By Evan Dawson, Finger Lakes Editor
Admit it: On more than one occasion, you've said to yourself, I'm going to quit work and start my own bed and breakfast/wine bar/restaurant. Danielle Lewis and Michael Goldberg got sick of saying it, so they decided to finally do it.
The result is Rochester's newest foodie attraction: Chocolate & Vines, located in a renovated house in the Neighborhood of the Arts. Lewis and Goldberg bought the house nearly two years ago and spent 18 months renovating it. They live upstairs, with the downstairs converted into a chic mini-restaurant with seating for roughly two dozen customers.
The menu features wine, cheese, artisan chocolates, desserts, craft beers and French-press coffee. We noticed that the top of each wine section features a New York state selection. It turns out that's not an accident.
"We wanted to place New York wine right at the top to make sure our customers know there are local choices," Danielle told me after a satisfying two-hour tour of the menu. "We've had so much fun putting the wine list together, and we wanted our customers to have fun deciding what to order."
Here's the menu, which is not fully updated — it doesn't show the by-the-glass McGregor Black Russian Red, which I ordered and is shown in the photo ($15.50 for a glass of Black Russian paired with an artisan chocolate). It's the only time I've ever seen this cult-ish Finger Lakes red offered by-the-glass.
There is much more from New York state, though it's a wine list to suit worldwide taste. Long Island's Bedell Merlot headlines the red list. Whites from Hermann J. Wiemer, Prejean and other Finger Lakes producers headline the whites.
A friend ordered a glass of Argentinian Malbec while I pondered a glass of Masi Amarone, ultimately saving it for my next visit, which will also include one of the 18 craft beers on the list. There is even a pair of Finger Lakes meads available.
A visit to Chocolate & Vines nearly requires a taste of the artisan chocolates, so our party sampled the almond marizpan, passion fruit, cookies and cream, and dark chocolate truffle. Even more enjoyable was the range of cheeses on offer, from simple aged gouda to a carmelized Norwegian Gjestost.
There is a room adjoining the dining area that provides a pool table, but I'm not sure it fits. The dining area was packed and buzzing on a Saturday night and the unused pool table made me wonder if that's a space better suited for more dining.
For now, Chocolate & Vines is open seven days a week, noon to 11pm. Lewis expects that to change eventually, "But for now we want to be always open, always available. We want to build a customer base and introduce ourselves." They're off to an excellent start.