About this WINE
Au Bon Climat
The late Jim Clendenen founded Au Bon Climat (ABC) in 1982. He became famous for making pioneering wines from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on California’s Central Coast. He passed away in 2021 and is remembered as one of the most charismatic and influential people of his vinous generation.
Jim’s passion for wine was born from a trip to Burgundy in the mid-1970s when he studied Law at UC Santa Barbara. During subsequent visits, his enthusiasm for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grew, and he became convinced that the Californian hills were capable of something special with these two noble varieties.
Au Bon Climat translates as “a well-exposed vineyard”, a name that suits the vineyards’ coastal position, with its benevolent Pacific fog and cooling breeze. Making the most of these conditions, ABC buy clones from Burgundy. This contributes to creating wines that emulate Europe’s restraint and finesse but with a magic touch of New World flair.
The vineyards ABC source their grapes from read as a ‘who’s who’ of Central Coast vineyards. Bien Nacido and Jim’s “Le Bon Climat” are the most significant contributors. The influence of the Pacific can be felt standing in the canyon of Bien Nacido, where the warm days and cool nights characterise this superb terroir. Le Bon Climat, in contrast, consists of mainly hilltop vineyards which were certified organic in 2003.
Santa Maria Valley
Located in Santa Barbara County, California, Santa Maria Valley is known for its unique climate, known as the Santa Maria Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area), which significantly influences the winemaking process and the resulting wines.
The climate is typically cool and moderate, strongly influenced by the nearby Pacific Ocean. The region experiences a combination of maritime and inland influences, with foggy mornings, mild days, and cool evenings. This unique climate helps to preserve the natural acidity and delicate flavours of the grapes, making it ideal for producing high-quality wines.
Several grape varieties thrive in the region, with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay being the most prominent. Pinot Noir grapes benefit from the region’s cooler climate, producing wines with complexity, elegance, and bright red fruit flavours. Chardonnay grapes also flourish in the Valley’s climate, producing wines with crisp acidity and balanced flavours.
The Winemakers focus on minimal intervention and sustainable practices, allowing the unique characteristics of the grapes and terroir to shine through in the wines. Many wineries employ traditional winemaking methods, including hand-harvesting the grapes and using open-top fermentation vessels for red wines. Some producers also use oak ageing to add complexity and texture to their wines.
The Santa Maria Valley is home to several notable wineries and vineyards, each contributing to the region’s reputation for producing exceptional wines. One of the most renowned wineries in the area is Au Bon Climat.
Chardonnay is often seen as the king 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.