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Au Bon Climat & Clendenen Family - Current Reviews (by publication) 

Score: 93  Au Bon Climat 2017 Chardonnay Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills

The 2017 Chardonnay Sanford & Benedict Vineyard is ample, creamy and super-expressive, with terrific textural nuance and tons of class. Clean mineral, saline notes frame a core of ripe pear, jasmine and mint in a wine that deliver superb quality for the money. The delineation and sheer classiness of the 2017 is impossible to miss, as are the soft curves that give it so much allure.

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: 93  Au Bon Climat 2017 Chardonnay Los Alamos VIneyard, Santa Barbara County

The 2017 Chardonnay Los Alamos Vineyard is a very pretty, open-knit wine that will drink well upon release. The Los Alamos is not quite as complex or dynamic as the very finest Chardonnays in this range, but it more than makes up for that with its soft curves and open-knit, welcoming personality. Baked apple, lemon confit, spice and a touch of vanillin grace this creamy, alluring Chardonnay.

Score: 94  Au Bon Climat 2016 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyrad, Santa Maria Valley

The 2016 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard is bright, focused and wonderfully nuanced. This is such a fabulous expression of Bien Nacido. Lemon confit, white flowers, mint and white pepper are all beautifully delineated in a striking, translucent Chardonnay that is in a great spot for current drinking. Bright saline notes add energy throughout. This is such a classy wine.

Score: 96  Au Bon Climat 2015 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: 94  Au Bon Climat 2017 Hildegard Estate White (Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc/Aligote) Santa Maria Valley

The 2017 Hildegard Estate White, Jim Clendenen's Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc/Aligote field blend, is impeccable in its balance. Tropical notes and a kiss of new French oak add an exotic flair to Pinot Gris/Blanc orchard fruit, lemon confit and floral notes. The 100% new oak is beautifully integrated, but it is the wine's overall balance that really stands out. In 2017, the Hildegard is naturally a bit richer than it usually is, and yet all the elements are very nicely woven together. It remains one of the most unique and compelling wines of Santa Barbara.

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: 96  Au Bon Climat 2016 Pinot Noir “Isabelle” California

The 2016 Pinot Noir Isabelle is essentially a barrel selection from Au Bon Climat. Racy, perfumed and beautifully layered, the 2016 caresses the palate with stunning depth. Orange peel, tobacco, blood orange, spice, star anise and new oak add shades of exoticism throughout. A wine of exquisite beauty, the Isabelle is flat-out stunning in 2016. It got only a modest amount of stems (15%) and was aged in 100% new oak.

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: 94+  Au Bon Climat 2016 Pinot Noir Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills

The 2016 Pinot Noir Sanford & Benedict Vineyard is very pretty, especially in its aromatics, although it is quite a bit less expressive and giving on the palate. There is tremendous energy and persistence to the 2016, with plenty of underlying grip that gives the wine its sense of proportion. Bright red berry fruit, chalk, incense and white pepper add a brilliant upper register. This is another absolutely exquisite wine in the range.

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: 96  Au Bon Climat 2016 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley

The 2016 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard is outrageously beautiful. Sweet dark cherry, plum, rose petal, mint and blood orange all run through this racy, captivating Pinot. Vibrant and nuanced, with striking exoticism, the 2016 comes alive in the glass with tons of vibrancy and a level of purity that is hard to fully do justice to with words. In short, this is an utterly magnificent wine from Jim Clendenen. The 2016 was done with 50% whole clusters and saw 40% new oak. Don't miss it!

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: 95  Au Bon Climat 2016 Pinot Noir Runway Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley

The 2016 Pinot Noir Runway Vineyard is dense, powerful and explosive. This exotic, unapologetically flamboyant Pinot may very well shock Au Bon Climat fans for its textural sumptuousness. Dark red fruit, spice, new leather and cedar are some of the many notes that build as this richly textured, ample Pinot shows off its considerable size. The 2016 was done with entirely destemmed fruit.

Score: 90  Au Bon Climat 2016 Pinot Noir "La Bauge Au-dessus", Santa Maria Valley

The 2016 Pinot Noir La Bauge Au-dessus is fresh, floral and fruity, all of which make it an excellent choice for drinking over the next few years. Crushed flowers, sweet red berries, mint and sweet spice are all nicely lifted in this very pretty, inviting Pinot Noir. The 2016 is a blend of equal parts Bien Nacido and Bon Climat vineyards.

Score: 91  Clendenen Family Aligote, Le Bon Climat Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley

The 2018 Aligote from Clendenen Family is fabulous. Varietal citrus, mineral and floral notes emerge from an Aligote that has all the taut energy the variety is so well known for, but with an extra kick of richness that fills out the wines frame and adds body. The 2018 is positively stellar.

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 2015 Chardonnay Le Bon Climat, Santa Maria Valley

The 2015 Chardonnay Le Bon Climat is sumptuous, creamy and wonderfully inviting. Quite surprisingly, the Bon Climat retains terrific freshness and nuance for a vintage in which poor weather during set reduced the potential crop by a good 50%, while drought conditions created further challenges. The natural density and weight of the vintage are evident, and yet the wine retains terrific balance to play off a core of orchard fruit, pineapple, passionfruit, oak toastiness and floral notes. Aging in 350-liter barrels also helps in giving the wine an extra bit of tension. This forward, racy Chardonnay has so much to offer, including tons of sheer allure.

Score: 92  Clendenen Family 2014 Chardonnay Le Bon Climat, Santa Maria Valley

From vines planted in 1998, the 2014 Chardonnay le Bon Climat Vineyard has a warm nose of chalk dust, lemon pith, dried acacia, toast and wet hay with nut and mushroom nuances. Medium-bodied, round and creamy in the mouth, it offers savory, toasty fruits, juicy acidity and a long, intense finish. 150 cases were made.

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: 93 Clendenen Family 2016 Pinot Noir Rancho La Cuna Vineyard, Santa Barbara County

Ripe black cherry, plum, spice, licorice, cedar and new leather are some of the many notes that emerge from the 2016 Pinot Noir Rancho La Cuna Vineyard. In the glass, the 2016 is creamy and ample in feel, with tons of richness and impeccable overall balance. The 100% new oak is felt, but also very nicely integrated with the wine's fabric.

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: 91   Au Bon Climat 2017 Hildegard Estate White (Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc/Aligote) Santa Maria Valley

A blend of 50% Pinot Gris, 40% Pinot Blanc and 10% Aligote, the 2017 Hildegard has a fresh nose of quince, white blossoms, hay bale and soft nutty scents plus sliced green pear and baker's yeast. Medium-bodied, it has a good core of fruits and is broad and textured, finishing long. 675 cases produced.

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: 92  Au Bon Climat 2016 Pinot Noir "Isabelle" California

The pale to medium ruby colored 2016 Pinot Noir Isabelle gives up very spicy aromas of dried cranberry, dried red cherries, amaro and citrus peel with old leather, dusty earth, woodsmoke, cola and wild blackberries. It's light to medium-bodied with intense, earthy fruits, a firm frame of grainy tannins and integrated freshness, finishing long. 1,600 cases produced.

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

Acore: 93   Au Bon Climat 2016 Pinot Noir Runway Vineyard Santa Maria valley

The 2016 Runway Vineyard Pinot Noir has a pale to medium ruby color and pretty nose of dried rose petals, garrigue, sage, leather, pink peppercorn and amaro nuances with a core of black and red cherries. Light to medium-bodied with layers of spicy berries, it has fine, grainy tannins and great freshness, finishing long. 220 cases were made.

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: 90   Au Bon Climat 2016 Pinot Noir Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, Sta, Rita Hills

The 2016 Pinot Noir Sanford & Benedict Vineyard is pale to medium ruby in color and has an herbal/earthy nose with sage and mint, bitter citrus peel, amaro, tart red cherries and wild blackberries. The palate is light to medium-bodied with herbal and bitters-tinged fruit and spicy berries notions, grainy tannins and great juicy freshness on the finish. 325 cases produced.

Score: 92   Clendenen Family 2014 Chardonnay Le Bon Climat, Santa Maria Valley

From vines planted in 1998, the 2014 Chardonnay le Bon Climat Vineyard has a warm nose of chalk dust, lemon pith, dried acacia, toast and wet hay with nut and mushroom nuances. Medium-bodied, round and creamy in the mouth, it offers savory, toasty fruits, juicy acidity and a long, intense finish. 150 cases were made.

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: 90  Clendenen Family 2015 Pinot Noir Rancho La Cuna, Santa Barbara County

Pale to medium ruby-garnet in color, the 2015 Pinot Noir Rancho la Cuna is scented of dried tobacco leaf, bitter citrus peel, amaro and mushroom with old leather, blackberries and sage hints—this is beginning to go a bit tertiary. It has a light to medium weight and is very savory in the mouth with grainy tannins and good freshness, finishing long. This was made using about 75% whole-cluster fermentation. 150 cases were made.

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: 91  Clendenen Family 2011 Nebbiolo "Punta Exclamitiva", Santa Maria Valley

Medium garnet, the 2011 Nebbiolo Punta Exclamitiva has a very "Nebbiolo" nose of dried red and black cherries, old leather, tobacco and chocolate box nuances with notes of sage, scrubby earth and dried cranberry. It's medium to full-bodied with lovely layers of dried fruits and amaro-like spices in the mouth, framed by firm, grainy tannins and great freshness, finishing very long and very savory. Yes! Jim Clendenen says, "I would blame most New World failed efforts of Nebbiolo on poor clonal material." His Nebbiolo spent more than five years in barrel, "the way I believe a riserva wine should be."

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.

Score: 91  Au Bon Climat 2017 Hildegard Estate White Blend

The 2017 Hildegard checks in as a barrel-fermented blend of 50% Pinot Gris, 40% Pinot Blanc, and 10% Aligote that was aged 18 months in new French oak. If reveals a light gold color as well as a terrific bouquet of orchard fruits, toasted bread, spice, honeysuckle, and flowers. With good richness, medium-body, and terrific balance, it has bright acidity yet still comes across as rich and textured. Blind I'd have guessed Sonoma Coast Chardonnay.

Score: 93  Au Bon Climat 2016 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley

Moving to the Pinot Noirs, the 2016 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard comes from one of the great sites in the Santa Maria Valley and was barrel fermented and aged 18 months in new French oak. Its medium ruby/purple-tinged color is followed by Gevrey-like notes of tart cherries, underbrush, sappy flowers, and forest floor as well as some classic Santa Maria marine-like salinity. It's elegant, medium-bodied, has beautiful purity and tension, and certainly a Burgundian style in its acidity and texture. It's a brilliant wine.

Score: 94+  Au Bon Climat 2016 Pinot Noir Isabelle, California

The 2016 Pinot Noir Isabelle comes mostly from the Bien Nacido Vineyard yet is from six different sites spread throughout California. Cherry pits, spicy oak, white flowers, and hints of earth and forest floor all emerge from the glass. It's still tight and reserved on the palate, yet has good tension, vibrancy, and purity as well as fine tannins. This beautiful, elegant wine will benefit from 4-5 years of bottle age and should drink brilliantly over the following 15 years or more.

Score: 92  Au Bon Climat 2016 Pinot Noir Runway Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley

I'm not familiar with the vineyard, but the 2016 Pinot Noir Runway Vineyard comes from the Santa Maria Valley and was barrel fermented and aged 18 months in new French oak. It has an intense bouquet of spiced cherry and blackberry fruit intermixed with plenty of dried herbs, spice, and loamy soil notes. Medium-bodied, elegant, and downright pretty on the palate, it's another Burgundian style red from this estate that's going to keep for 15 years or more.

Score: 91  Clendenen Family 2017 Viognier Le Bon Climat, Santa Maria Valley

Brioche, honeysuckle, lemon curd, and hints of minerality all emerge from the 2017 Viognier Le Bon Climat, and while it doesn't speak to Viognier (I'd have guessed Chardonnay in a blind tasting), it's beautifully balanced, with integrated acidity and a great finish. Drink it over the coming 2-3 years.

Score: 95  Clendenen Family 2015 Chardonnay, La Bon Climat, Santa Maria Valley

The 2015 Chardonnay Le Bon Climat comes from the estate vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley and spent two years in new French oak. It reveals a medium gold color as well as a young bouquet of caramelized lemons, white peach, honeysuckle, and brioche, with plenty of background oak. Concentrated, medium-bodied, beautifully pure, and elegant on the palate, it's a smoking good Chardonnay that needs a solid 4-5 years of bottle age and should age brilliantly for 10-15 years or more. Bravo.

Score: 94  Clendenen Family 2013 Chardonnay, La Bon Climat, Santa Maria Valley

The 2013 Chardonnay Le Bon Climat comes all from the Le Bon Climat Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley and was aged two years in new barrels. Sautéed orchard fruits, brioche, hints of toasted nuts and spice all emerge from this beautifully classic, elegant, yet powerful Chardonnay. With excellent acidity and a balanced, layered, youthful style, it's drinking great today but has another decade or more of longevity.

Score: 91  Clendenen Family 2014 Pinot Noir 75% Rancho La Cuna, 25% Le Bon Climat

The 2014 Pinot Noir comes mostly from the Rancho La Cuna Vineyard in Los Alamos, yet has 25% from Le Bon Climat vineyard. Aged 24 months in new French oak, it offers notes of dried cherries and strawberries intermixed with plenty of cedary spice, dried orange rind and dried herbs. Focused and clean on the palate, with terrific purity and tension, it's a classic, Burgundian-styled Pinot Noir that should keep through 2024.

                   

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Au Bon Climat 2016 Hildegard Estate White Blend

Au Bon Climat 2017 Hildegard Estate White Blend (2nd Year in a row!)