2015 Chardonnay Nuits-Blanches au Bouge
Au Bon Climat started making “Nuits-Blanches” in 1996. Jim Clendenen decided to “show off” the exceptional grape quality at Bien Nacido Vineyard. We picked later, sorted more, and kept the wine in barrel longer than any other Chardonnay. The Nuits-Blanches style is richer and oakier than other Au Bon Climat Chardonnays. Our “Nuits-Blanches” is traditionally 90% Bien Nacido Vineyard “K” Block, and 10% from our estate Le Bon Climat Vineyard. .
The very small crop at Le Bon Climat ripened quickly with sunshine, while the more vigorous, K block at Bien Nacido took one month longer than Le Bon Climat to ripen. Le Bon Climat is planted with Dijon Clones 76 and 96 which have riper characteristics at lower sugar than the Davis clones of Chardonnay. Block “K” at Bien Nacido is one of the original blocks planted at Bien Nacido in the early 1970s. “K” Block is all UC Davis clone 4. Usually as grapes ripen, the sugar level will increase while the acid will decrease. The cooler the climate, the slower this process will happen. This clone in the cool Santa Maria Valley will be low in pH at a ripe sugar level. A low pH Chardonnay will age better, integrate oak better, and pair with food better.
We started with great grapes, aged it for 18 months in new François Frères barrels, and bottled with no filtering. Lovely aromas of apricot, lavender and caramel ebb into bright flavors of lemon/lime, and a fresh, spicy finish with vanilla, clove and honeydew melon. The richness and texture are increasing in the bottle. We can’t wait to see this wine at 10 years of age.
Score: 95 " Rich aromas of sandalwood, cinnamon, brioche toast, vanilla and nutmeg make a lush and attention-grabbing entry to this bottling. There is great cohesion of those spices on the palate alongside a bright lemony strak that cuts through the white peach and Marcona almond flavors."
Score: 93 "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." - KM
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
Score: 92 "The lovely 2015 Chardonnay Nuits-Blanches au Bouge wafts from the glass with a youthful bouquet of caramelized citus 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."
Antonio Galloni's Vinous
Score: 92 "Supple and racy, the 2015 Chardonnay Nuits-Blaches au Bouge is alsop the most immediate of the 2015 Chardonnays in this range. There is plenty to like, that much is obvious. Two years in 100% new oak gives the wine many of its signatures, including a level of textural unctuousness that works beautifully here."
Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine
Score: 90 "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."