Chocolate and ice cream dreams help the Vance family build a hempire. 

Written by Natasha Bourlin
Photos courtesy of Vance family

First, there was chocolate. Then came specialized ice cream. Now, expertise in those realms has branched into a totally new endeavor for Dorinda Vance and her sons: LiveKAYA. 

Chocolate has been treasured since around 2,000 BCE, when the Mayans in Central America first discovered cacao and its deliciously invigorating benefits when ingested. In the millennia to follow, it’s morphed into many a pleasurable delicacy, from potable to edible. 

blog sweet family Chocolates

In 2008, Dorinda Vance turned her passion and experience working with chocolate into a Truckee-based business, Dorinda’s Chocolates. Five years later, in 2013, she moved her business to Reno, along the Truckee River, with her son, Dustin. 

blog sweet family Dorinda and boysFrom left, Dillon, Dorinda, and Dustin Vance, the three family members behind Dorinda’s Chocolates, Rolled Mountain Creamery, and, most recently, LiveKAYA

Today, her two bustling retail stores drive demand that’s met in a large locale where her chocolates are crafted. That demand can’t be met with machinery alone, however. Today, with a team of chocolatiers, customer-service specialists, and two more businesses under the Dorinda’s umbrella, it’s become a full-fledged family affair. 

Fresh from the U.S Marines, Dillon Vance joined his mother and brother by forming Rolled Mountain Creamery in 2016. Reflecting on freshly crafted ice creams he read about while in Asia, where power grid issues often necessitated á la minute ice cream creation, he brought the technique to Dorinda’s Chocolates, and a new business was born. 

blog sweet family Dillon Rolled Mountain Creamery
Dillon Vance produces ice cream on the spot at Rolled Mountain Creamery in Reno

At Rolled Mountain Creamery, the Vances and their team make ice cream to order using fresh, raw cream combined with Dorinda’s high-quality ingredients. A stainless-steel plate serves as a freezing mechanism, then the solid cream is rolled and served to salivating customers. Vegan options also are available, and all varieties are made with mostly locally sourced ingredients. The ice creams are available at both Dorinda’s Chocolates locations in Reno (the second is in the SouthCreek shopping center in South Reno). 

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blog sweet family Rolled Mountain Creamery 23

Capitalizing on Cannabinoids

Blending business savvy with health benefits, the family just launched a new venture in April 2019. The Vances already knew of the positive effects that the high-grade, 70-plus-percent chocolate they used had on people’s well-being. 

“The amount of cocoa solids in dark chocolate is important because it can be an indicator of the amount of dietary flavonoids, which are antioxidants found in fruits, vegetables, and certain drinks. Research suggests consuming more dietary flavonoids is linked to a lower risk of coronary heart disease,” states an American Heart Association article entitled “Are there health benefits from chocolate?” 

“Most dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, particularly a subtype called flavanols that is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Some studies suggest chocolate or cocoa consumption is associated with a lower risk of insulin resistance and high blood pressure in adults,” the article continues.

While white-labeling chocolates for local dispensaries upon marijuana legalization, Dustin learned distillation and math equations necessary to dose chocolates with desired amounts of cannabidiol (CBD), removing the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) compounds. The Vances began experimenting on their own, adding CBD to high-quality MCT coconut oil and, of course, flavoring it with French chocolate. 

“In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential. CBD has been demonstrated as an effective treatment of epilepsy in several clinical trials … There is also preliminary evidence that CBD may be a useful treatment for a number of other medical conditions,” says a 2017 World Health Organization report. “There is unsanctioned medical use of CBD-based products with oils, supplements, gums, and high concentration extracts available online for the treatment of many ailments. CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.”

With the advent of a federal bill legalizing hemp, the plant from which CBD is derived, as an agricultural product in 2018 in all 50 states, it could now be added to a plethora of products. 

A New and Delectable Enterprise

During their efforts with the dispensaries, Dorinda began trying CBD. She wanted something that could help with pain and inflammation but without the high. Dorinda discovered firsthand that it helped dramatically with both aching from her bone-on-bone knees and difficulty breathing that resulted from a broken nose. 

After personal validation of its efficacy, much recipe experimentation, focus groups, shared therapeutic effects by those testing the products, and, finally, enormous demand, the family launched LiveKAYA

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Organic CBD infusion from LiveKAYA

After their peers and focus group members tried samples, they began knocking on Dorinda’s door for more. They began sharing their notable improvements in everything from gout to the pains of chemotherapy after regularly ingesting the chocolates, which inspired the Vances further. 

As a network marketing veteran, Dorinda wanted to create a business model outside of the usual retail realm for the vegan, keto-friendly products they make from Valrhona chocolate and organic, U.S.-sourced hemp. 

“I wanted to be able to help other parents. I was always able to be there for my kids, and wanted to be able to help our community and others unlock more time with their families,” says Dorinda, co-CEO and founder of LiveKAYA.  “Here, we can control the product. When you take our products, you know exactly how many milligrams of hemp are in there.” 

In fact, the Vances guarantee the contents, thanks to the third-party testing they do — the results of which they provide to the team of brand partners they’ve built for LiveKAYA. To get the CBD chocolates, a customer must purchase from one of the brand partners or become one him or herself. But it’s not your mother’s multilevel marketing biz. They joined forces with a network marketing expert, Marc Schenkel, to create a model in which everyone thrives and there is no income pyramid involved. 

It’s the biggest endeavor the family has ever undertaken. The very CBD products they were working to bring to market helped them get through the process in a calm, anxiety-free fashion, they say.

“We’ve created a superior product and a superior compensation plan,” Dorinda says. “It helps so many people, and that’s one of the fun reasons we’re in this business. It’s changing people’s lives, one bite at a time.” 

“I believe we can actually make a difference to people’s well-being,” asserts Dustin Vance, chief operating officer of Dorinda’s Chocolates and vice president of product development for LiveKAYA. “The opioid crisis is terrible, so we created a product that’s natural, organic, tastes good, and is of the same quality as Dorinda’s chocolates.”

blog sweet family Family
From left, Dillon, Thom (Dorinda’s husband and father to their three boys), Austin (the Vances’ third son), and Dustin Vance outside of the Riverside Dorinda’s Chocolates location. 

A one-month supply of 30 CBD-infused MCT oil runs close to $100. To become a brand partner, it’s a $24.95 annual fee.

In LiveKAYA’s first week of operations, people were already getting checks, and the Vances have been cutting them ever since. Dorinda has been doing presentations on the business across the U.S. since its launch and now has brand partners in 38 states. 

With goals of expanding LiveKAYA while keeping Dorinda’s Chocolates and Rolled Mountain Creamery thriving, the family businesses are set to get sweeter by the day. 

“Initially, it was just a way to make money back in my High School days. However, it wasn’t long before I began to fall in love with the profession. As I became more and more involved, my passion for hand-crafting chocolates only grew stronger. Watching the faces of our customers when they try our award winning Sea-Salt Carmel for the first time, or bite into our Hazelnut Praline ganache filled ‘Kraken’ Truffle definitely makes all the tedious man hours preparing those pieces with it.”

“Aside from feeding people chocolates and bestowing ‘mouthgasms’ on dozens, (You would be astounded to find out how many times we hear that word!), I think the business aspect is just as interesting. I have been incredibly fortunate to have assembled such an outstanding staff and managing these people and being a part of the team effort to succeed is an amazing feeling. Sure, the business can get dirty and there are always jobs that need to be done; jobs that are not as glamorous as others but I have been our maintenance man, the delivery boy and just about every other position we have here but it is all worth it to be able to stand behind the name Dorinda’s Chocolates and feel the sense of pride that I do.”

Chocolate is one of those rare delights that is so wonderful, you often deprive yourself of enjoying the experience at it’s full potential. Many chocolate lovers find a piece in their hands and immediately pop it in their mouth and melt into a state of culinary bliss (guilty over here as well). However, on your next adventure into the wonderful world of chocolate, try and take a few extra moments to enjoy your chocolate or truffle the way they deserve.

First, take a beat and look closely at your chocolate. Enjoy the shine, color, and smooth texture of properly tempered chocolate. Do you seen any colors you were not expecting to find in your truffle? Colors can range from soft ivories to ruddy browns to deep dark oaks. If you have any experience handling cocoa beans then you may be able to take a guess at the type of bean used in your truffle.

Now, we have all seen wine fans burry their noses into the glass to be immersed into the aroma of their wine as much as possible. Whether you smile at how silly this looks or you are someone who takes your wine seriously, (again, guilty),  this same concept hold true for chocolate. Take the time to enjoy the rich, full-bodied scent of your chocolate. If you’re creative enough, you can even try and picture tropical region that the cocoa beans were harvested before being hand crafted into a Dorinda’s Chocolates truffle.

When you go to taste your chocolate, snap a piece off the whole. Properly tempered chocolate will have a sharp snap when it breaks. Chew slowly and enjoy the wide variety of flavors as they melt in your mouth. To enjoy both the subtle and robust flavors, it is best to let the chocolate melt on your tongue. On your next bite, try and find the scents that the chocolate releases while in your mouth. Hopefully you will find the same flavors as your previous bite, but intensified now that your nose and taste buds are working together.

Don’t forget to savor your next chocolate experience and remember to keep indulging!  

Pairing wine and chocolate together is one delicious passion! Wine and chocolate paired is the perfect way to explore the complexities of flavors and textures that both of these yummy items poses. Some of these flavors are subtle, and others have the potential to be much more robust. Learning to appreciate and enjoy these difference in flavors could turn from a pastime to an obsession in the blink of an eye. Ready to try pairing yourself? Take these tips and tricks into account!

The first tip?

Make sure to go for high quality chocolate. Do your best to find chocolates that originate for high quality manufacturers.  When looking for the perfect smooth gourmet chocolates, make sure you find a chocolate manufacture with a good reputation. Smaller shops will often be able to detail the origins of their ingredients, and some chocolatiers even explore the cocoa plantations personally. Not only will this provide you with the opportunity to enjoy a wide range of delectable flavors, but the story of a chocolates origin is usually fascinating!

A group of ladies enjoying one of our Summer Wine Pairings.

Now that you have your chocolate, its time for wine.

Make sure to keep your wine sweeter than your chocolate. Though this may seem slightly counter-intuitive, it’s a must for pairing. If you allow your chocolate to be sweeter than your wine, you will likely find that the wine will take on a bitter taste. You may decide to try a few slivers of chocolate to make sure that you have the sweetness ratios correct. When does the work end, right?

           When pairing wine and chocolate, the darker the chocolate, the darker the wine. This makes milk chocolate ideal for pairing with Port, Burgundies and other dessert wines, while extra dark chocolates (70% and above) are going to be complimented by much darker reds. Cabernet Sauvignons, Bordeaux’s and Malbecs are all viable options. If you decide that you would like to pair chocolate with white wines, consider fruity and intense pours. These will provide you with a better opportunity to match a wide range of flavors. 

 To enjoy all the subtleties these pairings will have to offer and send your taste buds to nirvana, arrange your tasting from light to dark. Starting with white chocolates or light milk, working your way to milk and then darks. End your tasting with the most intense wine and chocolate you have in your pairing list.

Dustin explaining chocolate and wines.

The last tip is crucial.

Remember to have fun! You have the opportunity to enjoy wine and chocolate together, get some friends together and enjoy this dynamic duo. Take a few notes on your favorite pairings and share them with other in your group. This will make selecting your wines and chocolates that much easier the next time. Now, time to get tasting!

We all know chocolate is an aphrodisiac – that isn’t anything new. But how did chocolate become so connected to love and our sensual side?

 Chocolate is undeniably sexy. Its shine. It’s dark color. The gentle snap and the way it just instantly melts in your mouth.  Chocolate is decadent, and represents passion. 

 Historically, chocolate was considered “the food of the gods”- it’s regal, fit for only deities. If you will, it is a forbidden fruit, but nonetheless a forbidden seed that satisfies. 

As of the mid 1800s, chocolate was marketed specifically for lovers. The heart-shaped chocolate box was originally created by Cadbury – the Cadbury that still leads the chocolate industry to this day! The boxes were covered with cupids, hearts and roses in order to use it for keeping love letters and tokens of affection. 

Later, Hershey came out with chocolate kisses. Whenever you give someone a simple piece of chocolate, you give them a kiss! Such a clever move that marketed love with the sweet treat.

Chocolate became even more sultry with the introduction of the “lingerie box” in the mid 1900s. The boxes were designed with black satin and lace, filled with chocolate, and screamed sex. The media picked up the seductive symbol of chocolate and placed it in films, so that then chocolate became as much connected with sensuality as even Marilyn Monroe!

Strawberries ready to be dipped!

There is a reason that chocolate covered strawberries became the go-to on Valentine’s Day. The bright crimson of the juicy fruit, dipped in the snappy chocolate brought chocolate full circle as it became the not-so-forbidden chocolate covered fruit. It may not be an apple, but chocolate covered strawberries came close. Valentine’s Day, the day for lovers merged with pagan fertility, gained the tradition of gifting chocolate because of the pure passion that chocolate induced. 

Chocolate can be naughty, and for the reasons of mischief and lust, chocolate is the most popular Valentine’s Day tradition. People buy their lovers chocolate because history says so, but also because it is a catalytic component of love, passion, and happiness. No really! Chocolate is know to release endorphins into the brain!

As Elle Woods in Legally Blonde says, “Endorphins make you happy; happy people don’t just go out and kill their husbands” (Men- I guarantee the safest way to survive the romantic holiday is to buy your wife a box of chocolates.)

Learn about our family and the heart that goes into each of our handmade confections.

Our Chocolate

Eschewing trendiness in favor of incredible flavor, Dorinda’s award-winning chocolates are all-natural, hand-made creations. You can trust that we make our products with high-end ingredients of the best possible quality. That means you’ll bite into indulgence—ethically, every time.

Our Family & Legacy

Family is at the foundation of everything we do at Dorinda’s Chocolates. Be it the beautiful cabinetry that frames our chocolates in store, the visual presentation of our brand, or our range of confectionary creations—all that we do is made by the Vance family.

Dorinda Vance, also known as “the Duchess of Chocolate,” is the founder and CEO of Dorinda’s Chocolates. She brings with her a lifelong love of chocolate, which she began hand-crafting herself in the form of chocolate-dipped cherries when she was twelve. After developing her talent as a chocolatier in formal settings (like the L’Ecole Chocolat and the Berry Callebaut factory), Dorinda founded Dorinda’s Chocolates as a way to share something she loved with the world, and create a legacy her family could carry forward for decades to come.

Dustin Vance, the Vice President and COO, is one of Dorinda’s sons and one of the spirited personalities behind the brand. Like Dorinda, Dustin’s love for chocolate  runs deep —and since joining the family business he has come to play a critical role in developing Dorinda’s range of tasty creations; in hiring and developing the Dorinda’s Chocolate staff; and in planning the future of Dorinda’s Chocolates, which he hopes to share with a wider market.  His goal is to one day lead the operation so that his parents can retire and enjoy the rewards that came from their hard work.

Dillon Vance, a retired Marine, is yet another of Dorinda’s sons—with the same entrepreneurial and creative spirit that seems to run in the family. The founder of Rolled Mountain Creamery and supplier of a unique Thai-Style rolled ice-cream, Dillon adds a new dimension to Dorinda’s legacy by incorporating the family chocolate into a cool, tasty venture of his own. Rolled Mountain Creamery is the only one of its kind in the region, and can be found at both Dorinda’s Riverside Drive and in South Reno, Nevada locations.

The family business extends beyond these three masterminds, and it’s not hard to find any of Dorinda’s relatives adding something special to the business. Beyond that, we consider our team to be a part of our family and vision, and deeply appreciate the enthusiasm, loyalty and love for sweets we share with them.

Our Dream

It all started as an idea. Dorinda thought to hand-make chocolate dipped cherries at the age of twelve and returned to the idea with her sons later in life, first debuting her now famous salted caramel chocolate delights at a trade show where she was surrounded by a who’s who of top chocolatiers and taking home an award for “best, most original flavor”. This dream quickly evolved into a thriving business with an unconventional rise to prominence.

Founded in 2009, after Dorinda had homeschooled all four of her sons up until high school, Dorinda’s Chocolates made its official mark in Truckee, California before expanding into other markets, including Reno, Nevada and North Lake Tahoe.

Really, it was when Dorinda’s chocolates  were awarded “best and most original flavor” at her first trade show—surrounded by major chocolate companies with big product ranges and even bigger budgets—that we knew we were onto something.

A gradually expanding selection of hand-made chocolate creations can also be found in stores throughout Reno including Sierra Street Kitchen and Cocktails, Fine Vines Cheese and Wines, Nakoma Golf Resort  and Whitney Peak Hotel. Dorinda’s Chocolates also offers quick domestic shipping options for those who want to taste our confections at a distance.

As Dorinda’s Chocolates grows,  we plan to enter more markets and to develop our wholesale offerings so that fans of Dorinda’s Chocolates will be able to taste the quality, care and connection packed into every bite anywhere.

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