I’m a big fan of wine tastings. And an even bigger fan of chocolate. So when I had the opportunity to visit the new Tishbi tasting center, which combines both wine and gourmet imported French chocolate, my interest was piqued. Moreover, my palette was proud of yet another Israeli innovation, not so much hi-tech this time, but palpably pleasing nevertheless.
The Tishbi winery has been around since 1984 and is run by the family of the same name, which is committed to keeping it small and boutique.
Winemaker Golan Tishbi was the one to come up with the idea of mixing wine and chocolate. The new tasting center, which was opened earlier this year, has been a word-of-mouth success, bringing in more than 40,000 visitors so far.
Tishbi takes its wine and chocolate seriously. Once in the tasting room, you settle into a standing station around a wooden bar. In front of you are three glasses and a rectangular box with six pieces of chocolate. Each chocolate is paired with a specific wine to bring out the flavors in both.
The glasses are of different sizes: the larger the glass, the more of the wine’s vapors enter your smell receptors, changing the overall sensory experience. I didn’t notice it so much, but I’m sure the late Israeli dean of wines Daniel Rogov would have.
For each chocolate, Tishbi instructed us to break off a piece and let it rest on our tongues. Taste it, feel it, let it melt, he beseeched us. It was hard not to bite, but then I was never very good with lollipops either. Once the tongue is thoroughly coated with chocolate, you drink in the wine. Let it float over the chocolate, Tishbi implied.
We then had a choice: let the wine carry the chocolate down, like a wet pill, or take them in one after another.
After a few moments of contemplation, it was on to the next wine and chocolate pairing. We learned the difference between “Manjari” chocolate from Madagascar and the Caribbean “Caraibe,” as well as the percent of cocoa inside (up to 85%, as decadent as they come).
At NIS 30 (less than $10) for a 45-minute gastronomic and oenological indulgence, it’s worth the gas to huff it up to Haifa (Tishbi is on the way, in the picturesque village of Binyamina). And if you need to chill out afterward and let the wine settle, Tishbi has a nice dairy restaurant right next door. But go for the apple pie – enough chocolate for one day!
There’s more about Tishbi and other delights in Israel’s Carmel region in this article.