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

WINERY OF THE YEAR 2019 - AU BON CLIMAT

"Jim Clendenen showed me a range of breathtaking wines this past summer. Over the years, Clendenen has inspired or directly mentored many of the new generation of winemakers in Santa Barbara. Ironically, Clendenen’s wines come across as quite flamboyant next to those of his disciples. To me they represent the very essence of Santa Barbara."

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  2017 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley

The 2017 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard is such an elegant wine. Hints of tangerine oil, lemon confit, white flowers, mint and chamomile grace this subtle, beautifully understated Chardonnay. I would give the 2017 another year or two in bottle, as it is a bit tightly wound at this stage. I really like the energy here.

Score: 94  Au Bon Climat 2016 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard, 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: 95  Au Bon Climat 2016 Chardonnay "Nuits-Blanches au Bouge", Santa Maria Valley

The 2016 Chardonnay Nuits-Blanches au Bouge, a barrel selection from Bien Nacido and Le Bon Climat, is rich, textured and yet also striking for its detail. Lemon confit, pineapple, mint and new oak all resonate in this super-classic Santa Maria Chardonnay. Sumptuous and rich, with tremendous balance, the 2016 Nuits-Blanches is positively stellar. This is a relatively rich style, with tropical tones and a good deal of barrel character from the two years the wine spent in 100% new oak, and yet the wine retains terrific energy. The 2016 is a super-classic Au Bon Climate Chardonnay.

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: 95+  Au Bon Climat 2016 Pinot Noir "Larmes De Grappe", Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills

The 2016 Pinot Noir Larmes de Grappe Sanford & Benedict Vineyard is a selection from S&B done with 100% whole clusters that spent two and half years in oak. Rich and sumptuous in the glass, the 2016 is alluring from the very first taste. Rose petal, mint, spice, orange peel and cedar add a brilliant upper register as the 2016 finishes with terrific freshness and energy. This is another superb wine in the range, but it needs time to come together.

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: 96 Au Bon Climat 2016 Pinot Noir “Knox Alexander” Santa Maria Valley

The 2016 Pinot Noir Knox Alexander is another head spinning wine in this range. The Knox Alexander is built on a core of Bien Nacido, and then supplemented with other sites that Jim Clendenen has planted over the years. Powerful, rich and also quite tannic, the 2016 is going to need at least a few years in bottle to fully come together. Even in the early going, though, it is very clearly a special wine with tremendous promise. I absolutely love the energy here. 

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: 95  2017 Clendenen Family Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley

The 2016 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard is plush and enveloping, and yet like all of Jim Clendenen's wines, it also remains light on its feet. Hints of apricot, orange, floral-infused honey and new French oak flesh out in a wine of real textural depth and resonance. The 2016 is extroverted and fleshy, yet it is also holding back some of its potential. It is one of the many highlights in this range.

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: 94  Clendenen Family 2014 Nebbiolo "Bricco Buon Natale", Santa Maria Valley

The 2014 Nebbiolo Bricco Buon Natale is bright, precise and beautifully lifted. Kirsch, white pepper, cedar, mint and floral notes give the 2014 a super-classic profile redolent of Nebbiolo character. Medium in body and sinewy, the 2014 is a classically built, austere (in the best sense of the word) wine that offers tremendous varietal character. That's pretty much all there is to it.

Score: 93  Clendenen Family 2011 Nebbiolo "Punta Exclamitiva", Santa Maria Valley

The 2011 Nebbiolo Punta Exclamitiva is a wild, exotic wine. The cool year, along with the Michet clone planted here, combine to give a rich, plush Nebbiolo endowed with tremendous aromatic depth. Succulent red cherry, plum, kirsch, melted road tar, cinnamon, blood orange and star anise give the 2011 its decidedly exotic character. The 2011 is maybe just a touch diffuse, but I find it alluring just the same.

Score: 92  Au Bon Climat 2016 Chardonnay “Nuit-Blanches au Bouge” Santa Maria Valley

The 2016 Chardonnay Nuits-Blanches au Bouge comes from vines planted in 1972 in the Bien Nacido vineyard and spent two years in new wood. It has a soft nose with notes of toast, white peach, quince, Bosc pear, crushed shell and hints of white blossoms and raw almonds. Medium to full-bodied, it features concentrated fruits in the mouth with nutty notions, juicy acidity and a long finish. 850 cases produced.

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 2016 Pinot Noir “Knox Alexander” Santa Maria Valley

Pale to medium ruby, the 2016 Pinot Noir Knox Alexander features scents of dried cranberry and red cherry, orange peel, potpourri and hints of smoked meats over a core of wild blackberry and black raspberry. The palate is light to medium-bodied with spicy fruits, a great frame of grainy tannins and integrated freshness, finishing long. 975 cases produced.

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

Score: 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: 91  Clendenen Family 2018 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: 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 2016 Pinot Noir "Isabelle", California

Offers a crystalline structure, with powerful flavors of dried cherry and raspberry tart, backed by crunchy acidity. Intense minerality emerges midpalate, leading to a finish filled with baking spice notes and hints of cream. Drink now through 2024. From California. —K.M.

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: 92  Au Bon Climat 2016 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard Historical Vineyards Collection, SMV

Rich, featuring juicy dark fruit and spice flavors, backed by fresh acidity and medium-grained tannins. Finely textured, with a minerally finish that offers saline and dried herbal hints. Drink now through 2024. —K.M.

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

Suave, with cedary and sandalwood accents to the dried cherry, berry and currant flavors. Firm tannins linger on the finish, offering hints of dried juniper berry. Drink now through 2024. 260 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: 92** AU BON CLIMAT 2016 Pinot Noir Isabelle, California

Sourced from a half-dozen sites throughout California, the latest "Isabelle" bottling is, as always, comprised from what Au Bon Climat considers its very best cuvées and, in 2016, is a remarkably deep Pinot Noir that counts careful composition and balance first among its many virtues. It is weighty and racy and surprisingly light on its feet all at once with layered, extraordinarily long flavors of optimally ripened cherries and sweet oak, laced with hints of minerally soil, and, even though it is so wonderfully well-tailored that it invites drinking now, it is an eminently ageworthy rendition that is destined to repay upwards of another decade of cellaring with compounding dividends.

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 2016 Pinot Noir Knox Alexander, Santa Maria Valley

There are powerful, big-bodied Pinots, and there are those that are comparatively slender and small, but there are great many more, such as this, that find a comfortable place somewhere in between. Ripe without stressing the point and, withal, a more temperate wine that deftly weaves elements of cherries, sweet spice and pervasive, but subtle, slightly creamy oak into a rich and refined whole, the latest Knox Alexander is a polished wine, but not one so well-polished as to lose its fruity soul. There is nothing rough or rugged about it, but it is structured to age and age, and, while there is a legion of monotonous and too-often empty claims from Pinot Noir producers that they make wines in the Burgundian style, this one fits the model far more than most.

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: 92** AU BON CLIMAT 2016 Chardonnay Nuits Blanches Au-Bouge, Santa Maria Valley

Sporting an altogether lovely, many-layered nose of ripe apples, Meyer lemons, vanilla and a bit of crème brûlée like sweetness and following with luscious, like-minded flavors, this generous, comparatively mouthfilling effort sits at the richer end of the Au Bon Climat Chardonnay style spectrum. Its ongoing richness noted, it is not a wine given to graceless extravagance and is impeccably balanced with the fruity vigor and structural integrity to encourage another five or more years of additional cellaring.

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: 91** AU BON CLIMAT 2015 Chardonnay XXXV Anniversay, Santa Maria Valley

A special, small-lot bottling commemorating the winery's thirty-five years of winemaking, this very rich effort is a bit bigger and more showy than is the norm for Au Bon Climat Chardonnays, and, while always in fine balance and stopping short of oaky flamboyance, it is substantial, impressively extracted stuff that is at once both outgoing and sophisticated with precise fruit to spare. It is just beginning to show flashes of the complexity that comes with age, but it has the depth and reserve to grow for a good many years and is a wine that is affirms the variety's capacity to age and age.

SCORE: 91** AU BON CLIMAT 2015 Chardonnay Sanford & Benedict 30th Vintage Celebration, Sta Rita Hills

It is important to note the XXXth vintage designation on this wine's label as it differentiates this bottling from Au Bon Climat's less expensive Historic Vineyards Collection rendition sourced from the same site. Just as was the case with the XXXV Anniversary Chardonnay reviewed just above, it received extra time in new, hand-crafted Francoise Feres barrels whose influence is felt in increased flavor and aromatic richness as well as its slightly rounded palatal feel. The wine is firm and full-bodied with plenty of fruity flesh on its bones, but it is slowly revealed layering and terrific length that sets it well apart from the crowd. Expect years of useful life here even if it is wholly involving right now.

SCORE: 90* AU BON CLIMAT 2017 Pinot Noir Runway Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley

Very much reflecting the concerns for careful structure that, year in and year out, is the hallmark of this maker, this well-defined youngster is filled out with plenty of very deep, optimally ripened, black cherry fruit that affords it with lots of forthright appeal. It is balanced to age famously for a half-dozen or more years, and is bound to be better for it, but it claims so much out-in-the-open richness that it is thoroughly satisfying even now.

SCORE: 89*/GOOD VALUE - AU BON CLIMAT 2018 Chardonnay Los Alamos Vineyard, Santa Barbara County

A little more forward in fruit than we are accustomed to seeing in Chardonnays from Au Bon Climat, yet still a wine that shows a good dose of sweet oak and the kind of incipient layering that encourages additional age, the 2018 Los Alamos bottling is a flavorful, well-filled offering that does not stint on accessible richness and delivers plenty to like even now. Whether enjoyed in its youth or set aside for a few years, it is a seriously good offering for twenty-five dollars.

                 

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: 95  Au Bon Climat 2016 Chardonnay Nuits-Blanches au Bouge, Santa Maria Valley

As to the 2016 Chardonnay Nuits-Blanches Au Bouge, it's all Chardonnay that was barrel fermented and aged 20 months in new François Frères barrels. This brilliant Chardonnay has fabulous notes of crushed citrus, sautéed orchard fruits, brioche, honeysuckle, and white flowers. Beautifully rich, medium-bodied, vibrant, and pure, it has integrated acidity and a great finish. Reminding me of a great White Burgundy, it should evolve nicely for upwards of two decades.

Score: 95  2016 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay 31st Vintage Celebration Sanford & Benedict Vyd, SRH

From a cool site on the southern side of the Sta. Rita Hills, the 2016 Chardonnay 31st Vintage Celebration Sanford & Benedict is another wine that has plenty of salty, seaside-like nuances as well as Burgundian-like orchard fruits, toasted spice, brioche, and honeysuckle aromas and flavors. This fleshy, medium to full-bodied, balanced effort has bright acidity, the seamless, approachable texture that's the hallmark of the 2016 vintage, and a great finish. It's still youthful and should drink nicely for at least a decade.

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: 94   2017 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay, Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley

The 2017 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard comes from a Grand Cru site in the Santa Maria Valley and was fermented and aged 18 months in 50% new French oak. This Burgundian beauty gives up lots of caramelized citrus, toasted bread, and spice-driven aromatics and shows medium-bodied richness on the palate, with bright acidity and some classic Santa Maria salinity and seaside-like nuances. You can drink bottles today, yet they'll also keep for over a decade.

Score: 92+  2017 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley

Moving to the reds, the 2017 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard spent 18 months in 75% new French oak prior to bottling. Its medium translucent ruby color is followed by a spicy wine with plenty of tart cherry and mulberry fruits, notes of spicy oak, iodine, and flowers, bright acidity, and a lengthy finish. It's still youthful and a little rough around the edges, so give bottles 2-3 years of bottle age. Another impressive release from this estate.

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 Knox Alexander, Santa Maria Valley

Coming from the Santa Maria Valley (Bien Nacido and Le Bon Climat vineyards) and barrel fermented and aged in new French oak, the 2016 Pinot Noir Knox Alexander has a darker ruby hue as well as a beautiful nose of earthy cherries, forest floor, ground herbs, smoked earth. Medium-bodied, with good acidity and fine tannins, it has subtle background oak and will benefit from a year or three of bottle age and should keep for 15 years or more.

Score: 93  2016 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir “Larmes de Grappe” Sanford & Benedict Vyd, Sta Rita Hills

The most expensive in the lineup, the 2016 Pinot Noir Larmes de Grappe Sanford & Benedict Vineyard comes all from the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills and spent 20 months all in new French oak. A wonderful, Burgundian bouquet of spiced sour cherries, raspberries, wood smoke, ground herbs, and flowers all emerge from the glass, and it's medium to full-bodied, with a wonderful purity of fruit, present tannins, and a great finish. As with most of these Au Bon Climate releases, this terrific wine needs 2-3 years of bottle age.

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: 90  2018 Clendenen Family Grenache Gris, Rancho La Cuna, Santa Barbara County

The only white I was able to taste from this label, the 2018 Grenache Gris Rancho La Cuna is a good value from Santa Barbara County based on 100% Grenache Gris that was barrel fermented and aged all in neutral oak. This steely, fresh, mineral-laced white offers lots of spice, pear, and citrus-driven aromas and flavors as well as a medium-bodied, salty, fresh, and crisp style on the palate. It's nicely balanced and is a perfect tapas or starter white. It's also going to evolve for 7-8 years, if you're so inclined.

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 2016 Pinot Noir Rancho La Cuna, Santa Barbara County

The 2016 Pinot Noir Rancho La Cuna comes from a vineyard in Santa Barbara County and spent 20 months in all new French oak. It displays a more ruby/lighter hue as well as spicy notes of mulled red fruits, rose petals, salty minerality, and a kiss of background oak. An elegant, medium to full-bodied effort, it has plenty of tannins (some from the oak), good overall mid-palate depth, and a great finish. I think it's outstanding, but don't open bottles for at least another 2-3 years.

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.

                                                       

Score: 95  Au Bon Climat 2016 Chardonnay Nuits-Blanches au Bouge, Santa Maria Valley

Grand, even a bit showy, this bundles majestic oak and sumptuous fruit. Jim Clendenen's most extravagant annual effort, it's a blend of lots from Bien Nacido and Le Bon Climat, aged in new Francois Freres barrels for 18 months and released late. Beneath all of the cinnamon-toasty oak, nutty lees and honeycomb richness is a wine of impressively succulent, round, fleshy fruit. But rather than feeling heavy, it feels powerful, the firm acidity and barrel-driven structure giving it elegant contours. -P.J.C.

Score: 93/BEST BUY  Au Bon Climat 2017 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley

This is one of Jim Clendenen's more iconic, and idiosyncratic, bottlings, all salt and smoke when first poured, flashy new oak worn on its sleeve. But it tames with air, turning elegant and exotic, toward mesquite smoke and golden caramel, salted apple and citrus, with a finish as buttery and generous as pie crust. A performance for the long term; cellar. - P.J.C.

Score: 91  Au Bon Climat 2017 Chardonnay Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills

Scents of baking spices, vanillin, graham crackers and nutmeg lie over lemony fruit in this complex chardonnay. The flavors are heavier, their golden-apple sweetness curtailed by tense acids and a firm whack of sumptuous oak. All of this suggests it has the stuffing to age; cellar for at least two years. - P.J.C.

Score: 90  Au Bon Climat 2017 Chardonnay Runway Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley

Scents of salted almond and Sherry give way to golden-apple flavors brightened by pale citrus accents. It's clean and fresh, and will deliver for scallop crudo. - P.J.C.

Score: 92  Clendenen Family 2016 Chardonnay Le Bon Climat, Santa Maria Valley

Jim Clendenen planted this tightly spaced vineyard in 1998, across from Bien Nacido Vineyard. The wine starts off spicy from its oak treatment, all nutmeg and cinnamon, then grows broad and grand, succulent as a pear galette, the fruity framed by wood notes on the finish. This has the stuff to age; cellar. - P.J.C.

Score: 91/BEST BUY  Au Bon Climat 2017 Pinot Nor Los Alamos Vineyard, Santa Barbara County

Swirling with savory aromas, this wine smells of sea wrack and a bit of sweat, to go along with light pomegranate flavors. It’s lean and mildly smoky, the savory elements girded by fine-grain tannins. It took days to unfurl and has the stuffing to age. (280 cases) —P.J.C.

                               

Trophy- BEST OF CLASS

Au Bon Climat 2016 Hildegard Estate White Blend

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

        

Score: 92  Au Bon Climat 2014 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley

This light yellow colored Chardonnay from Au Bon Climat is very nice. It opens with oak and green apple bouquet. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, nicely balanced and smooth. The flavor profile is an oak influenced green apple with notes vanilla and a hint of hazelnut. The finish is dry and its flavors fade away nicely. This is a very versatile Chardonnay that would pair with many foods. I would pair it with a chicken and wild mushroom ravioli with a light cream sauce. Enjoy – Ken  

Score: 90  Au Bon Climat 2015 Chardonnay Nuits-Blanches Au Bouge, Santa Maria Valley

This dark yellow colored Chardonnay from Au Bon Climat opens with a pineapple banana cake bouquet with hints of butterscotch and pear. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied and crisp, yet slightly viscous and juicy. The flavor profile is a pineapple and tangerine blend with notes of oak, butter and lemon. The finish is dry and its flavors show nice length for a Chard. The Panel suggested pairing this nice wine with quiche Lorraine or pan seared scallops. Enjoy - KWGTP

Score: 91  Au Bon Climat 2015 Pinot Noir "Knox Alexander", Santa Maria Valley

This brick red colored Pinot Noir from Au Bon Climat was well received by all that tried it. It opens with a raspberry and cedar like bouquet with a hint of cola. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, slightly acidic and juicy. The flavor profile is a tart cherry and red plum with notes of cola and oak. The finish is dry and its flavors and moderate tannins stick around for a bit. This Pinot has an old school twist to it. I would pair it with coq au vin. Enjoy – Ken

Score: 91  Au Bon Climat 2015 Pinot Noir "Isabelle", California

This light red colored Pinot Noir from Au Bon Climat opens with a very fragrant strawberry bouquet with hints of lavender and rose. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, nicely balanced, soft and smooth. The flavor profile is a tasty pomegranate and graphite blend with nicely integrated oak. We also detected hints of black pepper and stewed plum mixed it. The finish is dry and its flavors linger and last for a very long time. Our mini-tasting group thought this Pinot would pair well with Thanksgiving dinner. Enjoy - Ken

Score: 91  Au Bon Climat 2016 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley

This dark red colored Pinot Noir from the Bien Nacido Vineyard is very good. It opens with an inviting strawberry and blueberry bouquet with a hint of cola. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, delicate, round and soft. The flavor profile is a tasty red plum and cinnamon blend with notes of pomegranate and oregano. I also detected some chalky minerality throughout. The finish is dry and its flavors linger for quite a while. I would pair this Pinot with mini herb and lamb meatballs. Enjoy - Ken

Score: 92  Au Bon Climat 2016 Pinot Noir Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills

This ruby colored Pinot Noir from Au Bon Climat is yummy. It opens with an inviting cherry-cola bouquet. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied and nicely balanced between its fruit and acidity. The flavor profile is a very tasty strawberry and cherry blend with hints of red plum, cedar, cola and spice. The finish is drifts away nicely. This Pinot Noir is very food friendly and even gets better on day two. It was perfect with our Scottish salmon filet packets poached with Spanish olive oil, Sauvignon Blanc, lemon and vegetables on the grill. Cheers - Ken

Score: 94  2016 Au Bon Climat Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley

This bottling is part of the winery’s Santa Barbara Historic Vineyards Collection. Much of the fruit that Au Bon Climat sources is fruit that has been planted “exclusively” for the winery. 50% Block 2 and 50% Block 11. Main clones are 667 and 115. 50% whole clusters. Aged 18 months in Francois Frères French oak barrels, 80% new. Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Shy, but pleasing aromas of black cherry and tender oak. A very giving wine on the palate, with a gorgeous core of black cherry fruit in a mid weight style. Silky, with polished tannins, a slight savory, dried leaf character, and a seductive grip of cherry on the finish. An impeccably balanced wine that is drinking perfectly now.

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

A 16- acre vineyard planted in 2008, located next door to Bien Nacido Vineyards. Aged in Francois Frères French oak barrels for almost 24 months, 30% new. Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with aromas of cherry, raspberry, pine sap, floral spirit and toasty oak. The mid weight flavors of black cherry and spice are nicely backed by tender oak. Beautifully balanced, with silky tannins and some finishing length. 

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

This bottling is part of the winery’s Santa Barbara Historic Vineyards Collection. Extended cold soak, aged 20 months in Francois Frères French oak barrels. Light garnet color in the glass. Reserved, but pleasant aromas of oak-kissed red cherry and berry. Admirable in every way, with impressive harmony and class. Red fruits enhanced with baking spices are featured in this middleweight styled wine that offers great elegance, hidden tannins, and a persistent finish. This is the best example from this vineyard that I have tasted in recent memory.

Score: 96  2015 Au Bon Climat Isabelle Pinot Noir, California

Very heavy bottle, long cork. This bottling was inaugurated in 1994 to honor Jim Clendenen’s daughter Isabelle. This unique wine is a blend of barrels from the best vineyards not only from the Santa Maria Valley, but the Russian River Valley and even Monterey County in some years. The selection is done by Jim in the Au Bon Climat winery cellar and each year the blend for Isabelle is different. Isabelle is the richest Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir with loads of intensity and power, yet it remains balanced and food friendly. Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of cherry, sous-bois, ash and gentle oak come to the fore over time in the glass. The wellspiced red cherry fruit enters with a purpose, saturates the mid palate and exits with a ridiculously long finish. Nicely balanced and very approachable now, with bold but friendly tannins and energizing natural acidity. This beauty bowls you over.You will want to drink this one all by yourself. 

Score: 94  2015 Au Bon Climat Knox Alexander Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley

Estate bottled. Sourced from the finest lots at Bien Nacido and Au Bon Climat vineyards. Block 2 from Le Bon Climat Vineyard was planted in 1994 with a wide mix of clones including 103, 113, 114, 115, 2A, Mt. Eden and some Pinot Meunier. Block 11 at Bien Nacido Vineyard is planted with clones 667, 777, 115, 2A, Swan and Jackson in 1997. 50% Dijon and 50% traditional California selections. Jim’s son Knox arrived in 1998 and this is a distinct bottling to honor him. Aged 22 months in French oak barrels. Fined with egg whites. Moderately light garnet color in the glass. The nose offers primarily non-fruit aromas of fertile earth, burnt tobacco and toast. Much more enticing on the palate, with mid weight flavors of Bing cherry and noticeable toasty oak. There is a healthy, but not intrusive backbone of tannins. Considerably more appealing when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle when the oak had become more subservient to the fruit. Decant if you plan to drink now, but further cellaring is a better option.