This iconic wine became the "face" of the big, bold, generous and delicious New World Chardonnay style. In reality it is elegant and balanced and like a richer Burgundy in style. Those who like fuller, oakier whites, yet appreciate balance and complexity, are in for a real treat.
The success of this wine gave rise to many copy versions that were seldom nearly as good. Over-use of oak led to a drop-off in the broader Chardonnay style's popularity... But these guys don't make wine to be popular! This is a stunner in every regard and though it is richer and oakier than their other Chardonnays, it is still balanced and refined, true to its location and origin as well as to the ideals of tradition and quality.
Fermented in French oak barrels and aged for about a year in a mixture of used and new oak barrels, this is an intense, classy wine made with the same Burgundian ethos of the other wines in the portfolio, preserving freshness and vineyard identity. The result is a wine packed full with tropical fruit, peach, nectarine and toasty cedar notes, lifted by integrated acidity that gives it surprising raciness.
This wine was made by Jim Clendenen at the Au Bon Climat winery and while it is not an official ABC wine, it really is part of their story...
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, Medium Full, Iconic, Fresh, Engaging, Elegant, Complex, Balanced
Best food matches: Trout, Tapas, Soft Cheeses, Shellfish, Seafood, Mature Cheeses, Lobster, Lamb, Hard Cheeses, Grills, Game, Fine Dining, Duck, Christmas Dinner, Charcuterie