By Amie Nemec
While we know the Texas Hill Country is a top destination for wine, sometimes we’re looking for something a little different. A couple of weeks ago, I ventured out with a few of my wine industry friends for lunch and a visit to the brand-new Hill Country Chocolate. Their website indicates they are opening soon, but their Instagram feed shows a cozy spot and gorgeous bites of chocolates, so we took a gamble to see if anyone was around. The space is located on Industrial Loop, which is on the east side of Fredericksburg and just about a quarter mile off of Highway 290. We expected chocolates and maybe some wine, and what we got was a bit of education from charming folks who are building something special.
We were greeted in a beautifully appointed retail space with a view into the kitchen where owner and chocolatier, Dan McCoy, was filling truffles. Off to the side, a few bistro tables resembled what we’d expect to see in France. Sitting here, we were offered wines by the glass or bottle and a taste of chocolate or two.
We opted to buy packages of various chocolates to open up to share while we chatted and tasted their wines. The wines are custom labeled DKM Cellars and are Italian wines made in collaboration with producers in Italy specifically crafted to pair with their chocolates.
Dan popped out of the kitchen to say hello and we were pleased to make introductions around the table and ask questions about the shop and chocolate in general. We learned the difference between a bon bon and a truffle and discussed how chocolate can be difficult to pair with wine, despite what many people think. Dan’s truffles are shiny jewel-toned bites of heaven! I especially loved one with dark chocolate, orange zest, and black pepper.
When asked where he learned to make chocolate, Dan told me, “I started making chocolates about 20 years ago here in Fredericksburg where I had a weekend home when I worked on a project for a local store owned by Darlene and David Marwitz – Villa Texas. It was an Italian inspired theme, and we created a chocolate in the shape of an olive – the “cholive” – for the store. Not much came from that except I got the chocolate bug. I sent out emails on AOL.com to multiple chocolatiers around the country (this was before YouTube and most of the chocolate books were in German) and asked for help. People were so generous in teaching and introducing me to recipes, technique, and machines that I put an enrobing machine in my pool house and started a hobby that now has grown into a business.”
Digging deeper, I learned Dan was born in north central Texas in Bosque County, and attended Tarleton State University and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. He became a dermatologist and worked at Baylor in Dallas, specializing in melanoma and psoriasis. About ten years ago, he shifted gears just a little and went to work for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas. Just a couple of years ago, Dan stepped down as President of the company and shifted gears once more as he relocated full-time to Fredericksburg. Now he consults on corporate strategy and makes fine chocolates. And boy does he have a skill we are excited to see put to good use!
His vision for Hill Country Chocolate is simply, “to make people happy. We want our guests to be the central focus and concentrate our efforts on creating an experience with meticulous attention to confectionery details, techniques, and ingredients that delivers the best possible product. We are dedicated to making sure that every detail counts – from the look of the store to where we source our ingredients to continuous training for our team. We want our guests to taste great chocolate and wine, but we also want to take them on a journey they may remember from childhood and forgotten, or to a place they haven’t been before.”
In fact, if you’re looking for something unique, you will want to schedule the Premiere Wine and Chocolate Experience. This is a curated event in the private tasting room for 2 to 14 guests and includes a sparkling wine starter with a brittle and charcuterie tasting with an elevated tour of the factory and the journey of how chocolate is sourced and made. This is followed by a guided tasting by one of the chocolatiers through different styles of confections and pairings and includes a variety of their current wines. The cost for this is experience is $100 per person and you’ll leave knowing more about chocolate than you ever imagined.
As for their wines, I was quite impressed. The Italian Moscato d’Asti is produced and labeled for DKM Cellars by a producer in Piedmont. This region is known for Moscato with a little effervescence which cuts the natural sweetness of the grape. The resulting bottle is bright, crisp, and refreshing without being cloyingly sweet. I loved this wine with the Spicy Peanut Brittle, and I took both home to share with my hubby after dinner. The fizz also cuts through the creaminess of high-quality milk chocolate.
The red wine is made in collaboration with Flavio Andreucci. You may recognize the name if you’re familiar with downtown Fredericksburg, as he is the owner and winemaker of Andreucci Italian wines on Main Street. The blend is 90% Sangiovese, 5% Petit Verdot, and 5% Syrah. As I mentioned earlier, chocolate can be difficult to pair with wine. Cacao and wine grapes both have natural tannin. This means, we have to be careful to balance the tannins and not overwhelm the palate. In this blend, the Sangiovese is soft enough to let a dark chocolate sing, but the added backbone of the Petit Verdot and Syrah make sure the wine isn’t flabby or buried by the chocolate. I loved the Dark Chocolate Corn Flakes with this wine. And the Dark Chocolate Espresso Beans, and I don’t even like coffee!
Not only is this stop a nice break from our typical wine tastings in the area, but Hill Country Chocolates is also an excellent stop to pick up a gift for any occasion. Or no occasion at all!
About the Author
Amie Nemec is a longtime wine lover, Sommelier, and founder of Perspective Cellars tasting room in Fredericksburg, Texas. She is now venturing down the path to learn winemaking, so, along with wine writing and food pairing posts, be on the lookout for Amie’s wines in coming years!