Mettler Old Vine Zinfandel Epicenter 2015, Lodi
Cost: $24-26
W ine and chocolate. Sounds like romance. They sound so good together you would think they are a natural pair.
But as you prepare for Valentine’s Day, be warned. Not all chocolate tastes good with all wine. When you do find the right pairing, it is heavenly.
One problem is the sweetness of the chocolate and the wine. If you eat the wrong chocolate it alters our perception of the wine, causing the wine to taste bitter and astringent.
You might not know it, but chocolate contains tannin, which also occurs in wine. When you put the two together they can dry out your mouth, which usually is unpleasant.
Adding strawberries made the chocolate even better with the wine.

At the end of this column I have a list of what kind of chocolate goes with which kind of wine. It is not foolproof, but it does work. As with most things involving wine you just have to keep tasting until you find the pairings you like.
I found a great pairing with the Mettler Old Vine Zinfandel 2015 ($24-26) and a medium dark chocolate (60 percent cocoa) from BRIX, a company that specializes in wine to pair with chocolate.
The wine is a beautiful deep crimson/purple color in the glass with smoky aromas of plum, vanilla and spice. The flavors are complex and smooth, unfolding plum, blackberry and tobacco with some oak notes. Light acidity keeps the fruit flavors in balance, leading to a rich, lingering aftertaste.
This wine is a blend of 85 percent zinfandel, 10 percent petite sirah, 3 percent cabernet franc and 2 percent cabernet sauvignon. The grapes are from one of the oldest zinfandel vineyards on the Mettler ranch where the deep-rooted vines thrive in rich, sandy loam soils. This 50-year old vineyard is located in the “epicenter” of Lodi’s old vine zinfandel district and is organically and sustainably grown. That’s why the Mettlers call this wine “Epicenter.”
After fermentation it spent 14 months in 80 percent American and 20 percent French oak. The barrels were 30 percent new, 30 percent one-year old and 40 percent neutral.
Mettler is in the Lodi region of central California, directly east of San Francisco. Some great wine is produced there, but unfortunately it also is the title of an old Creedence Clearwater Revival song. So whenever I drink a wine from Lodi I can’t stop singing, “Oh, Lord, I’m stuck in old Lodi again.”
This weekend would be a good time to be stuck in Lodi. The 22nd Wine & Chocolate Weekend will be Saturday and Sunday (February 9 and 10). If you find yourself anywhere near there it would be worth a visit.
Tickets are $75, but if you are a wine club member at one of the Lodi wineries, the cost is only $55. Tickets include a wine glass and a one-ounce medium dark bar from BRIX plus wine tasting and admission to all participating Lodi wineries on both days.
If you’re not in Lodi, you can just plan your own wine and chocolate tasting at home. What could possibly be bad about wine and chocolate?
The BRIX chocolate was delicious.

Winery: The Mettler family has been growing grapes in the Lodi area since the 1800s, and eight generations back they were growing grapes in the German area of Alsace (which is now in France).
They were one of the first families to introduce French clones to Lodi and have grown many unusual varietals such as Pinotage and Aglianico.
Specializing in three core varietals, cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel and petite sirah, their vineyards are certified sustainable and organic. They use integrated pest management, cover crops and composting, and handle disease control through trellising, shoot positioning and leaf removal. Their emphasis on healthy vines leads to consistent wine quality. Their commitment is to preserving the vineyards for generations to come.
After growing grapes for many top wineries, in 2001 the family released its own wine, a cabernet sauvignon. It was widely praised, and the family has since added petite sirah and zinfandel to its portfolio. They now produce albarino, muscat canelli, chardonnay, a GSM blend, a red blend, a pinotage and an aglianico.

Goes with: We had this smooth zinfandel with incredible chocolate from BRIX, a company that crafts chocolate to pair with wine. It was a spectacular pairing.
Both Teri and I marveled at how well the wine and chocolate were paired. The sweetness of the chocolate did not clash with the sugar in the wine, but seemed to blend with it.
We would take a bite of chocolate, followed by a sip of wine and then repeat. I picked out strawberries in the fruit salad Teri had made and added those to the chocolate plate, and the pairing was even better.
We had so much fun, before we knew it half the bottle of wine and about a third of an 8-ounce chunk of chocolate were gone.
The chocolate comes in four flavors, extra dark (70 percent cocoa); medium dark (60 percent); smooth dark (54 percent), and milk (46 percent). Each pairs well with a different set of wines.
Extra dark: cabernet sauvignon, Bordeaux, barolo, malbec. It should also be good with cabernet franc, touriga nacional, super tuscans, amarone, barbaresco, nebbiolo, young shiraz and tannat.
Medium dark: merlot, shiraz, zinfandel, chianti and Rhone. Also good are Brunello de Montalcino, Montepulciano, sangiovese, tempranillo (rioja), grenache/garnacha, carmenere, primitivo, mourvedre, tinta barroca, tinta roriz and baco noir.
Smooth dark: Champagne, riesling, pinot noir, vintage port. Also prosecco, brachetto, beaujolais, gamay, baco noir, white port, LBV port, ruby port, aligote, viognier, chenin blanc, gewurtztraminer, semillon, pinot gris and vidal.
Milk: Cacao, port, sherry, dessert wines, Burgundy, rosé, late harvest wines, Madeira, Tokai, sauternes and muscat.
The closest stores with BRIX chocolate that I could find were in suburban Atlanta and in Savannah, but it is available online.
The Mettler zinfandel also would pair well with regular dinner fare such as burgers, pizza, pasta with tomato sauce, hearty stews and just about anything on the grill.
If you have questions about wine you can email Dennis Sodomka at

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