Stunning, svelte, elegant and profound, this is a Pinot Noir that shows the best quality of fruit that the Au Bon Climat winery harvests. Made since 1995, it is a masterpiece of winemaking and vineyard selection and is widely regarded as one of the top
This is the top selection of the best single vineyard wines that are made by this ground-breaking, trail-blazing Californian winery. It is structured and broad, elegant and charming, complex and approachable: this is a stunning wine by any standards, and is one of the very finest Pinot Noirs you'll get in this part of the world for its price.
Jim Clendenen founded Au Bon Climat in 1982 as a way of respecting the cool Pacific climate, the marine soils and the east-west running hills and mountain ranges that gave the vineyards "a good place"or, a "Bon Climat". The choice of the French phrase came because if the obsession with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which Jim had identified as being perfect tools to show the quality of the land. And of course, forty years later, the proof is in the amazing puddings. As they say themselves, though fashions come and go in much of the other Californian wineries and regions, Au Bon Climat has been able to stay its course, because its course was set at such a high level to start with. Nuance, site-specificity, traditional styles and sustainable respect... these are ideals, not passing fashions.
The wines they make are excellent but never flashy. They don't go for high alcohol levels, but harvest grapes when they are balanced to create wines that will age gracefully and for a long time. I've been lucky enough to try one of their whites at 23 years old, full of freshness and complexity. They are exceptionally successful and it is mad and very sad that Jim died in 2021 leaving a wonderful legacy, but also a massive hole. It's a challenge to maintain a drive like his, but one to which the team and family will rise, I am sure.
Named after the Jim's daughter, Isabelle is a wine unlike all of the others that are made on the estate, because it is a blend of the top sites, rather than one, single site. In this way, it is a true representation of the best of what the winery does and is always excellent, regardless of the vintage - in fact, it is the best barometer for each vintage of Pinot Noir going. They blend barrels from at least six different single vineyards from three different locations - Sonoma, Northern Coast and Central Coast (where the winery is based). The barrels are tasted and identified, then left to mature further until a final tasting is carried out to put the Isabelle together. This means that you get a truly broad Californian Pinot Noir that is almost unseen in any other winery in the state. Certainly at this quality.
Balance, restraint, longevity... these are the winery goals - this is the proof that they mean it.
Oh, and if you're interested, or even doubt our sincerity: the other picture was taken by me at dinner with the originator of the name, Isabelle Clendenen herself. Charming and engaging? Absolutely. Formidable? That doesn't come close.
Grape(s): Pinot Noir
Style: Svelte, Structured, Silky, Round, Profound, Medium Bodied, Meditation, Elegant, Complex, Broad, Balanced
Best food matches: Steak, Soft Cheeses, Red Meats, Mature Cheeses, Lamb, Hard Cheeses, Fine Dining, Charcuterie