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WBW13: Like Chocolate Wine

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I'll have to thank Clotilde for inspiring me to participate in my first Wine Blogging Wednesday, her oh-so-tempting theme of Like Wine for Chocolate has coaxed me out of my professed cluelessness about wine to play with the real winos...ooops, I meant, the true aficianados of all things grape. Which is really funny because my chosen wine doesn't have any grapes in it, nor did I eat chocolate as I sipped. Hey, I said I was participating, I didn't say I was a slave to conformity. (Amateur Gourmet, surely you will defend my laxness on the rules? At least there was no nutella involved!)

My selection hails from Shallon Winery, a tiny little winery in Astoria, Oregon. Come to think of it, this could count as a dual entry: this fits last month's WBW: Drink Local challenge, because I think that Shallon is as close to me as it gets. We drove down one day and stopped in to grab a bottle of this wine I'd heard about on eGullet, and it turned into one of those impromptu treats as we were regaled with whey-out tales of wine. Whoa, did I say whey? The stuff that's left from making cheese, whey? Why, yes, yes I did.

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But we can't start our tale there. This wine is all about ceremony, trust me. So before we get to the wine itself, we must unwrap it. This is how I got it from Paul van der Veldt, the Willie Wonka of Shallon Winery. Start with a jauntily striped bag. Note that even the stripes are chocolate colored, aren't I thematic?

 

As Paul wrapped my bottle of decadence, he spoke of a day when he was visited by a high-powered executive, her assistant in tow. As he wrapped our wine as beautifully as any birthday gift, he laughed as he remembered her impatience with his careful cloaking of the bottle in layers of paper, ribbons, and colorful, informative tags. She sent her assistant in to "grab a few bottles" (silly her) and when the assistant didn't return quickly enough, she followed her in only to stand there, briefcase in hand, fidgeting, repeatedly checking her watch, and generally being unhappy about the several minute wait. Finally, she demanded her bottles be handed over without the wrapping ceremony. She was politely informed that the gaily festooned bottles were the only kind leaving his shop and if she couldn't wait long enough for them to be wrapped, she could do without. She waited. (Did I mention I really like Paul?)

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Under the stripes is a festive gold foil bag, tied tightly shut lest the wine try to escape.

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Followed by the "brown paper bag" layer--I guess this is just in case you want to drink it in places you shouldn't be drinking. Or maybe it's just to annoy the impatient people and their assistants. 

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Finally, the bottle is revealed. Isn't that pretty?

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A closer look at the tag reveals that it is indeed chocolate wine! Real chocolate, six kinds in fact, are magically suspended in this marvelous orange wine. It's like melting a really good piece of chocolate in a shot of Grand Marnier...only better. There is a hint of whey flavor, which I think almost disappears unless you know it's there and look for it. What comes through is a complex blend of rich chocolate with a distinct orange bite. I'd tell you more but, to tell the truth, this bottle hasn't been opened yet and it's been a couple of months since I had some. Just know it's good, very, very good...and you should try some if you get a chance.

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Some serving suggestions, in case you are stumped. Paul might even tell you the genesis of the last thing in the list of suggested things to pour it over if you ask nicely.

Oh yeah, the whey. You might wonder, what's with the whey? Well, many years ago, Paul got the idea to use some of Tillamook Cheese's wasted whey as the base for wine. As he tells the story, there was even a group from a local university working on the idea at the same time. Apparently there wasn't enough profit in the concept so the researchers bailed on the idea. Meanwhile, Paul was perfecting the process and coming up with creations like "lemon meringue pie" wine, which really does taste like the pie.

For those of you not lucky enough to live within driving distance of Astoria, I see that he does sell wine via the mail. If you have a chance to get to the winery, however, I highly recommend it. Paul is a hoot and will tell you all sorts of tales out of winemaker school. I'll be going back soon with my camera and a notebook so I can bring back more tales of Shallon.

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