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Looking to create a romantic evening for Valentine’s Day?  Consider a wine and chocolate pairing. High-quality, artisanal chocolate is key to creating an amazing pairing, so I consulted with Baltimore’s chocolate maven, Susannah Siger of Ma Petite Shoe, who suggested a few chocolates from up-and-coming brands Salazon and Tcho.  Each can be paired with a different style of wine to create the right mood.

Tcho Chocolates (pronounced Choh) are the creation of a team of professionals from the space shuttle, chocolate and technology industries! Their state-of-the-art factory is located at Pier 17 in San Francisco, where the production of the product is controlled from bean to bar. They work closely with growers to ensure the beans are processed correctly in order to create organic certified chocolates that they label by flavor profile— Citrus, Nutty, Fruity and Chocolatey.

Looking to ignite passion?
Pairing: Tcho Citrus with sparkling Prosecco from Italy. Citrus is the lightest of the chocolates and has bright notes of citrus with a smooth creamy finish. When pairing wine with chocolate, consider the weight or intensity of the chocolate. The bigger, bolder the chocolate, the bigger the wine should be. This is a light, high-acid chocolate, and lends itself to lighter wines like Prosecco. The acidity of the wine also stands up to the sour notes in the chocolate. The contrast of the bubbles in the wine with the creaminess of the chocolate makes for a sensual and exciting tasting experience.

Salazon, which means “salted,” is the creation of Pete Truby. His passion for photography and salted chocolate spawned the creation of Salazon. The labels feature breathtaking photographs from around the world. Salazon salted dark chocolates are a dream come true if you love a sweet and salty combination. These small-batch dark chocolates are organic, vegan and gluten-free with three flavor options: salt, salt and pepper and salt and coffee.

Looking to spice things up?
Pairing: Salazon Organic Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Organic Cracked Black Pepper with a spicy Zinfandel. The Salazon sea salt and pepper bar has the contrast of sweet and salty and the added spice of black pepper. This spicy dark chocolate needs a wine with ample fruit flavors and a touch of spice. Look for a Zinfandel that has hints of pepper and spice to accent the cracked pepper in the chocolate, and enough concentration of fruit flavors to balance the sweetness of the chocolate. Truby suggests The 7 Deadly Zins or XYZin from California.

Tcho (tcho.com) and Salazon (salazonchoc.com) chocolates are available at Ma Petite Shoe and Whole Foods, as well as other fine retailers. —Laurie Forster

Laurie Forster, The Wine Coach®, is a wine educator and author of the book “The Sipping Point: A Crash Course in Wine.” Her specialty is providing wine expertise for corporate events, group tastings and team-building seminars. She is also a frequent guest expert on radio shows, including Martha Stewart Radio. Visit http://www.thewinecoach.com

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