Wine and Texas Chocolates -
25 Years Of Liquid Center Wonders
Wine and Texas Chocolates - 25 Years Of Liquid Center Wonders
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Summer is perfect for losing those recession blues according to Lecia Duke who for over 25 years gained national fame with her one-of-a-kind liquid center chocolates. She believes it’s all about love. “With every new season,” she said, “it’s time to celebrate with things that are truly delicious.”
Ms. Duke’s home is Fredericksburg, a picturesque city in the fabled Texas Hill Country. The city has strong German influences and a good portion of the population is Native American. Coexistence and harmony reign here, one of the reasons the city is a top stop-off for tourists. The other is her renowned local chocolate store.
Born with an insatiable sweet tooth, I made inquiries about a good candy store when I visited Fredericksburg a few years ago and was directed to Chocolat, Ms. Duke’s intimate production headquarters and retail store. I entered a delicious world of chocolate and wine: Willy Wonka meets Robert Mondavi.
Lecia Duke’s early years provided few hints that she would become a chocolatier. She began as a magna cum laude-degreed architect successfully pursuing a career in Nashville while always thinking about making chocolates. “I knew that designing buildings and bridges was never going to make me happy,” she said, so she decided on a major career change, going home to Fredericksburg to make chocolates. Before really starting, she traveled to Europe to learn the Liqueur Praline process, a unique 200 year-old method and opened shop to rave reviews.
What kick-started her success, however, was becoming the first licensee of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey liquid center chocolates. The combination of Old World process and New World brand fame was the huge hit that launched Chocolat and garnered Lecia Duke the prestigious Innovator award from the National Association of Women Business Owners.
After 25 years in business, Ms. Duke has made liquid-center chocolates with over 150 storied beverages including legendary wines of the world like Champagne, Bordeaux, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Port. Her specialty is custom-made wine liquid center chocolates, making this perhaps the only company in the American marketplace with such capability. Her recent appearance at the National Candy Show in Atlantic City stirred enough buzz to attract producers from the Food Network.
Life with Lecia
Lecia Duke enjoys home and work. Being part Cherokee in a city with a rich Native-American heritage is, she admits, comforting. She shares a ranch with Nick, a local Native-American leader, and both care for their land, the pet buffalo and Valentina, their good-natured wolf. Ms. Duke’s daughter Jesse is a third-year student at Colorado State University.
Visitors from the four corners visit Chocolat regularly to observe the handcraft artistry, often contributing to quite a repertoire of anecdotes. “I had a man walk in one day,” Ms. Duke said, “who told me he had just returned from Israel and had this wonderful Israeli chocolate-orange liqueur hoping that I could make chocolates for him for a full-blown dinner party. We made the liquid center chocolates - they were wonderful - and it was fun.”
Challenges will never stump Lecia who has plans to produce chocolates with rare
red dessert wines from Italy’s Piedmont including Brachetto d'Acqui, Puglia, and
Lazio. But, she’s true to Texas and one of her most popular products is made
with Fredericksburg Port.
Her chocolates are arguably a confectioner’s miracle. “Everything is made with love,” says Ms. Duke. “This is a happy place to work and since everything is hand made, there is a personal connection with those who get to enjoy the chocolates. Everything,” she added, “has to be beautiful," a reference to the hands-on process and the original design employed for gift boxes. “I knew that being an architect would be handy someday,” she said laughing. "If everything isn’t beautiful, it doesn’t leave the store."
The seasons take on a little added meaning this year.
Budgets are strained and fears grow. Living like a miser is the antithesis of
joyful living. Lecia Duke, an
All-American example of self-made success advises, “don’t live this way. Time is
valuable and we can easily celebrate love by enjoying chocolates and wonderful
DOC LAWRENCE PRODUCTIONS