Photo of vine to bar chocolates with wine grapes in the background

Grape-Infused Chocolate Bars = New Superfood

A couple of weeks ago, the Specialty Food Association’s Winter Fancy Food Show took over the Las Vegas Convention Center to showcase tens of thousands of new food products, as well as share 2022 trends.

It’s a foodie’s paradise! While impossible to taste every available sample, it’s fun to see all the labor of love products hoping to make it onto store shelves.

Upcycling has been identified as a 2022 trend. Since its introduction in June, the Upcycled Certified label from the Upcycled Food Association has landed 140 products and ingredients from 28 companies, projected to prevent more than 703 million pounds of food waste annually.

A study from Food Market Insights revealed the food waste industry is worth $46.7 billion. Look for the word “upcycled” to be used more and more, since a 2021 study published in Food and Nutrition Sciences found only 10% of consumers are aware of these products.

Debuting at the show was Vine to Bar, which makes chocolate bars from Chardonnay pomace (also known as marc). The product was more than 10 years in the making, with $10 million invested to transform it into a superfood rich in nutrients.

A recent study by University California Davis concluded Chardonnay marc has properties that not only contain healthy compounds with antioxidant, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties but it has “diverse and complex oligosaccharides that could potentially improve gut health by encouraging good bacteria to grow.”

What’s Chardonnay marc? It’s the pulpy residue of seeds, skins and stems remaining after fruit has been crushed to extract its juice. Winemakers dry and mill it into a pomace, preserving their fiber and flavor “upcycling” into a superfood. It benefits Mother earth by reducing the 10 billion pounds of waste a year globally generated from remains of grapes pressed for winemaking.

Friends and wine industry leaders Barbara Banke, chairman and proprietor of Jackson Family Wines, and Peggy Furth, former co-chairman and CEO of Chalk Hill Vineyard & Winery, own both Vine to Bar and Sonomaceuticals, the company which developed the Chardonnay marc.

The idea was born when Furth met with the U.C. Davis dean of the Department of Viticulture and Enology to find out if there was any commercial use for the Chardonnay marc. Since U.C. Davis hadn’t done any research into wine grape pomace, he couldn’t answer her questions; she took matters into her own hands.

She found a paper about grape pomace and its use in making biofuels and grapeseed oil. In 2009, Furth and Banke formed Sonomaceuticals focusing on Whole Vine products with a mission to accomplish the full cycle of sustainability, in harmony with the cycle of nature and the vine.

Furth tracked down U.C. Davis Business School Professor Harold Schmitz, PhD, formerly with chocolate company Mars Inc., to discuss her idea of taking a family enterprise that does something well with wine and wants to do more that might have a human health benefit.

Schmitz said he’d done that with dark chocolate, but it took 20 years of research. Furth gave him five. Vine to Bar, the first product to use 15% Chardonnay marc incorporated into dark chocolate with all the benefits of the Chardonnay marc without the alcohol, was the result.

Chardonnay marc also sweetens dark chocolate, according to Vine to Bar’s chocolatier, Ralph Jerome, the former head of global innovation at Mars Inc., making the chocolate taste better, decreasing its bitterness and adding a fruity note.

The Chardonnay grapes all come from Jackson Family Wines. In the bars, the sustainably sourced cacao comes from West Africa and South America. Almond, Himalayan pink salt, Chardonnay smoked salt, tart cherry and cocoa nibs are the bar flavors.

Wishing you joy in the kitchen,

Photo of walnut-cherry dark chocolate bark

Walnut & Dried Cherries Dark Chocolate Bark
Yield: 48 pieces

1 ½ cups walnut halves
9 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup dried sour cherries, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, finely chopped

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Spread walnuts on a baking sheet and toast 8 minutes or until fragrant and golden brown. Cool, then coarsely chop.

2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a glass bowl, heat two-thirds of the chocolate in a microwave at high power in 30-second increments until just melted, stirring between each 30 seconds to prevent scorching. Stir until smooth. Add remaining chocolate, stirring until melted. Add walnuts, cherries and ginger until evenly coated. Scrape onto prepared baking sheet and spread into a 12-inch by 8-inch rectangle. Refrigerate 10 minutes or until firm enough to cut.

3. Cut into 48 pieces (6 rows by 8 rows) and transfer to a plate. Serve cold or room temperature. Can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature up to 4 days or refrigerated up to 2 weeks.

Photo credit: Vine to Bar

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