Better together

Pairing Boulder-made chocolate with Western Slope wine


There’s been something of a wine renaissance on the Western Slope. This has coincided with the Boulder area’s development of some truly excellent chocolate. Here are some pairings that together are each greater than the sum of its parts.

Lift Chocolate Berry Blonde Splitz paired with Sauvage Spectrum Sparklet Rosé 

Audrey Leonard redcurrantbakery.

Sauvage Spectrum is one of the fastest-growing wineries on the Western Slope, having just got its start in summer 2019. With the combined talents of grape and tree-fruit grower Kaibab Sauvage and winemaker Patric Matysiewski, Sauvage has been instrumental in Palisade’s wine resurgence, both by making stunning juice and championing the other growers and producers in the region. Boulder-based Lift Chocolate’s Berry Blonde Splitz combines dual layers of blueberry and caramelized white chocolate. While the blueberry accentuates the many berry flavors present in Sauvage Spectrum’s Sparklet Rose, the white chocolate smoothes out some of the bottle’s more acidic notes. The burnt sugar notes also help to make the pairing a particularly sumptuous dessert. Sauvage Spectrum is available by way of its Cellar Select Society, a quarterly club in which wines are hand-selected and shipped by the winemaker. It is also available at liquor stores across the Front Range.

Lift Chocolate is named after founder Brandon Busch’s background as a CH-53 Heavy “Lift” helicopter pilot in the United States Marine Corps. What began in 2015 out of Brandon’s home kitchen has now grown into a full-fledged operation with national distribution. Since 2017, he’s operated out of the space (6395 Gunpark Drive, Boulder) that once held Concertos in Chocolate, with a small retail shop looking into the production area. 

Lift Chocolate Sunny Mango Splitz paired with Periphery Cellars Push and Pull

Periphery Cellars is one of the more exciting projects set to launch out of Palisade in May 2023. Founded by winemaker and level one sommelier Joe Flynn, the one-man project is based around small-batch, hard-to-produce wines. The low-intervention juice is stemmed by hand and crushed by foot, with Flynn planning to release a mere 400 gallons, or 200-250 cases, a year. The Push and Pull is a barrel-aged rose of St. Vincent and Gewurztraminer that combine well with the dual layers of mango and premium dark chocolate in Lift’s Sunny Mango Splitz. The high natural sugar of the Gewurztraminer plays off the mellow sweetness of the mango for another great after-dinner treat. The wines will be available for shipment via Periphery’s website. 

Lift Chocolate Raspberry Patch Splitz paired with Colorado Vintners Ghostdance Rosé

Colorado Vintners is a family-owned winery from husband and wife Richard and Aly McDonald that produces its own expressions and acts as a tasting room for other wines from the region. Aly has taken particular care to make the tasting room a hospitality-driven location where folks can learn the stories of the wineries behind whatever it is they choose to sip. “This Provence-inspired rosé has an elegant dry finish and carries notes of rose petals and fresh strawberries, while keeping a bright and crisp demeanor,” says Aly. The Raspberry Patch Splitz has bold dark chocolate flavors with light, creamy fruit notes that smooth out the sharper edges of the Ghostdance allowing its floral notes to shine through. Colorado Vintners is also available on the Front Range by way of its website.

Moksha Chocolate 40% White Coconut Chocolate Raspberry paired with Periphery Cellars Blanc y Blanco Valley Verde

Moksha is a Boulder-based chocolatier that got its start in 2019. Founded by husband and wife Michael and Jennifer Caines, the spot specializes in functional chocolates including lines of CBD bars and bars with mushroom blends. Much of Moksha’s cacao is sourced from their own farm in the Rio Mayo Valley in Peru where Michael travels annually to participate in the harvesting and drying process. All the bars are entirely vegan and use coconut milk instead of dairy producing a unique character, particularly in the more delicate white chocolate. The Blanc y Blanco is a blend of Villard Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc and drinks much like a Vinho Verde. The combination is entirely refreshing.

Moksha Chocolate Zorzal Estate 70% Single Origin Cacao Dark Chocolate paired with Colorado Vintners Escalante Red Blend

The Escalante Red Blend is built to go with dark chocolate and is often served alongside some in the tasting room. It’s a robust and sophisticated red, with hints of clove and baking spices and a strong sense of dark stone fruit and blackberries. The Zorzal Estate takes its beans from the Dominican Republic and has strong flavors of citrus and coffee. This pairing is ideal for folks with bold palates, with both the chocolate and the wine having long resonant flavors. The chocolate’s inherent bitterness is perfectly matched by the stone fruit, making for a downright addictive back and forth.

Moksha Chocolate 50% Criollo Milk Chocolate paired with Sauvage Spectrum Candy Red

Sauvage Spectrum’s Candy Red is a fruit-forward sparkling red with plenty of effervescence. The Lambrusco-style wine is produced through carbonic maceration on Verona grapes, yielding a light to medium body sipper that is full of red fruit and black cherry. Moksha’s 50% Criollo Milk Chocolate uses cacao from its own farm in Peru, with the lighter content allowing some of the coconut milk flavor to shine through. The rich creaminess of the bar plays nicely with the sturdier fruit flavors, with the whole experience being reminiscent of desserts like a torte or a cobbler. 

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