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A knockout Chardonnay by all accounts, the 2006 Au Bon Climat Bien Nacido Chardonnay is nothing short of mind boggling, even for those who do not ordinarily gravitate to California Chardonnay. A bold, beautiful wine that highlights Jim Clendenen’s Midas touch with Chardonnay, Au Bon Climat’s profound 2006 Bien Nacido offering combines the finest attributes of California Chardonnay with the pinpoint precision, balance, and complexity of the greatest white Burgundies from Puligny and Chassagne-Montrachet. Ripe round fruit, laced with the entrancing aromas of acacia flower, pear, sautéed hazelnuts, creamery butter, and oriental spices, serenade the nose and make one beg for another sniff. On the palate, Au Bon Climat’s Bien Nacido Chardonnay comes across equally compelling; it tantalizes the tongue and fills the senses with a host of dry, complex flavors that could convince even the most stalwart supporters of “Anything but Chardonnay” to turn in their membership. Dry, suave, and complex on the finish, it is almost impossible not to want to worship this glorious Chardonnay. Moreover, from the moment the cork exits the bottle, Au Bon Climat’s Bien Nacido Chardonnay is ready to please. Yet, like all of Jim Clendenen’s magical Chardonnays, the 2006 Bien Nacido promises to age gracefully in the bottle for six or seven years or more. Considering that this wine has not yet reached its zenith, we suggest keeping a second or third bottle in abeyance: you will be glad you did. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2013. For optimal enjoyment, we suggest only moderate chilling (40º-50º F) and a few minutes of aeration prior to consumption.
Great Chardonnay the likes of the 2006 Au Bon Climat Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay calls for the finest ingredients and a deft hand in the kitchen. Julia Child, where are you? Artfully prepared cuisine or at the very least the handiwork of a simple but well-run kitchen will provide a memorable experience with Don Clendenen’s masterful Bien Nacido Chardonnay. Crab or lobster bisque makes for a wonderful opening act with this wine. Steamed or grilled lobster with plenty of drawn butter offers this Chardonnay another chance to shine. And for those who are decidedly more adept in the kitchen, why not consider Sweet Potato Ravioli, served with a creamy apple broth and a mixed apple salad, or a Potato Encrusted Alaskan Halibut, served with a ragout of wild mushrooms, baby spinach, prosciutto, and mixed vegetables? Pan Seared Duck Breast, served with a wild mushroom polenta soufflé provides another memorable pairing. The Au Bon Climat is one Chardonnay that can more than hold its own in the company of serious food, so have some fun in the kitchen and enjoy!
Au Bon Climat, or ABC as it is called by its many admirers, enjoys an international reputation for its formidable work with French varietals, most notably Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc. Under the expert care of Jim Clendenen, the “Mind Behind” Au Bon Climat, full throttle, classically wrought wines are the order of the day. No light fruit bombs or over oaked, late harvest style Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs to choose from here. At Au Bon Climat one can expect in each and every bottle only the fullest expression of several notable vineyards from California’s glorious Central Coast. In addition, Au Bon Climat’s wines age gracefully and deliver Burgundian complexity. For these reasons, ABC has been on Robert Parker’s short list of Best Wineries in the World. It has also been selected by British wine critic Oz Clark as one of only fifty world-wide creators of Modern Classic Wines. To add to this prestigious property’s long list of accolades, Jim Clendenen was named the Los Angeles Times “Winemaker of the Year” in 1992; Food & Wine Magazine “Winemaker of the Year” in 2001; and Wein Gourmet, Germany’s leading wine and food magazine, “Winemaker of the Year” in 2004. In 2007 Jim garnered yet another tribute; he was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s “Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America. ”
Upon graduation in 1976 with High Honors in Pre-Law from the University of California, Santa Barbara, Jim Clendenen seemed destined for one of the nation’s top law schools and a promising legal career. Instead, Jim headed for France where on a junior year abroad he had discovered that there was more to culinary arts than burgers and tacos. After a month in Burgundy and Champagne, he decided against law school in favor of a career in wine. By 1978, Jim was already Assistant Wine Maker at Zaca Mesa Winery. At Zaca Mesa, he helped create some of that winery’s finest wines to date. In 1981, Jim worked three harvests on three continents: he actively participated in the crush in Australia, California, and France. The following year, he and his former partner Adam Tolmach began Au Bon Climat.
Today, Au Bon Climat is under Jim Clendenen’s sole direction. Production has grown to over 30,000 cases, but each wine remains a handcrafted affair. Burgundian varietals predominate (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), but Jim specializes in other French varietals, too. In recent years, he has experimented successfully with premium Italian grape varieties as well. The primary sources for Au Bon Climat’s wines are the estate’s own Le Bon Climat Vineyard and the internationally renowned Bien Nacido Vineyard, both in Santa Maria Valley. ABC’S Le Bon Climat Vineyard is organically farmed and has been certified organic since 2003. Au Bon Climat also draws grapes for its various offerings from the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills, the Los Alamos Vineyard in Santa Barbara County, and the exceptional Talley Vineyard in nearby San Luis Obispo County.
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