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Cocoa Nib Caponata

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A Perfect Pairing with Our Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon!

Cocoa Nib CaponataThis caponata is an interesting appetizer or side dish when you plan to uncork our smooth, intense Napa Valley Cabernet. The pine nuts, tomatoes and balsamic come into harmony with the dense, nutty and slightly bitter cocoa nibs to perfectly compliment the cabernet/merlot marriage, always a lovely wine to open with dinner. Cocoa nibs are available in most gourmet grocery markets packaged in small pieces. The flavor is slightly nutty with chocolate notes and a hint of bitterness. We think it is a brilliant bridge to deep concentrated red wine aromas and flavors. Our recipe was inspired by Zazu Restaurant in Santa Rosa, California.


  • 3 medium, firm eggplant, unpeeled, 1 inch dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 ½ lbs. garden tomatoes, peeled and diced ( substitute 1 28 oz. can peeled tomatoes, drained)
  • 1 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped small
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/4 cup raisins, soaked for 1 hours in ¼ cup cabernet wine
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa nibs
  • ½ c. finely chopped Italian parsley
  • olive oil, for sautéing
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Slice the eggplant, season with salt and pepper, and place in a single layer between paper towels, weighted with a large skillet, to press excess moisture: about 30 minutes.

In a large sauté pan on medium high heat, sauté the eggplant in single layer batches in 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil until golden and soft, about 7 minutes. Set aside.

In the same pan, sauté the garlic until fragrant, about a minute. Add the tomatoes and chocolate and stir until chocolate is melted. In a mixing bowl, combine eggplant, garlic, tomatoes, balsamic, celery, raisins, pine nuts, capers, cocoa nibs, and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Chill the caponata for one hour before serving or spoon into a glass jar and keep for later, up to 3 days.

Delicious with crusty French bread, as a side, or spooned onto toasted baguette slices…all with a glass of Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet.

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About Our Authors

George Blanckensee

An expert event planner and an avid basketball and sports fan, George can tell you about all the best off-the-beaten path eateries.

Kali Clark

A Napa Valley native, Kali returned to the area after a stint on the East Coast and can be found documenting the latest happenings at the Chateau. When not behind the camera, she likes to experiment in the kitchen, travel, and enjoy the outdoors