Fun and Refreshing White at a Great Value

Today’s Story: Au Bon Climat

Au Bon Climat is a Californian winery established by the late great Jim Clendenen in the Santa Maria Valley. Jim was born in 1953 in Akron, Ohio and he studied Pre-Law in undergrad at the University of California, Santa Barbara. During his junior year, Jim studied abroad in France and discovered his budding passion for wine. Once he graduated UCSB, Jim returned to France and spent time in Burgundy and Champagne before deciding to pursue a career in winemaking instead of going to law school. Jim became the assistant winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery in 1978 before working three harvests across Australia and France in the 1981 vintage. In 1982, Jim established Au Bon Climat with business partner Adam Tolmach and his focus was on the Burgundy varieties of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Over the years Jim became an incredibly important beacon both for Santa Barbara County winemaking and the Central Coast of California as a whole. Au Bon Climat, under Jim, even became one of the leading wineries for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay throughout the US and beyond. Though Jim unfortunately passed away in his sleep earlier this year, his legacy shall last for decades to come.

Au Bon Climat sources fruit from some of the greatest vineyards in the Central Coast, most notably Bien Nacido Vineyard where they have some estate plantings. Bien Nacido Vineyard is the largest source for Au Bon Climat fruit, though Jim also purchased 100 acres in 1998 and named this other estate vineyard Le Bon Climat. Le Bon Climat sits directly across the Santa Maria Valley from Bien Nacido and is planted primarily to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Viognier. The last of the estate vineyards is Rancho La Cuna, which consists of 20 acres in the Los Alamos Valley planted to Syrah, Viognier, Grenache, Grenache Gris, Chenin Blanc, and Pinot Noir. In addition to these sites, Au Bon Climat purchases fruit from the renowned vineyards of Runway Vineyard, Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, Los Alamos Vineyard, Sierra Madre Vineyard, and Talley Vineyards.

The winemaking at Au Bon Climat offers a nod to the Old World, with Jim wanting to bring what he learned in Burgundy to California’s Central Coast. These wines are meant to showcase their unique terroir in a most transparent fashion, following winemaking techniques that yield balance and restraint versus over-extraction, higher alcohol, and lacking acidity.

Today’s Wine: 2020 Pinot Gris – Pinot Blanc

60% Pinot Gris, 40% Pinot Blanc; 13% ABV

The 2020 Pinot Gris – Pinot Blanc is pale gold in color. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of lemon peel, yellow apple, white peach, honeysuckle, flint, saline mineral, and oyster shell. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity, and the palate displays notes of white peach, lemon zest, pear, cantaloupe, sea salt, almond, and dried gravel. This dry white blend is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish.

Price: $15. I think this wine offers exceptional value at this price-point, for it is crisp, refreshing, and downright enjoyable while also displaying solid depth, great balance, and impressive length.

Fun and Refreshing Napa Valley White Blend

Today’s Story: Massican Winery

Massican Winery was established in 2009 by winemaker Dan Petroski (also of Larkmead Vineyards) and was born out of his passion for Italy and the country’s lifestyle, culture, and wines. Massican is a very unique endeavor in Napa Valley, focusing exclusively on white grape varieties including Tocai Friulano, Ribolla Gialla, Pinot Bianco, and Greco common in northeastern Italy as well as the more “expected” varieties of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. True to Dan’s mission, the Massican wines are not only made with uncommon varieties for Napa but they are also not the stereotypical oaky white wines the region is known for. Dan uses varying amounts of new and neutral oak as well as stainless steel, also not allowing his wines to go through malolactic fermentation so they maintain the crisp, fresh, and refreshing characteristics of each grape variety. Another contributing factor is how Dan picks his grapes at lower sugar levels, preserving the vibrant acidity and resulting in often lower-alcohol wines.

I previously reviewed the 2019 Sauvignon Blanc and 2019 Annia from Massican, both pure and fun Napa Valley white wines.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Gemina

74% Pinot Bianco, 26% Greco; 13% ABV

The 2019 Gemina is pale to medium yellow in color. The aromas are of medium intensity, and the nose showcases notes of white peach, pear, yellow apple, lemon zest, honeysuckle, dried almond, and oyster shell. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity, with the palate displaying notes of lemon zest, ripe pear, yellow apple, peach, crushed rock, and saline mineral. There’s a slight herbal characteristic to the wine as well. This dry white is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish.

Price: $30. This is pretty good value given the quality, and it’s a fun uncommon blend for Napa and Sonoma. I was a big fan of this wine, and it’s a very refreshing white for a hot day.

Perplexing and Fun California White Blend

Today’s Story: Dirty & Rowdy Family Winery

I previously wrote about Dirty & Rowdy when reviewing their 2018 Familiar Mourvèdre in Wildly Fun California Mourvèdre, but I will recreate their story below.

Dirty & Rowdy is a small, family-operated winery founded in 2010 by couples Hardy & Kate and Matt & Amy with the goal of producing minimal intervention “honest wines.” Known for their range of Mourvèdre bottlings, Dirty & Rowdy also produces Petite Syrah, Chenin Blanc, and blends that include a GSM and Semillon-dominant white almost all with 100% whole cluster native fermentation, either zero or minimal SO2 added, and no filtering or fining when bottled. Dirty & Rowdy sources their fruit from vineyards in Mendocino, Monterey, Contra Costa, El Dorado, and Amador Counties, with most vineyards organically farmed or at a minimum “responsibly” farmed and unique.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Familiar Blanc

55% Semillon, 16% Chenin Blanc, 15% Pinot Blanc, 10% Viognier, 3% Muscat, 1% Marsanne; 12.3% ABV

The 2018 Familiar Blanc is gorgeous medium gold/yellow in color and completely transparent. The delicate nose emits aromas of melon, peach, tropical citrus, white florals, straw, chamomile, and saline mineral. Once in the mouth, this easy drinking wine displays notes of pear, golden apple skins, lemon zest, grapefruit, honeysuckle, white pepper, stone minerality, and wax. This is medium-bodied with vibrant medium (+) acidity and a fully-rounded mouthfeel into a medium length finish. The wine is produced with 60% whole cluster and 40% skin native fermentation with no winemaking additives and minimal SO2.

Price: $30. Similar to my experience with the Dirty & Rowdy Familiar Mourvèdre I reviewed a few weeks ago, this is a thoroughly enjoyable and fun wine. Pair this with shellfish, roasted pork, or Manchego cheese.