The 2006, like the '05, is a truly alternative style of California white wine. The wine has not been compromised in quality at any step in its production. Low yielding, high quality vineyards (Bien Nacido, Rancho Vinedo, and Los Alamos) are hand-pruned, leaf thinned by hand, sustainably farmed, and hand picked.
The grapes are whole cluster pressed, unsettled (a Burgundian tradition, like the weather), straight to Francois Freres small barrel for primary fermentation and malo-lactic, topped once a week by hand, sur lie, and bottled after a careful fining and no filtration. All of the French wood is neutral.
This wine is fruit driven, lees enhanced, texturally sophisticated, balanced, bright, complex, and concentrated from yields under 3 ton per acre. Remember when Chardonnay had stone fruit (not tropical), firm acidity, brightness, earthiness, minerality, and no vestige of heaviness? Au Bon Climat certainly does! Here is your alternative. Chardonnay is not an aromatic variety, it needs wood and lees, but can be vinified in an elegant, fresh, and food friendly fashion.
Au Bon Climat Winery
Au Bon Climat was created to produce high quality handcrafted wine from the traditional Burgundian varietals. They are one of the few California wineries to explore the gamut of these varieties: Aligote, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The winery is located within the Bien Nacido Vineyard, the source of the majority of their fruit.
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The largest of California's wine growing regions, the Central Coast produces the majority of California's wine. The district sprawls out, covering most of the vineyard land between San Francisco and Santa Barbara. Smaller sub-AVAs of the Central Coast include Monterey Bay, Paso Robles, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains and many others.
Grape varieties range from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. Some Central Coast wine is generic, bulk wine that contributes to the high production numbers of the area. But many winemakers and wineries, particular in some of the smaller AVAs, are small production artisans, creating unique and high-quality wine. The great thing about the Central Coast is its diversity - you're able to find a number of grape varieties and styles at a number of different price points.
It's not rare to see a wine's country of origin listed as "California." A country into itself in the wine world, California makes enough varieties and styles to match many European wine countries. It produces a diverse range of wines that span the quality spectrum.
The most famous of the California wine regions is Napa Valley, and these wines are certainly outstanding – but it's not as broad and diverse as its larger neighbor, Sonoma County. Down south, Santa Barbara's Santa Maria Valley is well-known for its Rhône blends, as well as cool-climate varieties like Pinot and Chardonnay. The Central Coast, the largest California AVA, has many different microclimates that lead to a wide range of wines with many sub-AVAs.
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Crisp
Light to medium bodied wines that are high in acid and light to medium fruit. Typically no oak.
Fruity & Smooth
Light to medium bodied wines with lots of juicy fruit, typically medium acid and medium oak.
Rich & Creamy
Full bodied wines that have typically undergone malo-lactic fermentation and/or spent time in oak.