Pairing Off: Vanilla Ice Cream

Pairing Off: Vanilla Ice Cream
Patrick Michels

Sometimes, when it comes to wine, patience is a really big virtue.

On the other hand, deadlines reign supreme in the world of journalism. Last evening these two aspects of time--the hurry up and the wait--combined to trip up this week's pairing.

You see, when it comes to setting wine against ice cream, one must compensate for the rich, creamy texture. Yet contending with the nature of vanilla (in this case) and sweetness is important, as well. So you begin to think in Dairy Queen terms: which wines give you pineapple notes or a whiff of strawberry--the sauces used to cover three-scoop sundaes.

If money were no object, Royal Tokaj would be an interesting choice. Its spicy honey and dried apricot notes might emerge like caramel on a dollop of vanilla. Some experts suggested a good Sauternes--not a bad idea.

But Rachelle Bose of Vin Classic in Plano's Legacy presents an intriguing option: Chardonnay. It's dangerous, she explains, because ice cream is capable of devastating an oaky wine. The right Chardonnay, with hints of wood to accent the vanilla and enough acidity to cut through the fat, however...

She wasn't sure she could find the right fit and asked me to hang on a bit. Deadlines loomed, though. So I picked up a bottle of Edna Valley 2007, a Chardonnay from California. The wine carries soft green apple and mixed fruit juice flavors, with lingering notes akin to the skin of a fresh plum. And oak--far too much oak.

The Edna Valley's texture worked nicely with Breyer's vanilla, and the ice cream pulled a more seasoned character from the wine. Indeed, you could imagine what Bose was originally thinking. But the oaky side turned bitter. Not enough to destroy either the wine or the dessert, really. Just enough, however, to be annoying.

Then Bose called back. Seems she worked through several possible Chardonnays without locating one layered and balanced the way she wanted. So she turned to a Viognier.

"The  aromatics, and there's quite a bit of peach in some of the wines," she says, touting the last minute option. "Viognier--that's what I'd do."

And she's right. Viognier is not the obvious choice, but there are many decently priced bottles. In addition, the flavor profile would work nicely. Yep, that's what I should have done alright.

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