Au Bon Climat & Clendenen Family - Current Reviews (by publication)
Score: 95 Au Bon Climat 2016 Chardonnay Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills
The 2016 Chardonnay Sanford & Benedict Vineyard is an arrestingly beautiful wine that will stop readers dead in their tracks. Rich and powerful on the palate, yet with tremendous tension, the 2016 has it all. I especially admire the wine's delineation and overall pedigree. What a gorgeous wine this.
Score: 96 Au Bon Climat 2016 Chardonnay “30th Vintage Celebration” Sanford & Benedict Vyd, Sta .Rita Hills
A wine of total allure, the 2015 Chardonnay 30th Vintage Sanford & Benedict Vineyard is remarkably vivid and nuanced. Orange peel, wild flowers, spices, new French oak and tropical overtones all emerge from this voluptuous, ample Chardonnay. Bright saline notes add striking freshness to a Chardonnay that dazzles from the very first taste. The 2015 was aged in 100% new 350-liter Francois Freres barrels. Readers who want to understand why Sanford & Benedict is one of California's grand crus should make a point of checking out this magnificent Chardonnay from Au Bon Climat and Jim Clendenen.
Score: 94 Au Bon Climat 2015 Chardonnay “XXXV-35th Anniversary, Santa Maria Valley
The 2015 Chardonnay XXXV - 35th Anniversary is one of the most overt, flamboyant wines I have ever tasted from Jim Clendenen. A deep, richly layered wine, the XXXV - 35th Anniversary offers serious intensity to match its tropically-leaning profile. The 2015 is dense, exotic and super-concentrated. It is also immensely delicious. Even with all of its intensity, the 2015 finds a way to also retain quite a bit of freshness and overall energy. The 2015 is a blend of fruit from Bien Nacido and Le Bon Climat, and was aged in 350-liter barrels.
Score: 93 Au Bon Climat 2015 Hildegard Estate White (Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc/Aligote) Santa Maria Valley
The 2015 White Hildegard Estate is quite exuberant in this vintage, largely the result of a growing season that lowered yields dramatically. Tangerine, almond, chamomile, wild flowers and lightly honeyed notes fill out the wine's ample frame effortlessly. Classy, polished and nuanced all the way, the 2015 will drink well with minimal cellaring. Time in the glass brings out an attractive floral side to the 2015 that is quite appealing.
Score: 92 Au Bon Climat 2015 Chardonnay “Nuits-Blanches au Bouge” Santa Maria Valley
Supple and racy, the 2015 Chardonnay Nuits Blanches au Bouge is also the most immediate of the 2015 Chardonnays in this range. There is plenty to like, that much it’s obvious. Two years in 100% new oak gives the wine many of its signatures, including a level of textural unctuousness that works beautifully here.
Score: 93 Au Bon Climat 2014 “Nuits-Blanches au Bouge” Santa Maria Valley
The 2014 Chardonnay Nuits-Blanches au Bouge-On That Road Again is a bold, powerful wine that reflects the natural richness of the vintage. Lightly tropical notes, ripe orchard fruit and floral-infused honey give the wine its oily, unctuous texture. I would prefer to cellar the 2014 for at least a few years, as it is still a bit tightly wound.
Score: 95 Au Bon Climat 2015 Pinot Noir XXXV-35th Anniversary, Santa Maria Valley
The 2015 Pinot Noir XXXV - 35th Anniversary is a selection of Clone 667 Pinot Noir from Bien Nacido Block 11 aged in 350-liter barrels. Dense and voluptuous on the palate, with tremendous depth, the 35th Anniversary is a real head-turner. The intensity and purity of the flavors is utterly captivating. Sweet red cherry, blood orange, spice, mint and plum notes build into a crescendo of aromas, flavors and textures that is simply thrilling.
Score: 94 Au Bon Climat 2015 Pinot Noir “Isabelle” California
The 2015 Pinot Noir Isabelle is a selection of the best barrels in the cellar. Undeniably flashy and ripe, the Isabelle is another success from Au Bon Climat in 2015. Time in the glass brings out the wine's depth and substance, both of which carry through to the resonant, expressive finish. I would give the 2015 a few years in bottle to come together fully. There is more than enough brightness to ensure a number of years of very fine drinking.
Score: 93 Au Bon Climat 2014 Pinot Noir “Isabelle” California
Another super-expressive wine in this range, the 2014 Pinot Noir Isabelle is rich, pliant and creamy. Red berry fruit, orange peel, mint and spice are all pushed forward. This is in an especially succulent, racy style, but there is good structure and tons of potential here. The wine needs time to develop the full breadth of its aromatic complexity.
Score: 93 Au Bon Climat 2015 Pinot Noir “Knox Alexander” Santa Maria Valley
The 2015 Pinot Noir Knox Alexander is absolutely gorgeous. Silky and perfumed, with terrific freshness, the Knox Alexander has too much to offer. Sage, mint, hard candy and red cherry fruit are all fused together in this super-expressive Pinot. A dollop of whole clusters adds aromatic intensity without dominating the balance, while the 100% new French oak is already very nicely integrated. The Knox Alexander is a selection mostly taken from the Block 11 at Bien Nacido, one of the northern-facing parcels on the ranch.
Score: 94 Au Bon Climat 2014 Pinot Noir “Knox Alexander” Santa Maria Valley
The 2014 Pinot Noir Knox Alexander is distinguished by its intense aromatics and layered, vibrant personality. A wine of focus and tension, the 2014 will benefit from another year or two in bottle, although it is incredibly attractive today. A dollop of whole cluster influence adds tension and aromatic top notes in this super-expressive, impeccably balanced Pinot Noir from Jim Clendenen at Au Bon Climat.
Score 92 Au Bon Climat 2015 Pinot Noir Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills
The 2015 Pinot Noir Sanford & Benedict Vineyard is a sexy wine. Sweet red cherry, blood orange, mint and hard candy infuse this racy, elegant supremely elegant Pinot Noir from Au Bon Climat and Jim Clendenen.
Score 91 Au Bon Climat 2015 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley
The 2015 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard is a lovely, delicate wine endowed with real personality and class. A dollop of whole clusters brings out striking inner perfume and freshness to the sweet red berry fruit. Even in this freakish vintage, the Bien Nacido Pinot retains terrific energy and lift.
Score 91 Clendenen Family 2016 Tocai Friulano, Santa Maria Valley
The 2016 Tocai Friulano is pliant, racy and inviting, with lovely citrus peel and orchard fruit character. This is an especially succulent style and yet the thickness of the skins is evident in the wine's structural feel.
Score: 94 Clendenen Family 2013 Chardonnay Le Bon Climat, Santa Maria Valley
The 2013 Chardonnay Le Bon Climat is rich and powerful on the palate, with considerable textural richness and resonance. Orchard fruit, mint, white flowers and honey arre all framed by new French oak in this super-expressive Chardonnay. Bright saline notes appear on the finish, giving the wine its energy and overall shape.
Score 91 Clendenen Family 2015 Pinot Noir Rancho La Cuna, Santa Barbara County
Clendenen's 2015 Pinot Noir Rancho La Cuña Vineyard is a pretty wine, even if it is a touch forward. Orange peel, spice, rose petal and and savory notes from the 100% whole clusters give the wine a decidedly exotic feel. There is good power and depth to the 2015, but this is one wine where the French oak (100% new) feels a bit much.
Score: 92 Clendenen Family 2014 Pinot Noir, Le Bon Climat Rancho La Cuna, Santa Barbara County
A powerful, explosive wine, the 2014 Pinot Noir Le Bon Climat still has quite a bit of tannin that needs to resolve. Bright, red-toned fruit and expressive floral notes open up nicely. Deceptively medium in body, the 2014 offers good persistence and fine overall balance. Readers should cellar the 2014 for at least another year or two.
Score: 92 Au Bon Climat 2015 Chardonnay “Nuit-Blanches au Bouge” Santa Maria Valley
The lovely 2015 Chardonnay Nuits-Blanches au Bouge wafts from the glass with a youthful bouquet of caramelized citrus rind, buttered apples and smoke, framed by toasty new oak. On the palate, the wine is the richest and ripest of these three whites from Jim Clendenen, sapid and nicely concentrated with a glossy attack and a lingering, apricot-tinged finish.
Score: 92 Au Bon Climat 2014 Chardonnay “Nuit-Blanches au Bouge” Santa Maria Valley
The 2014 Chardonnay Nuits Blanches Au Bouge gives a gregarious nose of guava, pink grapefruit and honeydew melon with touches of orange blossom and chalk dust. Medium-bodied, with a compelling grip to the texture, it has a lively backbone and long, tropical fruit-laced finish.
Score: 92 Au Bon Climat 2015 Hildegard Estate White (Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc/Aligote) Santa Maria Valley
A lovely wine, the 2015 Hildegard from Au Bon Climat—a blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Aligoté that emulates the pre-phylloxera plantings on Corton-Charlemagne—reveals notes of buttered apples, preserved citrus, toasted macadamia nut, struck match and a framing of toasty new oak. On the palate, the wine is full-bodied, textural and bright, with nice depth and a racy finish. As previsions renditions demonstrate, this singular cuvée evolves very attractively in bottle. Considering this wine was matured in 100% new François Frères barrels, it's already remarkably integrated.
Score: 91 Au Bon Climat 2015 Pinot Noir “Knox Alexander” Santa Maria Valley
The 2015 Pinot Noir Knox Alexander is excellent, wafting from the glass with notes of griotte cherry, sweet soil, toasty new oak and currants. On the palate, the wine is supple and generous, more velvety and seductive than the Isabelle, with an ample core of fruit, juicy acids and fine structuring tannins.
Score: 90 Au Bon Climat 2014 Pinot Noir “Knox Alexander” Santa Maria Valley
Pale ruby-purple colored, the 2014 Pinot Noir Knox Alexander conjures notions of red currants, Bing cherries and violets with touches of mossy bark, wild thyme and tilled soil. Medium-bodied, with a pleasant chew to the texture, the subtle flavors offer lovely purity and an appealing herbal lift on the finish..
Score: 90 Au Bon Climat 2015 Pinot Noir “Isabelle’ California
The 2015 Pinot Noir Isabelle reveals pretty aromas of raspberries, herbs, rose hip and orange rind, framed by spicy new oak. On the palate, the wine is full-bodied and succulent, with an ample chassis of tannin and a lingering, savory finish. My only reservation is that this is quite strongly marked on the palate by its time in new oak.
Score: 92+ Au Bon Climat 2014 Pinot Noir “Isabelle’ California
Pale to medium ruby-purple in color, the 2014 Pinot Noir Isabelle has fragrant notes of cranberries, red cherries and rose hip on the nose, with touches of dried herbs, underbrush and raspberry leaves. Medium-bodied, elegantly fruited and with fine tannins, plus bags of freshness, it has delicate red berry and earth flavors and good length
Score 94 Au Bon Climat 2015 Pinot Noir Runway Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley
A new single-vineyard bottling that made its debut with the 2013 vintage, the 2015 Runway Vineyard Pinot Noir is lovely, wafting from the glass with notes of griotte cherry, underbrush, spice and dried rose petal. On the palate, the wine is medium to full-bodied, supple and satiny, with a cool core of succulent fruit and a lingering, savory finish. This is a very attractive and incipiently complex Pinot Noir from Jim Clendenen. The fact that it saw only one-third new oak may explain why I appreciated it so much.
Score: 93 Clendenen Family 2013 Chardonnay Le Bon Climat, Santa Maria Valley
The generously textural 2013 Chardonnay le Bon Climat Vineyard is reminiscent of a white Burgundy from the 1990s, opening in the glass with notes of buttered apples, toasted macadamia nuts, vanilla pod, struck match and toasty new oak. On the palate, the wine is full-bodied and glossy, clearly marked by its lees contact, with good length and grip on the flavorful finish. This was matured in 100% new François Frères barrels.
Score: 92 Clendenen Family 2013 Pinot Noir Le Bon Climat, Santa Maria Valley
Also beautifully perfumed, with notes of sweet cherries, underbrush, cured meats and dried flowers, the 2013 Pinot Noir le Bon Climat Vineyard is medium-bodied, silky and polished on the palate, with a fabulous texture. The tannin is ripe and polished, it has good acidity, and should drink well for a decade. Like the Chardonnay, this was completely barrel-fermented and spent two years in new French oak barrels
Score: 92 Au Bon Climat 2016 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard, Historical Vineyard Collection, SMV
‘Features good cut to the well-framed blend of concentrated white fruit and citrus flavors that turn rich and creamy mid-palate. Dried pineapple and spice notes show on the plush finish. Drink now through 2022. 240 cases made. – KM
Score: 90 Au Bon Climat 2016 Chardonnay Sanford & Benedict Vyd, Historical Vineyard Collection,
Voluptuous apple pastry and baked pear flavors are well-structured and filled with toasty and creamy notes. Candied quince accents linger on the rich finish. Drink now through 2021. 200 cases made. –KM
Score: 93 Au Bon Climat 2015 Chardonnay “Nuits-Blanches au Bouge”, Santa Maria Valley
Powerful, with concentrated quince, pear tart and apple pastry flavors that are supported by fresh acidity. The richly spiced and cream-filled finish lingers with hints of dried green herbs. Drink now through 2023. 800 cases made.- KM
Score: 92 Au Bon Climat 2014 Chardonnay “Nuit-Blanches au Bouge” Santa Maria Valley
Finely textured, featuring lilting white fruit flavors that are wrapped inside a silky spiciness. Airy mid-palate, with notes of lemon cream. Finishes long and rich, showing a luscious mix of sea salt and hints of caramel, accented by some dried coconut details. Drink now through 2021. 800 cases made.
Score: 93 Au Bon Climat 2015 Pinot Noir “Isabelle, California
Refined and elegant, with sandalwood notes to the cherry, dried berry and plum flavors. Cedar and spice accents fill the long, luxurious finish, caressing the palate with silky tannins. Drink now through 2023. 750 cases. - KM
Score: 91 Au Bon Climat 2014 Pinot Noir “Isabelle” California
Shows formidable structure and length to the vibrant cherry, plum and dried raspberry flavors. Lively acidity lingers on the rich, spicy finish. Drink now through 2022. 750 cases made.
Score: 92 Au Bon Climat 2015 Pinot Noir “Knox Alexander” Santa Maria Valley
Well-structured, with concentrated notes of forest floor to the dried raspberry and cherry flavors. Hot stone and spice accents fill the enveloping finish. Drink now through 2021. 850 cases made. – KM
Score: 91 Au Bon Climat 2015 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard Historical Vineyards Collection, SMV
Concentrated red fruit and spice flavors are well-integrated in this suave style. Red plum and currant details dominate, with a finish that features a rich texture, showing hints of underbrush. Drink now through 2021. 185 cases made. - KM
Score: 94 Clendenen Family 2014 Pinot Noir Rancho La Cuna Le Bon Climat, Santa Barbara County
Very suave and finely textured, with elegant flavors of dried berry, cherry and wild plum that are filled with plenty of cedar and spice details. Forest floor accents linger. Dried mint notes show on the lithe finish. Drink now through 2022. 200 cases made.
SCORE: 91** AU BON CLIMAT 2015 Pinot Noir Isabelle, California
Au Bon Climat's Isabelle cuvées are comprised of lots drawn from what winemaker Jim Clendenen considers his best barrels each year and rely on multiple sites ranging from Mendocino to those close to the winery's Central Coast home, and, in this incarnation, the wine is a bit more substantial than its many cellar mates while still reflecting its producer's concern for balance and measured richness. It is not a bold or blustery wine, yet it is complex and characterful stuff with a sure center of cherry-like fruit judiciously enriched with creamy oak and near-subliminal hints of dried herbs, and it is surprisingly light on its feet for the ample wine that it is. Fascinating now and certain to reveal more layers with time, it is a wine with a lengthy life ahead.
SCORE: 90* AU BON CLIMAT 2015 Pinot Noir Knox Alexander, Santa Maria Valley
Ever an advocate of balance and subtlety over heft and high ripeness, Au Bon Climat finds a fine expression of just that in this carefully composed, quietly complex Pinot. It is moderately full-bodied with a steady sense of nominally ripened cherryish fruit backed by a temperate touch of sweet oak and a smattering of herbs. It is a serious, yet slightly restrained offering rather than one of forceful impact, and, if a lovely companion to lighter foods in the short term, it is structured to keep and will evolve gracefully for years to come.
SCORE: 90* AU BON CLIMAT 2015 Chardonnay Nuits Blanches Au-Bouge, Santa Maria Valley
Intensely fruity without giving itself over to pushy ripeness and sporting a sympathetic complement of refined, lightly toasty oak that merges neatly with its themes of fresh apples and sweet citrus, this very well-balanced bottling does not lack for volume, but neither does it sprawl. It is at once both substantial and relatively light on its feet, and its lingering impressions of structured richness suggest that, even though an altogether inviting wine now, it will continue to evolve favorably for many years.
Score: 95 Au Bon Climat 2015 Chardonnay “Nuits-Blanches au Bouge” Santa Maria Valley
Rich aromas of sandalwood, cinnamon, brioche French toast, vanilla and nutmeg make for a lush and attention-grabbing entry to this bottling. There is great cohesion of those spices on the plate alongside a bright lemony streak that cuts through the white peach and Marcona almond flavors.
Score: 94 Au Bon Climat 2015 Pinot Noir “Isabelle”, California
Concentrated aromas of mulberry, exotic red cherry, crushed rose petals, crushed slate, tarragon and sandalwood make for a stunning entry to this always epic bottling by Jim Clendenen. Clean flavors of raspberry and red currant are lifted by dried herbs and tea spice on the palate, which is drinking great but will also age for eons. Drink now–2035.
Score: 94 points/Editor’s Choice Au Bon Climat 2016 Hildegard (Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc/Aligote) Santa Maria Valley
This annual white blend by Jim Clendenen is always fascinating, and this vintage's 55% Pinot Gris, 35% Pinot Blanc and 10% Aligoté combination offers warm rich aromas of hazelnut and crème brûlée that are cut by crushed chalk and lemon rind. It lands on the palate with a baked pastry warmth but then proves quite textural and taut with lime spray and herb flavors.
Score: 93 points Au Bon Climat 2016 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley
Rounded aromas of Meyer lemon cream and crushed hazelnuts are deliciously inviting on the nose of this bottling from the winery's historic vineyard series. White peach, walnut, smoke and tangy grapefruit converge on the dynamic palate.
Score: 93 Au Bon Climat 2015 Pinot Noir “Knox Alexander”, Santa Maria Valley
Very light in the glass, this elegant bottling by Jim Clendenen shows spicy aromas of mace, crushed sage and eucalyptus, set against tangy cranberry and hibiscus aromas. It's a sprightly wine on the palate, with thyme, bay leaf and rusty cranberry flavors. Drink now through 2035.
Score: 92 Au Bon Climat 2016 Chardonnay Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills
This is winemaker Jim Clendenen's take on the region's most important vineyard. It is light in the glass yet with savory aromas of chalk, butter, hazelnut and sandalwood. Rounded flavors of lemon, honeydew and orange cream lead into a caramelized finish.
Score: 92 Au Bon Climat 2015 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley
From Jim Clendenen's historic vineyard collection of wines, this bottling (from the vineyard that surrounds his winery) is light in the glass with aromas of red cherry, bay leaf, juniper and vanilla. The herbal attack is powerful on the palate, where oregano, sage and chamomile lift up the cranberry and pomegranate fruit.
Score: 92 Au Bon Climat 2015 Pinot Noir “La Bauge Au-dessus”. Santa Maria Valley
Rusty and gamy aromas of blood meet with light cranberry and charred wood on the nose of this bottling by Jim Clendenen and team. The body is light yet carries immense waves of flavors, including sarsaparilla, pomegranate and smoke.
Score 90 Au Bon Climat 2015 Pinot Noir Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills
Sharp pomegranate aromas and concentrated strawberry tones meet with star anise, clove and crushed rocks on the nose of this single-vineyard expression. It's taut on the palate with tightly woven raspberry and a touch of thyme, proving rather light and easy.
Score: 91 Au Bon Climat 2016 Chardonnay Los Alamos Vineyard, Santa Barbara County
Warm almond, white peach and sweet oak aromas show on the nose of this wine from legend Jim Clendenen. There is solid tension to the palate, where edgy flavors of lemon skin are balanced by the warmth of hazelnut.
Score: 96 Clendenen Family 2014 Pinot Noir Le Bon Climat/Rancho La Cuna, Santa Barbara County
A blend of Jim Clendenen's vineyards at Rancho La Cuna and Le Bon Climat, this extra-bottle-aged beauty is a showstopper, starting with aromas of roast pork in a cranberry-mulberry sauce, hickory smoke, star anise, curry and crushed slate. Intense but not biting acid pops right away on the sip, delivering deep sour-cherry, licorice and chai-spice flavors.
Score: 93 Clendenen Family 2013 Chardonnay Le Bon Climat, Santa Maria Valley
Though already five-years-old, this bottling is still very fresh, showing aromas of honeysuckle, toast, lemon balm, gardenia and sandalwood. There is a flash of tart lemon on the sip but it's leveled immediately by smooth nut-butter and brioche flavors that power into the velvety finish.
Trophy- BEST OF CLASS
Au Bon Climat 2016 Hildegard Estate White Blend