2018 Chardonnay Sanford & Benedict Vineyard
The first “great“ vineyard in Santa Barbara County was planted by Richard Sanford and Michael Benedict in 1971, first with Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling, then later with Pinot Noir vines from Karl Wente. The Burgundian varieties had found a home in Santa Barbara County. With a mantle of hard, siliceous chert-gravel covering deep, well-drained soils, it is a perfect medium for Pinot and Chardonnay. Sanford & Benedict is primarily planted with Pinot Noir (68 acres) and Chardonnay (52 acres).
Au Bon Climat was lucky enough to buy a few tons grapes from Michael Benedict in the mid 1980s, and since then, Au Bon Climat has received grapes from this vineyard every year except 1990 when the vineyard was in transition. As the “new” winemaking crowd discovered and consequently worshiped this vineyard, demand for Sanford and Benedict grapes has skyrocketed. Au Bon Climat still buys some Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the original plantings of this vineyard as we have for the last 23 years. Only Sanford Winery has that kind of “history" with this vineyard.
The fruit is barrel fermented in François Frères barrels, 50% new, and aged for about 12 months prior to bottling. The flavor profile for this well structured Chardonnay is in the subtle pear and apple realm with accents of lavender and anise from the time in barrel. The citrusy notes of lemon and orange will evolve into more of a mineral and saline quality. Over time, additional flavors and aromas will emerge as the wine expands. As a young Chardonnay, this wine pairs well with any fish, salmon to trout. With age the wine matches will increase to dishes with mushrooms and game birds.
Sanford and Benedict wines age especially well and we regularly open vintages from the late 1990s that are rich, integrated and delicious.
Wine Enthusiast Magazine
SCORE: 92 "Macadamia nut and baked apple aromas meet with a hint of baking spice and a linear, steely minerality on the nose of this bottling. There's a grippy, rain-on-cement-like minerality and chalky texture to the palate, with lime skin and jasmine leading into a finish of vanilla bean." Matt Kettmann
Score: 92 Spiced orchard fruits, salted citrus, brioche, and toasty oak as well as hints of nuttiness all emerge from the 2018 Chardonnay Sanford & Benedict Vineyard. Medium-bodied, it has bright acidity and a clean, vibrant, pure style that's going to gain richness and depth with a year or two of bottle age and keep for a decade.
Wine & Spirits Magazine
Score: 92 Having sourced grapes from Sanford & Benedict for more than 30 vintages, Jim Clendenen knew the property better than most. His 2018 is all flint and pineapple at the outset, more about its structure than any one flavor component and yet it's thrillingly lean and well-built, needing time in the cellar to knit. Then decant for roast chicken. - PJC