I was recently asked if I wanted to try some Gearhart's Chocolates, specifically a Dark Chocolate Caramel. Of all chocolates, Chocolate Caramels are my hands down favorite. I will go through a box of assorted chocolates and poke the bottoms of every last candy until I find the elusive chocolate caramel one and when you discover that someone went through and poked a hole in the bottom of every last candy in the box, I will lie to your face that it was me. So how delightful to not only be spared the work of poking out every bottom, there were no mystery nougats to be endured. Phew.
Enough about me. Let's talk Chocolate Caramels. Here's the description I was sent of the chocolates:
Gearharts was approached by several of the local wineries around Charlottesville and asked to create a chocolate that would pair well with red wine. The result was the Dark Chocolate Caramel. Using Gearhart's Signature Caramel (with cocoa added to the actual caramel), this chocolate also contains a hint of balsamic vinegar and cracked black pepper, is coated in extra bittersweet dark chocolate and finished with Maldon smoked sea salt flakes.
I'd be curious to see what some of the wine pairings are, because none came with the chocolates, nor could I find them on Gearhart's website. Not all red wines go well with chocolate - my eloquent friend Megan wrote a wonderful piece last Valentine's Day for The C-ville Weekly on pairing wine & chocolates in which she explains why that lovely Malbec I had did not pair well with these chocolates. I knew that was going to be the case, but I went ahead and tried it anyway. Not very good. A better match would probably have been a Norton (I highly recommend Horton Winery's Norton) or any of the other wines she mentioned in her piece but as I don't make it a habit to keep dessert wines on hand, I can't talk to you about how the wine paired with the chocolates.
I can however, tell you about these caramels. The dark chocolate and caramel were superb. As for the black pepper, it was only noticeable when nibbling on the salted corner - which is sort of interesting - you don't think that one flavor, salt, would pull another flavor, black pepper, through so much, but it did here. The touch of balsamic vinegar came through on the finish, providing a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the caramel that lingered on the palate.
The kind folks over at Gearhart's also included an 8 piece sampler of their other chocolates with the dark chocolate caramels.
The sampler came with a small brochure that lists all their fine chocolates and includes color pictures, so there's no need to stab the bottom with your fingernail to see what flavor you are holding. It's a nice touch if you are inclined to sharing or if you're like me, only share what you aren't entirely wild about. Which doesn't apply when it comes to Gearhart's. I just like certain ones (The Earl Gray, the Taj and now the Dark Chocolate Caramel) better than others.