About this WINE
Au Bon Climat
Founded in 1982, Au Bon Climat (which means "a well-exposed vineyard") produces internationally-recognized Pinot Noir & Chardonnay from grapes grown in California's Santa Barbara County.
Located at the foot of one of California's most rated vineyards, Bien Nacido in the Santa Maria Valley, one of the finest sites in California, ideal for the production of the refined, Burgundian style of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to which Jim so aspires, ABC, as it is more commonly referred to, has won universal acclaim for its wines thanks to Jim 'Wild Boy' Clendenen, its winemaker & owner.
He regards Burgundy as the benchmark to which he should aspire and buys clones of Pinot Noir from Burgundy in a bid to replicate as closely as possible the restraint and finesse of the wines from that region.
Jim eschewed a career in law for the lure of the vine following a month's stay in Burgundy & Champagne when he was 21. He has never looked back, although he is frequently to be found darkening the doors along the stretch of the Cote d'Or. Unsurprisingly his wines combine the minerally precision & grace of Burgundy with the flair of the West Coast.
Au Bon Climat Chardonnay is fermented and aged for 11 months in French oak barrels from François Frères, with a small proportion of new oak. Most of the fruit is picked at optimum ripeness but a little is picked early for natural acidity while some is picked late to add an extra flavour dimension. The Wild Boy version is deliberately made in a more opulent style. Each of the reserve cuvées and single vineyard wines has its own distinct style consistent across the vintages. Knox Alexander, named for his son, is from a hillside site planted with the best Pinot clones now available.
Santa Barbara County
At the foot of the Central Coast, just north of Los Angeles, the Santa Barbara County reverberates with its Missionary past, although viticulture as we know didn't arrive here until the 1970s. Now there are 6,000 ha of world class Pinot Noir & Chardonnay.
While fog banks shape the season, together with a notable rainfall deficit between May & November, elevated terraces such as Bien Nacido in the Santa Maria Valley AVA faciliate premium fruit growing. Santa Ynez Valley AVA enjoys similar trait, though cooler still;
Chardonnay is the "Big Daddy" of white wine grapes and one of the most widely planted in the world. It is suited to a wide variety of soils, though it excels in soils with a high limestone content as found in Champagne, Chablis, and the Côte D`Or.
Burgundy is Chardonnay's spiritual home and the best White Burgundies are dry, rich, honeyed wines with marvellous poise, elegance and balance. They are unquestionably the finest dry white wines in the world. Chardonnay plays a crucial role in the Champagne blend, providing structure and finesse, and is the sole grape in Blanc de Blancs.
It is quantitatively important in California and Australia, is widely planted in Chile and South Africa, and is the second most widely planted grape in New Zealand. In warm climates Chardonnay has a tendency to develop very high sugar levels during the final stages of ripening and this can occur at the expense of acidity. Late picking is a common problem and can result in blowsy and flabby wines that lack structure and definition.
Recently in the New World, we have seen a move towards more elegant, better- balanced and less oak-driven Chardonnays, and this is to be welcomed.