2018 Pinot Noir "Isabelle"
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 Older equipment has been replaced by newer technologies, but better equipment improved the wines and allowed for gentler processing.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.
Score: 95 The lighter ruby-hued 2018 Pinot Noir Isabelle comes from a mix of sites and is all varietal that spent 24 months in 100% new French oak. A classic wine from this team, it offers lots of spiced red fruits, brambly herbs, flowers, and sandalwood in an ethereally textured, medium-bodied, incredibly elegant package. While it has bright acidity, it's beautifully balanced, has supple tannins, and a great finish. It's certainly not for those looking for blockbuster Pinot Noir, but it shines for its complexity, elegance, and nuances.