Friday, July 20, 2012

Wine Country Chocolates

We know where to go in San Francisco for the best artisan chocolate, and we'll take you there on our much-loved Chocolate Tours.  But if you're visiting wine country, what should be on every chocolate lover's itinerary? A few noteworthy spots have opened recently and we would like to share our old and new finds with you.

1) Downtown Napa - Anette's
Anette's is a must for anyone visiting downtown Napa.  With a shop and factory on First Street as well as a boutique in Oxbow Market, Anette's serves a wide array of truffles, award winning brittles, homemade ice cream and chocolate wine sauces.  On our Gourmet Napa Tour, we get the VIP treatment from the friendly staff at the First Street location.

Wine country visitors especially enjoy the Summer Cabernet or the Chardonnay truffle.  The brittles make perfect gifts, and can be toted along in the summer without worrying about melting.  The Chili Lime Tequila Brittle is Anette's newest and most adventurous flavor.  Men on our tours particularly enjoy the Beer Brittle with Spanish Peanuts.  Anette's makes an excellent dessert stop after dining at Oenotri next door, recently ranked as best "New Italian" restaurant in the United States by Food & Wine.

2) Yountville - Kollar Chocolates

Kollar Chocolates just celebrated its one year anniversary in Yountville's V Marketplace.  While Yountville is home to some of the best restaurants and pastry shops in the world, it was missing a chocolate shop and so Chris and Naomi Kollar stepped in to fill the void.  Wisely, they sell espresso drinks and gelato in addition to handcrafted chocolates, bark and other confections.  The chocolates are beautifully displayed, with colors and gloss in the style of Christopher Elbow.  Since Kollar Chocolates is in production each and every day, chances are you'll see some chocolate being made in the adjacent open kitchen during your visit.

The Fennel Pollen truffle is one of my favorites, a recent winner in the Napa Chocolate Salon.  New for the summer season is the Tour de France Collection, inspired by the bright jerseys of the fit international cyclists.   Spending the afternoon in Yountville?  I recommend picking up a boxed lunch from Addendum, enjoying a picnic with wine at the side entrance of V Wine Cellar, macarons from Bouchon and ending with treats from Kollar Chocolates.

3) Browns Valley Road, Napa - La ForĂȘt
I had an incredible birthday dinner at San Francisco's Benu last fall.  When I learned that the chocolates concluding the meal came from Napa, I made a note to investigate.  The chocolatier is Wendy Sherwood and she worked as pastry chef at the French Laundry along with Corey Lee of Benu.  In May of 2010, she opened a chocolate shop in a little strip mall about 10 minutes out of downtown Napa.  The location didn't make sense to me until I understood her business a little better.

La ForĂȘt does not have the standard array of chocolates available for shoppers to step in and purchase.  Instead Sherwood has established an allocation program that restaurants and chocolate enthusiasts commit to for the year.  This gives her freedom to experiment with unusual ingredients that many commercial chocolatiers would avoid due to their limited shelf life.  While I salivated over the descriptions of the summer allocation (available on her web site), I picked up a few artfully packaged bars to serve after dinner:  Strawberries & Cream (white chocolate) and Fluffanutter (milk chocolate, marshmallow).  Note to brides: Wendy Sherwood makes wonderful wedding cakes as well.

Do you have any other chocolate favorites in wine country?  Please share.