When the Doctor tells me to eat takeout, I don’t ask questions. I just scamper my way on down to Pao’s Mandarin House and pick me up some Three Cup Chicken, because that is the SHIT, my friends. Can I get a witness? Testify!
The other night I was sitting on the couch with my sweetie, and he had a craving for the brie we had in the fridge. I was reading Spittoon’s post on how well Sauvignon Blanc does with cheese, and thought, I wonder how that Praxis Viognier I have the the fridge would go with this? So I poured myself a glass, lickety-split, took a bite of Brie, and sipped some Viognier. Gentle Reader, listen closely: Never. Do. This. Oh, lawsy me, stay away from this evil combination of flavors!
Poor Praxis Viognier; it’s not your fault I wasn’t using my noggin. I finished the glass, wondering what I’d pair it with that might actually work, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t had any Pao’s in a while. Hmm…
Thus it felt like Fate had slapped me upside the head when I read Good Wine Under $20 the next afternoon and saw that Dr. Debs was recommending takeout as a way to treat oneself right during the holidays. AND she was recommending Viognier with non-incindiery Asian food! I was suddenly On A Mission From God.
Pao’s Mandarin House is one of the few great authentic Chinese restaurants in Austin, and they’re only like 10 minutes from my house! They even have dim sum, a la carte, on the weekends. (For those of you who don’t live in Austin, dim sum is hard to come by around here. Seriously.) If you’re smart and adventurous, you’ll order from Pao’s Chinese menu. If you get a menu that just has normal American Chinese dishes on it, ask for “the other menu” and they’ll bring it right over.
One of their signature dishes is Three Cup Chicken, which is boneless dark meat in a 5-spice influenced sauce, with some red chilis, shitake mushrooms, and big clumps of wilted basil. I also picked up some baby bok choy in oyster sauce, and an appetizer called Chinese Bacon in Garlic Sauce. Chinese bacon, as it turns out, is a lot like American bacon. Tasty in garlic sauce, though.
I had purchased this Praxis Viognier at Vino 100 Lakeway, and I paid about $9 for it. Viognier runs pricey, so I was jazzed to find a domestic Viognier on the cheap. Of course, it’s from Lodi, one of my go-to value regions for the U.S.
Winemaker at Praxis is Bill Arbios, who’s been vinifying in California since the 70s. This brand belongs to him and his wife Susan, and though the winery’s in Sonoma, Bill thinks that it’s too hot there to grow good Viognier, so they purchase these grapes from Lodi. Presumably a cool area in Lodi? It’s stainless steel fermented, and the grapes are a Geneva clone, which Bill feels has more of the peachy-apricot character and less of the floral. I really liked what I read on this winery’s website; they have a great sense of humor, and feel really down-home.
Light gold in the glass. Intense, perfumed peaches and more peaches. Millions of peaches, peaches for free. I did get some gardenia and cinnamon as well on the nose. On the palate, the peaches want to be all unctuous but they’re trapped in a tight corset of mineral character. Wet stones? Yes please. Take 300, they’re small… The wine is almost crunchy on the edges, it’s so minerally, and there are one or two white rose petals floating along on the finish.
I was surprised at the intense mineral character on this wine, I will admit, and it was a little too much by itself. With the food, though, the wine really shone.
The Praxis Viognier paired a treat with my Three Cup Chicken; the 5 spice and basil loved the peachiness, and the spices enhanced each other, accentuating the flavors of the sauce and the cinnamon on the wine. I did find that the minerality went from stones to a white pepper or horseradish spiciness.
The baby bok choy was beautifully cooked: very clean, crisp and flavorful without any cloying heaviness from the oyster sauce. This dish brought up some herbal character in the wine, and the wine accentuated the green vegetable taste in the bok choy. Yum!
The chinese bacon with garlic sauce was sweet, rich porky goodness (nom nom nom), and the peaches in the wine were a fascinating counterpoint. It was almost a kettle corn experience: salty bacon, sweet succulent fruit flavors from the wine. Bet you can’t eat just one!
Viognier (pronounced vee-oh-NYAY) is a great alternative wine for those who enjoy the heavier mouth feel of Chadonnay but like the floral and spicy fruit character in Riesling and Gewurztraminer. (I mean, honestly, how can you resist a wine with characteristics like peaches, gardenia and cinnamon? It sounds like an Aveda shampoo, for heavensake!) If Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc are too sharp and acidic for you, then Viognier is a great wine to try. Another white wine that can be round, interesting and luscious like this is Pinot Blanc, especially those from Oregon.
Thanks to Good Wine Under 20 for this excellent excuse to play with food and wine; I’ve never been so pleased to follow the doctor’s orders! And I swear I’m not just sucking up because Dr. Debs mentioned me in her Bloggerview on Fermentation today. Honestly — I know I sound like I’m being ironic, but it’s a complete coincidence!