It is difficult to mention Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir without bringing up the Alexander Payne movie Sideways. The release of the movie could not have come at a better time. Prior to Sideways, Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir was on its way to stardom. A new generation of vineyard managers had come on the scene and many understood what needed to be done in the vineyard to improve Pinot Noir and winemakers were getting a better idea of how to deal with Pinot Noir in the winery. The convergence of better grapes, better winemaking and a very popular and entertaining movie, led to an explosion in the popularity of Pinot Noir and mainly Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir. Even though the movie was a 2004 release, we still feel the effects over a decade later.
Au Bon Climat has been making Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara County grapes since 1982, 23 years before Sideways. In the 1980s and 90s the product mix was at Au Bon Climat was 75% to 80% Chardonnay to 20% to 25% Pinot Noir. Chardonnay was king and people had not discovered the joys of Pinot Noir. All this began to change in the late 90s and now Au Bon Climat makes an equal amount of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Strawberries and blackberries aromas slowly rise out of the glass. Overtime, more of the anise and clove will mix with these other aromas. Currently, the wine is young with mouth filling intensity and suppleness. Complexity will increase as the wine ages, but this wine should stay “fresh” for 6 or 7 years. Like all Au Bon Climat wines, this is a food wine. In its youth, match this wine with lamb or dried meats. After a few years, as the flavors coalesce, it will pair better with salmon or mild red sauce with pasta. We have enjoyed this wine with many food choices from spicy Indian dishes to all-American sandwiches, and the wine worked well with most anything. The possible food pairings are almost endless.