Pot Luck

Odd Pair: Chocolate and Orange Moscato for Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is really just another excuse to eat lots of chocolate and drink too much champagne. Everywhere you turn, it's chocolate-covered strawberries, red-and-pink sweets, and bubbly beverages. But whether you love the holiday or hate it, you will definitely want to try this odd pair for Valentine's Day.

A couple of months ago, we visited Texas Hills Vineyard in Johnson City, Texas. Its tasting menu featured a lot of the common suspects - Pinot Grigio, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. But, what intrigued us was the award-winning Orange Moscato on the list of sweet wines. We've had plenty of Muscat dessert wines but never an orange Muscat wine.

Not surprisingly, the orange Muscat grape gives this sweet dessert wine a nice orange flavor. By itself, the Orange Moscato is overly sweet despite having less than 5 percent residual sugar. Our puckered faces must have given us away, because the lady behind the counter suggested we try the wine again with some dark chocolate pieces. Chocolate and orange are a common pairing in candy, so it seemed to make sense.

The chocolate was a huge improvement for the wine. All of a sudden, we couldn't stop sipping wine and snacking on chocolate chips. The dark chocolate highlighted the orange in the wine while keeping the sweetness from being too overpowering. This combo is a perfect example of how dessert wine should be sweeter than the dessert. In addition to chocolate, the woman also suggested raspberries or citrus with the wine. Someone else told us that she even liked this wine with spicy Thai food. Interesting, but we will probably just stick with a nice Riesling for our Thai food.

So we stumbled on an alternative to our Valentine's Day champagne-and-chocolate combo. And don't let the orangey sweetness fool you. The Texas Hills' 2005 vintage has a high alcohol content at 14 percent.

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Jane Catherine Collins