Winery Spotlight: Au Bon Climat

Au Bon Climat winemaker Jim Clendenen

Au Bon Climat started in 1982 when winemaker Jim Clendenen and then partner Adam Tolmach decided to start a winery dedicated to Burgundian varietals Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Their goal has always been to produce low-alcohol, age-worthy wines reminiscent of Burgundy France even when the California trends tended toward high alcohol, heavily oaked, and bold wines. 

By sticking to that goal Au Bon Climat is today one of Santa Barbara County’s most famous and world-renowned wineries. This is thanks in large part to the owner and winemaker Jim Clendenen or the “mind behind” as he is widely known. Jim Clendenen is larger than life personality that wine writer Jancis Robinson affectionately named “wild boy”. A name he loved so much he used it for one of his wines. He is highly charismatic and travels frequently to promote the winery. However, when he is in town he is best known for his famous winery lunches at their estate winery in the Santa Maria AVA in Santa Barbara County. 

The name Au Bon Climat means “a well-exposed vineyard” and Au Bon Climat certainly takes pride in growing and sourcing their fruit from the best sites in the region. They source fruit from the Sanford & Benedict vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills, Los Alamos Vineyard in Los Alamos, and Talley Vineyard in San Luis Obispo. They also have their own estate vineyard, Le Bon Climat, as well as estate plantings at the legendary Bien Nacido vineyard just next to their production facility. 

Bien Nacido vineyard was first planted in 1973 and is the primary vineyard source for Au Bon Climat wines. The site, planted to 900 acres of vines, is located in the Santa Maria Valley AVA at the northern end of Santa Barbara County. Here, grapes thrive with one of the longest growing seasons in the state. The cooling ocean influence in the region allows the grapes to ripen slowly and encourages the full development of color and flavor. The wines here have distinctive aromatics, spice notes, minerality, and great complexity and balance. All qualities that are typically found in the wines from Au Bon Climat. 

Discover some of Au Bon Climat's delicious wines for yourself.

Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Chardonnay 

This wine keeps on evolving, from delicious and fresh at release to a richer more complex wine with age. All the Chardonnay is carefully handpicked and sorted in the vineyard. After harvesting, the grapes are whole-cluster pressed, and juice is quickly settled and chilled to begin barrel fermentation. The completed malo-lactic fermentation and is totally dry.  The wine is then blended and processed during the following summer.

Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir 

This is another outstanding addition to a long line of handcrafted Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir from Au Bon Climat. Au Bon Climat has been making Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara County grapes since 1982. This red wine is a great value! It is deeply colored with aromas and flavors of strawberries and raspberries joined by anise and clove in mouth-filling intensity. 

Au Bon Climat Sanford and Benedict Vineyard Chardonnay 

This Chardonnay is ample, creamy, and super-expressive, with terrific textural nuance and tons of class. Clean mineral notes frame a core of ripe pear, jasmine, and mint in a wine that delivers superb quality for the money.

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Au Bon Climat Isabelle Pinot Noir 

Isabelle Pinot Noir is comprised of only the best cuvees each vintage. They blend the best barrels from at least six different vineyards. These vineyards range from two vineyards in northern California, one in the Anderson Valley in Mendocino County, and another in the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, along with five or six of the top vineyards from the Central Coast.

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Au Bon Climat Wine and Chocolate Gift Box

A lovely keepsake wood gift box filled with recent vintages of Au Bon Climat Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines along with artisan treats from Santa Barbara chocolatier Jessica Foster Confections.

  • Dark Chocolate Truffles from Jessica Foster Confections (four-piece), truffles will be substituted with chocolate dusted almonds in warm weather.
  • Sea Salt Caramels from Jessica Foster Confections

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    Author: Allie Grant is the Owner and Founder of Crush It Wine Education. Crush It's mission is to make learning about wine fun, easy, and ultimately unpretentious.