If you were lucky enough to get on Dr. Dan McCoy’s Christmas chocolate list over the last couple of decades, you already knew that the former Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas president knew his way around a cocoa bean, but his latest endeavor as the owner of Hill Country Chocolate and its sister company DKM Cellars has taken his passion to a new level.
McCoy is a man of many talents. Before moving into the C-suite at Blue Cross, he was a dermatologist. During his time as an insurance executive, D CEO magazine wrote about his passion for photography, beautifully capturing everyday life on his travels. At the time, we didn’t know that McCoy had filled his guest house with chocolate-making equipment, experimenting with flavors and textures and making hundreds of chocolates to send to friends each year for the holidays.
He had been emailing and calling chocolate experts for years, learning about molds and cocoa beans to get the perfect taste. “It’s a crazy blend of science and creativity,” he says. “It appealed to my brain, so I started doing things, and I took a few classes here and there, and I got a lot of advice from people.”
After leaving Blue Cross in 2020, he began to do some healthcare consulting, but soon grew tired of being limited to zoom calls all day. Years ago, he had bought a house in Fredericksburg and began toying with the idea of taking his chocolate talents to the Hill Country. And he is arriving with some formal education. After deciding he was watching too much Netflix several years ago, he enrolled in two certification courses in viticulture and Texas winemaking from Texas Tech University’s plant and soil science department, which is based in Fredericksburg. He graduated in 2020.
The dream became a reality when he formed Hill Country Chocolate, a shop five minutes from Fredericksburg’s main drag, which is replete with boutiques, restaurants, and an untold number of bachelorette parties. The 4,000 square foot shop is a “bean to bar” chocolate factory that used to be a wood shop.
McCoy insists on ethically sourced beans and isn’t afraid to experiment. His confections run the gamut from artisanal bon bons to other creations using Okinawan black sugar, coffee, black pepper, and even an orange ganache. There are also traditional confections like almond butter toffee, pecan caramel, and peanut brittle.
He also runs DKM cellars out of the space, where he partners with wine-makers around the world and has started his own vineyard (it isn’t producing grapes yet). Central Coast California Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc, a Tuscan red wine, and a Moscato di Asti from Piedmont are already on the menu.
The shop has a tasting room that McCoy describes as a speakeasy vibe that combines wine and chocolate for a 90-minute tasting session that includes a chocolate-infused charcuterie board. “People have always had this natural romance between chocolate and wine,” McCoy says. “When people come here, we start to describe all the synergies. Both plants are perennial plants, and both fruits are picked off the plants in the same way. Both are fermented close to where they are picked. There’s a lot of similarities between the products.”
The chocolate factory opened in April, and they were open to the public in May. The chocolate is being sold in a couple of area wineries, and the organization also launched a wine club. The website launched this fall.
McCoy is still keeping his consulting work, where his company has a lot of healthcare clients but is expanding to other industries. He focuses on storytelling and enjoys helping organizations craft their message and target a specific audience.
He is using those same skills today, telling the story of how chocolate and wine complement each other at Hill Country Chocolate and DKM Cellars. “It’s not just romance; it’s chemistry,” he says. “Both of these products were manipulated and transformed in much the same way, and they ended up having a unique ability to go together.”