Stunning Chardonnay that is very much in the Burgundian form, this is not the typical, full-on Chardonnay experience that the US has proffered before - this is powerful, but also elegant and complex with refinement and balance, which represent the very essence of this winery's ideals.
Flinty, stony aromas couch notes of clove and nutmeg before citrus and stone fruit aromas develop and shine on the palate. The intensity of the wine is lively and electric, so that it remains "light on its feet", making it perfect to match food and never overpower it. Made with full malo-lactic fermentation, it is as good as it gets in terms of provenance, coming from some of the most-sought-after vineyards in the Central Coast.
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.
Region: Santa Barbara
Style: Vibrant, Silky, Pure, Medium Bodied, Iconic, Fresh, Engaging, Elegant, Complex, Balanced
Best food matches: Trout, Sushi, Soft Cheeses, Shellfish, Seafood, Salads, Oysters, Mature Cheeses, Lobster, Lamb, Hard Cheeses, Fine Dining, Duck, Christmas Dinner, Charcuterie