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Vine to Bar: A pioneer in sustainable chardonnay chocolate with health benefits

A recent study by a team of scientists, including Roberta Holt and Daniela Barile from the University of California, Davis, highlights the potential health benefits and unique sensory properties of chardonnay marc, also known as pomace, a byproduct of winemaking. The findings present exciting opportunities for the food and beverage industry, particularly in Sonoma County, where a groundbreaking concept is taking shape: Vine to Bar.

Vine to Bar, co-founded by Peggy Furth, founder of Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards, and Barbara Banke, Chair of Jackson Family Wines, crafts health-conscious and delectable chocolates using chardonnay marc. This innovative approach reimagines waste utilization while offering a sustainable treat for chocolate lovers and aligns with the findings of the study involving chardonnay marc.

Vine to Bar chocolates incorporate upcycled chardonnay marc, which adds health benefits and improves flavor
Vine to Bar chocolates incorporate upcycled chardonnay marc, which adds health benefits and improves flavor

Peggy explains “this product is 65% dark chocolate and 15% chardonnay marc. And it is kind of a lighter, livelier dark chocolate. I know in some of my explorations when I've tried to go up the scale from 65 to 70, I even found 90% dark chocolate. There is an inherent bitter quality to it. But what we have found is that these fresh pressed chardonnay grapes, when turned into the product, give us a bar with a very pleasant fruity flavor that is compatible with the dark chocolate.”

This could be a game changer for sustainability. During the 2021 harvest, 66,264 tons of Sonoma County chardonnay were crushed for wine production12. Assuming 20% of that is waste, then the amount of waste produced from chardonnay in Sonoma County in 2021 would be 13,253 tons.

"Grappa is the poetry that warms a winter's night." - Marino Marzano

Yes, this is the same stuff they make grappa from. What else can be done with all that marc? We’re told it makes good livestock feed. Pomace has also been traditionally used to extract natural colorings for the food industry, based on the pigments present in grape skins.

Health benefits: Impact on chronic diseases and gut health

The chardonnay marc used in Vine to Bar's chocolates is rich in plant-based natural products (PBNPs) that offer a wide range of potential health benefits, including protection against chronic diseases like heart disease and type two diabetes. Chardonnay marc may have a beneficial impact on gut microbiome health and display potential anti-aging properties.

Scott Forsberg, President of Vine to Bar, emphasizes the health benefits of their chardonnay-based chocolates: "Chardonnay marc actually has the ability to make some of the things that are good for you but don't taste great, taste a lot better. For example, it counteracts the bitterness in dark chocolate.“

According to Scott, “It needs to be cleaned up. It needs to be pressed, dried, milled. And we took a lot of time actually coming up with a way of of doing that without destroying these important sensory aspects.”

Unique sensory properties: Flavorful experience with chardonnay marc

Chardonnay marc boasts a velvety texture, mild astringency, slightly sour taste, and a subtle floral and fruity aroma. By incorporating these unique sensory properties into their chocolates, Vine to Bar effectively enhances the flavor and offers a delightful taste experience for customers.

Sustainability: Circular bioeconomy in action

Vine to Bar demonstrates a central commitment to sustainability with chardonnay marc as a key ingredient. Peggy Furth articulates this passion: "Not only central, it's one of the driving focuses of our whole reason for being." By utilizing chardonnay marc and adhering to the principles of the circular bioeconomy, Vine to Bar transforms the byproduct into a valuable resource with health benefits and flavor enhancement.

Irresistible variety: Integrating chardonnay marc into an array of chocolates

Ed Klein, Managing Director of Vine to Bar, highlights their diverse range of chardonnay-infused products: "There are four flavor varieties found in two different formats and along with chocolate-covered almonds." The available flavors include "true dark," a combination of upcycled chardonnay grape and premium cacao, as well as smoked chardonnay salt, tart cherry with cocoa nibs, and almond with sea salt. These offerings showcase the versatility of chardonnay marc as an ingredient in chocolate.

Local availability and opportunities for Sonoma County industries

Vine to Bar's innovative and sustainable products are available across Sonoma County, known for its world-class chardonnay. Their chocolates can be found in esteemed tasting rooms like Kendall Jackson, La Crema, and Matanzas Creek, as well as local retail stores like Oliver's, Lunardi's, and Big John’s. The integration of chardonnay marc into Vine to Bar's chocolates paves the way for new product development, catering to health-conscious and eco-aware consumers in Sonoma County and beyond.

Good Magic and Barbara Banke. Good Magic is a retired champion American thoroughbred racehorse. SMI file photo.
Good Magic and Barbara Banke. Good Magic is a retired champion American thoroughbred racehorse. SMI file photo.

Future research and development: Exploring further potential of chardonnay marc

As more studies explore the health benefits and sensory properties of chardonnay marc, the use of this byproduct holds immense potential to revolutionize the food and beverage industry. With Vine to Bar leading the charge, the future of sustainable and health-oriented products with chardonnay marc as a foundational ingredient appears promising.

Vine to Bar's innovative use of chardonnay marc combines sustainability, health benefits, and unique taste properties in their chocolates. As the body of research on chardonnay marc continues to expand, so too will the opportunities for creating products that cater to health-conscious and sustainability-minded consumers.

Chardonnay Marc: A 'Trifecta' of Health, Taste, and Sustainability

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