After spending several days with Central Oregon winemakers and wine shop owners, I fully understand the difference between an enthusiast and an oenophile. Sarah Worley, owner of Good Drop Wine Shoppe, doesn't just love wine; she lives, breathes and drinks it.
Cindy Grossman, who co-owns Faith, Hope & Charity Vineyards with her husband, Roger, proudly showed off her award-winning wines and her sprawling, breathtaking Terrebonne acreage. Doug Maragas, the owner of Maragas Winery, shared his long family history of traditional, passionate winemaking.
When looking for a special Valentine's Day treat to indulge in alone or share with a loved one, look no further than delicious wines expertly paired with locally made chocolates.
Good Drop Wine Shoppe
Worley purchased the quaint, centrally-located wine shop in 2014, determined to make it more accessible. She carries a variety of wines from all around the world, from affordable, regional wines to collectable, well-aged foreign bottles. All of these wines have one thing in common: She's tasted them and she stands behind them. She shared several of her favorite wines, pairing each with a small piece of chocolate and explaining the importance of a suitable pairing.
"A good rule of thumb is that lighter wines go with lighter chocolates," she explained. "White wines go with white chocolate; more heavy and full-bodied wines go with dark chocolate."
Pairing: 2017 German Riesling Trocken with a white chocolate truffle from Goody's Chocolates & Ice Cream
"Oregon is home to some great Rieslings, too," Worley explained. "A rich white chocolate with creamy, vanilla notes will be enhanced by undertones of pear and apricot. These are luscious, oily-style wines. They have great acidity, they're bright and beautiful. Rieslings are also great with spicy food."
Pro tip: If you have a favorite Thai restaurant and are looking for a good wine pairing, don't hesitate to pop by and inquire—some local restaurants will waive the corkage fee if the bottle is from Good Drop!
Pairing: 2018 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (Black Magnolia) with a milk chocolate truffle from Oregon Craft Chocolatiers
"The sweetness of the milk chocolate brings out the bold fruit flavors," Worley said. "Merlot also pairs well with sweeter desserts."
Pairing: 2013 Cote-Rotie (Maison Christophe Pichon) with Black Sheep dark chocolate
Black Sheep, a locally company that donates a portion of its proceeds to creating affordable prosthetics for children, makes a rich, 72% Ecuadorian dark chocolate bar.
"This wine brings out the rich flavor of the chocolate," said Worley. "Wine is meant to enhance the flavors of food. You can also pair this chocolate with a port. It will eliminate some of the sweetness and counterbalance the dessert wine perfectly."
Hope, Faith & Charity Vineyards
Cindy and Roger Grossman decided to "retire" on 312 acres in Terrebonne, where they now have a vineyard containing nine grape varietals and a gorgeous, barn-style tasting room surrounded by a trout-filled pond and expansive hills. The winery is named after the Three Sisters mountains, clearly visible in the distance.
Pairing: 2017 Pinot Rose with a piece of white chocolate from Redmond's The Chocolate Company
"This wine is a new release," shared Cindy Grossman. "It's light and fruit-forward, and pairs well with a rich piece of white chocolate."
Pairing: 2015 Viognier with a chocolate-covered orange peel from The Chocolate Company
"This is one of our wines that is really putting Oregon wines on the map," she added. "It won a silver medal at the San Francisco Chronicle International Wine Competition. It pairs well with the slight bitterness of the orange peel and the contrasting sweetness of the chocolate."
Pairing: 2015 Marechal Foch paired with milk chocolate-covered strawberries from The Chocolate Company.
"This is a unique wine, which opens with notes of rich fruit like dark cherries and pomegranate. It's a lighter-bodied red, and pairing it with chocolate covered fruit... raspberries, strawberries... will bring out the fruit in the wine, enhancing all of the flavors and subtle notes."
The passion Doug Maragas has for the craft of wine-making is immediately apparent. His spacious tasting room is lined with hundreds of wine-filled oak barrels. Family photos hang on the walls, one showing his grandmother harvesting grapes in Greece.
"I make wine in the same style as my grandparents," Maragas shared. "I do it in the traditional, old-style. Everything happens on-site. It's a full-service operation."
Pairing: 2017 Blanco with a white chocolate and raspberry truffle from Goody's
"Our Blanco pairs well with white chocolate and fruit, and lighter-fare foods in general," shared Maragas. "All of the grapes for our Blanco are grown on-site, and there we leave the wine on its lees for an entire year, making the taste different from other white blends."
Pairing: 2016 Tempranillo with a milk chocolate truffle from Oregon Craft Chocolatiers
"Our Tempranillo is a lighter wine, barrel-aged for two years. It's medium-bodied and very fruit-forward... earthy, but not smoky. Milk chocolate with fruit would make an ideal pairing. These grapes are harvested from the Belmont Vineyard (in Oregon's Applegate Valley), and it's truly an 'Oregon Style' wine."
Pairing: 2014 Legal Zinfandel paired with Seahorse Chocolate's 70% Vietnam chocolate bar
"The Legal Zin is made from an inky, tannic and almost black grape, and it would pair well with a rich, dark chocolate." Seahorse Chocolate, a locally-owned company, crafts "bean-to-bar" treats meant to enhance the complexities of the wines that people choose to pair them with.