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.