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By Lynn Haggerty King

For the Argus-Courier

Today, Valentine's Day, chocolate is one of the most sought-after items in town. Luckily for Petalumans who love the delicacy, locally owned and operated businesses are providing an array of artisanal chocolates to choose from.

This reporter was first introduced to Bert's Desserts when two Casa Grande students sold her peppermint bark that they were producing and marketing as part of their senior project. They explained that Bert had agreed to mentor them through the project, so that they could learn how to run a small business.

Petaluma native Bert, short for Roberta, Smith has been making and selling her own cream-filled truffles and chocolate cups from a commercial kitchen in Petaluma for the past 10 years.

While candy making started as a hobby, she became a professional about 14 years ago when her husband asked her to produce 100 boxes of chocolates for his clients during the holidays, after his original distributor was unable to fill the order. So many people asked him where he got the delicious chocolates, and how could they get more, that Bert eventually decided to change careers, leaving a high paying position in the financial industry and setting up her own small business.

Smith produces her own chocolates and is self-taught. She specializes in cream-filled truffles but also makes peppermint and raspberry bark.

She has also developed a port and wine reduction process, allowing her to create wine-flavored fudge, which she sells at winery events, using products specific to the winery. Her wine-flavored fudge is much in demand, and only available at events since it doesn't last past two days. She will give you the recipe upon request.

She also makes wine- and port-flavored cream truffles, as well as many other flavors, including her signature peanut butter cups.

Bert is proud to have been born, raised and educated here in Petaluma and is very interested in giving back to local schools, both through donations and through mentoring programs. Last month, she hosted the entire Petaluma High School Future Business Leaders club and taught them how to make chocolates. On March 9, she will be part of the Petaluma Host Lions Food Festival, which benefits Project Graduation for all high school seniors.

Lynn Wong, meanwhile, is the sole proprietor of Viva Cocolat, located at 110 Petaluma Boulevard North. She makes some of her own artisanal chocolates and sells others based on their reputations for excellence and the use of quality ingredients, which she taste tests to make sure they are suitable for her clientele.

She also serves desserts produced by area bakers Sweet Things, John & Jill's, and Galaxy, and has a cappuccino bar where she makes espresso and chocolate drinks.

She has been open for five years as of Feb. 9, after deciding that Petaluma needed a world-class chocolate shop.

She confesses that she is a chocoholic and has a passion for both chocolate and Sonoma County.

(Contact Lynn King at argus@ar guscourier.com.)


Where to find locally made chocolates

You can find Bert's Desserts at G&G Market and Powell's in Petaluma. You can also order by phone at 707-762-5695 or visit her website at www.bertsdesserts.com.

Every Friday and Saturday evening, Lynn Wong of Viva Cocolat hosts a chocolate fondue, reservations recommended. For Valentines Day, there will be a special dessert buffet from 5 to 9 p.m., reservations required.

Viva Chocolate can be reached at 707-778-9888, and on the web at www.vivacocolat.com. Hours are 11am-6pm Sunday through Thursday; 11a.m. to 10p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.