Barham Mendelsohn

In 1998, Barbara Barham Mendelsohn and Richard Mendelsohn planted 5 acres of Pinot Noir on Lala Panzi Ranch in the Russian River Valley near Healdsburg in Sonoma County. This was the same year that Jim Clendenen planted his Le Bon Climat estate in the Santa Maria Valley.

The Mendelsohns engaged successful and experienced viticulturalist Fred Peterson to direct the planting of 6100 vines on their rolling ranch land. He recommended 5 clones, the 114, 115, 667, and the 777 clones from the University of Dijon in Burgundy, and the traditional Pommard selection from UC Davis. Clendenen had planted much of the same material in Santa Barbara at the same time. The Mendelsohns questioned leading wine industry figures and compiled a list of the most successful Pinot Noir producers and cross-referenced it down to three names. After an interview process, a joint venture was proposed to Jim Clendenen, owner of Au Bon Climat. During this mutual discovery period Clendenen was impressed by the beauty of Lala Panzi, the excellence of the site, and the commitment to organic farming. The concurrence of Jim’s idea of clonal selection with Fred Peterson’s ideas and the exciting shared vision of food and wine culture that Jim possessed with the Mendelsohns cemented their relationship.

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