The contenders

By Lenn Thompson, Editor-in-Chief

This month's edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday is actually the
first dual event between WBW and Sugar High Friday, a similar event
centered on desserts and sweets founded by this month's WBW host,
Jennifer Hamilton of The Domestic Goddess.

This will mark SHF #62, so it's been around for a while and this dual event is long overdue.

Her theme, Your Tenderest Twosome is a no-brainer for this first dual event:

"Most meals end with dessert and coffee or a glass of liqueur.
The focus on the meal is long since gone, as is the wine. Guests are
getting sleepy, hosts are getting antsy about the clean-up ahead of
them and no one is paying attention to what they're eating or drinking
anymore. I think this is shameful. Every once in a while, dessert
deserves the attention given to a main course…

The proper
pairing of a sugary confection with a good wine is a difficult thing to
maneuver. I have seen it done a few times in restaurants, once or twice
at dinner parties and maybe done it once myself - and I almost
certainly managed it by accident. Do you go sweeter with the wine than
the dessert or match it? Do you go red or white or ice? Do you try to
harmonize regions or go completely off the map (so to speak) with your

 You have the chance to decide all this and more for yourself this month
with the first ever joint SHF-WBW Dessert-Wine Pairing Event! All
bloggers (food, wine or otherwise) are welcome to participate. Post
your entry on Wednesday, February 24"

Hud_chat_rasp I wasn't alone in this pairing challenge — not by a long shot. This year, we celebrated Valentine's Day at our house with our friends Christine and Aaron (who just launched a cheese-themed blog Cave-Aged recently). We are a food-obsessed foursome and we each cooked a course for our V-day dinner.

Christine and Nena are both great bakers, but Christine drew the dessert course and unleashed a delicious chocolate-hazelnut cake with homemade vanilla bean gelato.

Wine with chocolate is something that wine writers and 'experts' like to talk about a lot, but I'm firmly in the I'd-rather-drink-milk camp when it comes to chocolate. I said so out on Twitter leading up to Valentine's Day and quite a discussion ensued, with Paul Grieco of Hearth and Terroir telling me, more or less, that I'm wrong and that I should try some Pedro Ximenez with chocolate this year.

I'm always willing to be proven wrong, so (as you can see in the picture above) I pulled out a couple bottles of PX to try with Christine's cake. I also grabbed a bottle of Bual because someone else mentioned that as a pairing, and thought it'd be fun to try one local wine — Paperbirch Raspberry Fine Ruby, made by Hudson-Chatham Winery up in the northern Hudson Valley.

On their own, the PX sherries were my favorites, but I thought that they took away from the chocolate cakes and vice versa. This has always been my issue when trying to pair wine with chocolate — it can 'work' but typically neither is enhanced. The Bual, for me anyway, was a mess with the cakes, by far the worst of the four.

Then we got to the raspberry port-style dessert wine, which is made with HudsonValley-grown hybrids and, of course, raspberries.

On it's own, it's a bit too sweet for me and fairly one-dimensional — almost entirely pure raspberry in flavor. But with the cake, the sweetness wasn't as overpowering and the fruitiness worked well. I still preferred the cake on its own, but the cake did improve the wine. One out of two ain't bad, right?

Thanks to Jennifer for the great theme idea — and to Paul for challenging my chocolate-wine pairing beliefs, even if they didn't change.