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.