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Au Bon Climat

Au Bon Climat, which translates from the French idiom ‘good place’, was founded by the late Jim Clendenen in 1982. 

Impassioned by a formative trip to Burgundy in the 1970s, this then-student of Law decided to eschew his studies and later establish his own winery dedicated to the production of Burgundian varieties on California’s Central Coast.

With the help of his business partner Adam Tolmach, the pair established Au Bon Climat in an old dairy in the cool Santa Maria Valley.

Since then, ‘ABC’ has been dedicated to the production of site-specific, cool climate renditions of Californian Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (among others), combining American vision and ebullience with European restraint and sensibility.

Jim – known dually as ‘wild boy’ and ‘the mind behind’ – sadly passed away in May 2021.

His legac, though, is ably continued by his children, Isobel and Knox, as well as the close-knit team that he amassed and remained loyal to over the years (they proudly state that the most recently hired employee has been with them for ten years, the next fifteen years!).

Manager and head winemaker Jim Adelman, along with his team, has ensured that the wines continue to conform to Jim’s vision and are worthy of the revered reputation that they’ve earned both in their home market and globally.

In the Vineyard

‘Au Bon Climat’ accurately conveys the favourable coastal position of their vineyards, with their position on the Central Coast and transverse valleys meaning that the vines benefit from Pacific fog and cooling breezes from the coast to the west, moderating ripeness and extending the growing season. If this tempered situation wasn’t enough, ABC also utilise low-yielding Burgundian clones in the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay plantings, resulting in some of the most elegant and yet flavoursome examples of the styles in the so-called ‘New World’. 

Au Bon Climat sources grapes from a royal roster of Central Coast vineyards, including:

- Bien Nacido: A legendary vineyard first planted in 1973, ideally located on an elevated bench in the Santa Maria Valley AVA where perfect aspect is combined with a Pacific influence, resulting in perfectly ripe fruit with excellent acidity.

- Sanford & Benedict: The first ‘great’ vineyard in Santa Barbara County, planted by Richard Sanford and Michael Benedict in 1971. Located on the western end of the transverse Santa Ynez Valley, it benefits from the cooling maritime breezes and well-drained clay, loam, fractured shale, and chert (rocky) soils, resulting in intensely flavoured Pinot Noir and Chardonnay fruit.

- As well as Rancho La Cuna and Los Alamos (Santa Barbara County), Runway and Solomon Hills (Santa Maria Valley) and Talley (Arroyo Granda Valley).


In the Cellar

Some could accuse ABC’s ‘Burgundian bias’ of translating not only to the vineyard but the cellar. From his formative years working for Becky Wasserman in Burgundy, Jim recognised that many of his favourite wines were matured in François Frères barrels, and so ABC has used the barrels sourced from this eminent Saint-Romain cooperage ever since.

Although fond of French oak, the influence in the wines of ABC has always been subtle and serves to provide a foundation for the fruit rather than dominate it (n.b. the oak used is all tight or very tight grain, with the toast level the same for all the wines.) 

Top Pinot cuvées, including Isabelle and Knox Alexander, are fermented and aged for 22 months in 100% new oak, whereas the Santa Barbara County bottling undergoes 12 months ageing in 10% new barrels. Grapes used may be fully destemmed (as is the case with Isabelle), or have partial or whole bunch stem inclusion, depending on site and vintage.

Equally, top Chardonnay cuvées such as Sanford & Benedict are fermented in and undergo 12-18 months ageing in 50-75% new oak, whereas the Santa Barbara County and Wild Boy bottlings undergo 8 months maturation in somewhat neutral oak barrels. All white wines are whole cluster pressed with malolactic fermentation completed in barrel before ageing sur lie. 

All wines are hand harvested, fermented in small lots, and undergo daily, manual punch downs. 

Browse the Au Bon Climat Range at JN →



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