The first “great“ vineyard in Santa Barbara County was planted by Richard Sanford and Michael Benedict in 1971, first with Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling, then later with Pinot Noir vines from Karl Wente. The Burgundian varieties had found a home in Santa Barbara County. With a mantle of hard, siliceous chert-gravel covering deep, well-drained soils, it is a perfect medium for Pinot and Chardonnay. Sanford & Benedict is primarily planted with Pinot Noir (68 acres) and Chardonnay (52 acres).
Au Bon Climat was lucky enough to buy a few tons grapes from Michael Benedict in the mid 1980s, and since then, Au Bon Climat has received grapes from this vineyard every year except 1990 when the vineyard was in transition. As the “new” winemaking crowd discovered and consequently worshiped this vineyard, demand for Sanford and Benedict grapes has skyrocketed. Au Bon Climat still buys some Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the original plantings of this vineyard as we have for the last 23 years. Only Sanford Winery has that kind of “history “with this vineyard.
Sanford and Benedict wines age especially well and we regularly open vintages from the late 1990s that are rich, integrated and delicious.
The flavor profile for this well structured Chardonnay is in the subtle pear and apple realm with accents of lavender and anise from the time in barrel. The citrusy notes of lemon and orange will evolve into more of a mineral and saline quality. Over time, additional flavors and aromas will emerge as the wine expands. As a young Chardonnay, this wine pairs well with any fish, salmon to trout. With age the wine matches will increase to dishes with mushrooms and game birds.
Antonio Galloni's Vinous
Score 95: "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 is."
Wine Enthusiast Magazine
Score 92: "This is 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 sandlewood. Rounded flavors of lemon, honeydew and orange cream lead to a caramelized finish."
Score 90: "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. - K.M."