry and coconut. The bold combination transformed the wine, bringing forward tropical fruits and making for a dynamic pairing that some guests loved and others left on their plate. 

The location of Dallmann is also unique. It inhabits the trendy Headquarters at Seaport District, and you have to ascend a metal spiral staircase—a remnant of the old police headquarters—to get to the cozy tasting area. 

The next chocolate and champagne pairing is Feb. 5, with several other tastings slated through the spring. They also sell pairing boxes of chocolates for wine, beer and cheese to create your own tastings at home (hint, hint: Valentine's Day). Check the website for a full class schedule and other details.

Write to jenv@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Jen_VT.


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