Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lobster Ravioli and 2007 Acacia Carneros Chardonnay, will it work?

 I don't drink a lot of California Chardonnay. There, I've gotten that out in the open. I felt it best to insert that disclaimer so that anyone reading this would realize a couple of things. First, I may not be the best at describing Chardonnays from California (or any wine for that matter). Second, since I don't drink many of them yet I do drink a lot of wine, maybe I have an inherent bias against our subject for this blog.

Since that is now out of the way, I can mention that I've lately become fascinated with two varietals, specifically examples from California. Those two would in fact be Syrah and Chardonnay, and Chard just happens to win out in the first to make it onto my small corner of the internet wine table.

2007 Acacia Chardonnay Carneros
I paired this wine with Lobster Ravioli from Trader Joe's, simply because I was hungry and it was dinner time. However, I did taste and write down some notes beforehand, which will be integrated into the review. It was in the fridge for about an hour before I opened it, then sat in glass for ten minutes warming up to a more acceptable temperature.

On the nose I was able to discern American oak, pear, apple and a hint of pineapple. There did seem to be a sweet floral note perhaps honeysuckle but that was very faint, just a wisp through the nostrils. Quick aside but is there an un-sexier word than "nostril" in the English language? Please post if you know of one but that word to me is just absolutely not sexy or elegant in the slightest. Come on, there's no grace to it, no evocative imagery going through your head. Just one of the two openings to your nose.

Back on topic and I do apologize for that somewhat crude little rant. When I first tasted this wine, sans food, I noted a very nice acidic spine that held together flavors of pineapple, popcorn butter, apple and pear. At this point I was supremely happy because I had expected a giant butterball of a Chardonnay, as so many California examples are made. There was a great sense of balance, like each flavor would run its course across your palate then be replaced by another equally interesting taste. What kept the wine taut and composed was that acidity I mentioned, it prevented any one flavor from dominating. More on that later though.

With the ravioli, I drizzled some Extra Virgin Olive Oil (because I want those virgins to be extra!) and a bit of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. At this point I was pretty hungry and decided that my need for food overcame my need for finding hints of nutty cheese in the wine. With the ravioli the acidity was receding, replaced by that velvety mouthfeel that can only scream "malolactic treatement!" at you from inside the glass. However!! Just wait, before I go ripping on malo'd up Chardonnays, it actually worked. The dry cheese and slightly peppery olive oil were complemented by the buttery wine. Don't get me wrong, the acid was present and again doing something nice on the finish. It's just that when you paired all the flavors of the food with the wine, things changed.

What I noticed on the palate while eating the ravioli were a significantly more velvety mouthfeel. Pear and butterscotch, a slight dance of pineapple juice across the mid-palate and on the finish, before that acidity took over, some vanilla. If I had to guess (and this is a huge shot in the dark) I'd say this wine saw maybe 12-14 months in a combination of new and old American oak or new American oak and French oak barrels.

Needless to say, the pairing worked a little bit beyond my expectations. I was unhappy with the 14.4% alcohol levels though, I didn't think it needed that high to accomplish the mission of being a very drinkable, food friendly Chardonnay. You'll see the Acacia sell for between 12$ and 17$, at the 12$ level it gets a very solid B from me. Higher up in price and I'd down grade this to a C+.

Beau Carufel


  1. Yeah, the whole high-alcohol content from Cali is pretty common ... since you're not very familiar with California wines, what would you say is your specialty? I myself tend to stick with Cali wines, for the most part, because I'm familiar with the regions.
    Also, here's an un-sexier word: ham. I'd rather hear 'nostril' in bed than 'ham' anytime ;).

  2. Well I am actually very familiar with a lot of California wines, obviously my joke went over well..but the CA Chards are not something I know too well. I think perhaps I know a bit more of Spain and Australia/NZ. That and France, I love French wines and am trying to learn more about them this year. They're just so damn expensive for a not-rich person like me. :-(

    Ok yes I do agree that ham does not belong in bed, along with such words as "follicle, linoleum, forceps". Creepy! :-)

  3. Higher alcohol is part of the deal in California wine. Without it, you can't have the kind of mouthfeel they have. Without sufficient ripeness, you can't have those tropical fruit flavors. It is what it is. Different climate, different wine. As William Blake wrote: "One law for the lion and the ox is oppression.".

    Good description of the wine and food interaction!

    Dave Clark

  4. I disagree, I've had some superb CA Chardonnays in the past that claimed to be nearer 13% than 15%..They may not have had as much intense tropical fruit but they had superb structure, defined acidity and more notes of apple and pear, with little hints of peach around the edges. Just as tasty as any malo'd up oak-bomb, and for my palate, better.