With Valentines Day just around the corner, I've been thinking of chocolate, of course. And I remembered my chef friend Andy Floyd telling me about a chocolate maker he loved near Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Andy has a superb palate so when he likes something, I know it's gonna be good. Based near Boulder, Colorado, he's been a culinary instructor for 12 years. For ten years, he brought students to the Vaucluse each summer for a complete immersion into the regional food and wine culture. Andy knows the landscape intimately and loves to share its treasures. And when I rang him up for the info, it turned out the chocolatier he had mentioned does much more than make and sell excellent bonbons. Here's what Andy had to say.
Why not get your chocolate bisous in Chateauneuf-du-Pape? The Castelain family moved to the area from the north of France (near the border of Belgium) and brought their chocolate expertise to the southern slopes of Chateauneuf-du-Pape when they built their first factory in 1994. Today, Laurence Castelain, a tall feisty woman with wild curly red hair, is the face of the family business. In 2007, Laurence completely gutted the original Chocolatier Bernard Castelain factory and created Vin Chocolat et Compagnie, devoted not just to chocolates but also to the wines of the region. Today Laurence runs a very modern boutique and wine shop but what really sets this delicious place apart is the various chocolate classes and tours she arranges for the public. Once a month you can join a VIP tour of the chocolate production area with their chocolate master and then learn the art of pairing chocolates with regional wines under the expert guidance of a master sommelier. Or, maybe you'd like to learn how to make chocolates yourself and even get your kids in on the action. Bonus: you get to take home your chef d’oeuvres. Of course the chocolates alone are worth a visit. Make sure to try.... Le Palet des Papes, which are made of a ganache that is unmistakably flavored with a Marc (a type of grappa) of Chateauaeuf. Le Bouchon de Châteauneuf-du-Pape: The same ganache as above but fashioned into a cork shape. Le Galet de Châteauneuf-du-Pape: Local almonds coated in dark chocolate and covered in a white chocolate crust made to look like the famous river rock that blankets the terroir outside the door. La Picholine: a similar concotion as the galet, but this time made to look like the olives that perfume so much of the olive oil of the area. Take a different path on your next visit to Chateauneuf-du-Pape and say hello to my friend Laurence. Your wine and chocolate dreams just might come true.... Wine, Chocolate & Co. Route d'Avignon 84230 Châteauneuf du Pape (At the entrance to the village) 04-90-83-54-71 vin-chocolat-castelain.com chocolat-castelain.com (For online ordering) Photo: Dipped chocolates at Castelain in Chateauneuf.
To reach Andy Floyd: firstname.lastname@example.org