Of all the New World wine regions, it is perhaps California which takes the crown as the most internationally successful and highly respected. This is due in part to the finer features of the land when it comes to viticulture - beautiful, hot summers tempered by cool nights and ocean breezes, superb and varied soils - but also to the willingness of the vintners who call it home to experiment and innovate, and continually push the boundaries in search of excellence in their wine. In California’s Santa Barbara County, we find the winery of Au Bon Climat (which roughly translates to ‘a well exposed vineyard’), which is renowned worldwide for the quality of its Californian Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. Au Bon Climat was founded in 1982 by Jim Clendenon, a man of vision and dedication, who has been an inspiration to many winemakers in the region.
Jim Clendenon was quick to recognize that the terroir he presided over had many similarities to France’s Burgundy region - a place close to his heart. He decided to focus his energies on replicating the world-beating wines of Burgundy at home in Santa Barbara, by employing some of the traditional techniques used by Burgundian vintners, and by growing clones of Burgundy Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines in order to achieve the results he desired. His tireless efforts soon paid off, and Au Bon Climat was lauded for its beautifully balanced, rounded and flavorful wines and unique, bold approach.
Au Bon Climat is best known for its signature Chardonnay wine, which is aged for 11 months in imported French oak barriques and made from grapes which are picked a little early in the season to ensure plenty of acidity and brightness. As well as this, Au Bon Climat produces Knox Alexander (named after Clendenon’s son), a rich, ripe Pinot Noir wine made from cloned Burgundy grapes which grow in one of California’s best vineyards.