Valentine’s Day often is viewed as the unofficial start to wine touring season in many parts of the Northwest. A growing number of winery associations stage Valentine celebrations during the weekends around Feb. 14.
In nearly all instances, the theme is of red wine with chocolate. While folks love both components, it can be a tricky pairing. That’s why Telaya Wine Co. in Garden City collaborates with Kay Johnson’s Dream Chocolate in Boise on three bars to pair with three of Telaya’s most popular wines.
“Kay was among our first 25 wine club members,” said Carrie Sullivan, co-owner and co-winemaker at Telaya. “He came up and told us he was a local chocolatier and said, ‘If you are ever interested in custom chocolate bars, I’d love to work with you.’”
It’s been a delicious relationship going on three vintages.
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“They are wonderful, and we’re also happy to support another local business,” she said.
Telaya is a mashup of Carrie and husband Earl’s two favorite getaways — the Teton mountains and the beach of Cabo San Lucas. Playa is the Spanish word for beach.
The Teton Bar is milk chocolate with orange and sage to go with the Turas, a blend of Syrah, Petit Verdot and Malbec from the Snake River Valley. Dream Chocolate sources its cocoa from Rainforest Alliance certified farms.
“We were looking for something to go with the mountain theme and thought of sage,” Sullivan said.
For the Playa Bar, they sought an ocean reference — sea salt — as an accent for the dark chocolate and roasted almonds. That complements the Telaya Syrah.
There’s also the Sruth Bar, unveiled in 2015 when Telaya released its highly quaffable blend of red Bordeaux grapes from famed Washington grower Dick Boushey. Sruth is an Irish reference to a river’s stream, and the Sruth Bar is dark chocolate and toffee.
Each bar comes in two sizes — 2 1/2 ounces ($2.50) and 4 ounces ($4).
“We don’t mark them up too much,” Carrie said. “We want to go through them quickly so that we continue ordering from Kay, and hopefully introduce more people to Dream Chocolates.
“If you’re not sure what to get that person who really doesn’t need anything, it’s an easy gift and something they can enjoy,” she said.
Dream Chocolate works with a number of Snake River Valley wineries, Boise State University, Whole Foods, The Boise Co-op, A New Vintage Wine Shop in Meridian and several others.
“Dream Chocolates does chocolates with our logo on them,” said A New Vintage owner Ilene Dudunake. “There are the 75 percent and 85 percent cocoa bars, and then there are Kay’s salted caramels with dark chocolate. They are evil. They are really evil.” (But in a good way.)
It’s nearly impossible to go wrong with bubbles on Valentine’s Day — or any day — because sparkling wines are fun, versatile and often quite food-friendly. Fortunately, there’s growing interest in sparkling wine production in the Treasure Valley.
Coiled Wines, which shares a tasting room with Telaya, produces an internationally hailed sparkling Riesling that Coiled owner and winemaker Leslie Preston has dubbed Rizza ($28).
Crossings Winery also has a delicious sparkling estate Riesling project it calls Bubbles ($30). The Glenns Ferry winery will stage a consumer tasting called Bubble Off! on Feb. 10 in their barrel room. Cost is $50. It’s part of Crossing’s Valentine’s Weekend.
If you buy a bottle of Gruet sparkling wine, then to some extent you also will be buying local. While the winery is in New Mexico, some Chardonnay grapes from the Snake River Valley are beginning to make their way into those bubbles. Gruet is part of the Seattle-based Precept Wine empire, which includes Ste. Chapelle and Sawtooth.
Valentine’s celebrations will be staged throughout the Snake River Valley wine industry. The Robertson sisters, for instance, are holding their Zhoo Zhoo Valentine’s Open House on Feb. 10, 11 and 12 at Hells Canyon Winery.
It’s part of the Sunny Slope Wine Trail’s Wine & Chocolate Weekend, which includes events at Fujishin Family Cellars, Huston and Parma Ridge. Among the highlights is that club members at Fujishin receive a Mini-Chocolate Lava Cake for two.
Sawtooth’s planned transition to the Sunnyslope Wine District is not complete, so its tasting room in Nampa will offer chocolate and wine pairings Feb. 11 and 12. There’s also its 1930s Murder Mystery Dinner on Feb. 11 with 3 Girls Catering.
Fun-loving Indian Creek in Kuna offers four chocolate/wine pairings for $10 on Feb. 11 and 12.
Telaya and Coiled host their Valentine’s Concert in the Cellar on Feb. 11, featuring Freudian Slip and Mexican cuisine. Cover charge is $7. Wear your dancing shoes.
Learn more about Idaho winery valentine events at Idahowines.org.