Wine and chocolate go together like, well, wine and chocolate. Two indulgent flavors simply deserve one another, which is why there isn’t a better analogy in our mind. And when it comes time to pick chocolates, it only makes sense to check out the artisan chocolate around the corner.
Roberta’s Chocolates (4840 West 29th Ave., Denver) has become a mainstay on the northwest side of town over the last dozen years. Roberta Poirier, the owner, produces a wide assortment of truffles, fudges, peanut butter cups and novelty candies at her namesake shop. She’s also the go-to supplier for the annual Wine and Chocolate Weekend every Valentine’s Day weekend at Bonacquisti Wine Co.
“I just love Paul,” Poirier says, of course referring to Paul Bonacquisti, our owner/winemaker. “After his weekend, people come in saying, ‘I had this truffle,’ so they come in to see the place.”
Makes sense. If you leave the winery with a bottle of Zin-style port, your next stop should be the chocolate shop.
Owning her own (chocolate) store was always going to be where Poirier wound up. She’s been an entrepreneur since elementary school. During her grade-school days, she’d take a quarter to the corner store, buy lollipops for a nickel apiece, then turn around and sell the candy for 10 cents a pop at school. “I had my first job in the second grade,” she says. “I could double my money in second grade.”
When she moved to Colorado, she took over a candy delivery route and found out something really interesting: The candies she made sold better than the ones the company provided her. It seemed as if she had a calling. “My husband said, ‘OK, go get a shop and see what you can do,’” she recalls. “I blame my husband.”
Well, it has worked out. She marries her love of art and design with a knack for producing tasty sweets at Roberta’s. The look of the chocolate or treat is just as important as the flavors, she says. “It’s got to be fun,” she says. “Fun is good taste and look.”
That’s how she gets people hooked on her chocolates (the mountain crunch with caramel corn coated in white chocolate and almonds is her favorite, by the way). Well, maybe it’s more than that. She’s become a partner in the community (which goes beyond her frequent work with Bonacquisti) and charms her customers with a sense of humor. “They say they come for the chocolate but stay for the entertainment,” she says. “That’s putting pressure on me to always entertain.”
She’s also keeps customers' attention by inventing new tasty sweets based on feedback from the neighborhood. Things like a jalapeno powder-dusted peanut butter cups come to mind. She’s also debuting a Valentine’s Day special that’s a box of assorted chocolates that comes in an edible box. During the football season, it was all about Tebow. Turns out Tebow Fudge (in orange and blue colors, of course) sells out very quickly. “We had to make more. That was fun.”
“My goal is for each customer to laugh or smile,” she says. “You’re not making chocolate to make someone mad. It ends in a smile.”
Three tips to pairing wine and chocolate:
Since Roberta doesn’t drink all that often, we turned to Paul for his advice on chocolate and wine pairing, fresh off sampling 18 of her truffles ahead of Wine & Chocolate Weekend (Feb. 11-12).
Come smile about sweets and vino on Feb. 11-12 at Wine & Chocolate Weekend. $20 for five chocolates with wine pairings.
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