Au Bon Climat has made Pinot Noir in Santa Barbara County for 30 years. Our winemaking philosophy and winemaking practices have changed little over that time. Older equipment has been replaced by newer technologies, but better equipment improved the wines and allowed for gentler processing. We still hand pick and sort heavily in the vineyard. We still use open top fermenters allowing us to “punch down” by hand. Our top Pinot Noirs are never pumped, only moved by gravity. These high end Pinots are aged in new French Oak. Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir is basically the same since 1982, only better.
Isabelle is unlike any other Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir. Our top Pinot Noirs prior to making Isabelle in 1994 were all single vineyard wines. Isabelle was the first top end Pinot Noir that was a blend from different locations. After the birth of his daughter in 1995, Jim Clendenen wanted to make a special wine in her honor. Isabelle has developed into a unique young woman and her wine is unique for Au Bon Climat, a blended, high end Pinot Noir. We blend the best barrels from at least six different vineyards. These vineyards range from two vineyards in northern California, one in the Anderson Valley in Mendocino County, and another in the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, along with five or six of the top vineyards from the Central Coast. Making the best wine from our best barrels is the goal, so the blend has varied over the years. After tasting the best lots, we go through the barrel selection process. This tasting process takes a few days, after the initial selection, the barrels are reevaluated a few months later just prior to putting Isabelle together.
Antonio Galloni Vinous
Score: 94 points "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."
Wine Enthusiast Magazine
Score: 94 points "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." - MATT KETTMANN
Connoisseurs' Guide to CA Wine
Score: 91 points** "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 cellarmates 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."
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
Score: 90 points "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."