Au Bon Climat Clendenen Family Vineyards Petit Verdot 2004
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.
A lesser-known but elite AVA within the larger Santa Barbara district, the Santa Maria Valley AVA runs precisely west to east starting near the coast. The valley funnels cool, Pacific Ocean air to the vineyards more inland, allowing grapes a longer hang time to ripen evenly and achieve their full potential by harvest time. Combined with minimal rainfall, consistent warm sunshine, and well-drained soils, it is an ideal environment for grape growing.
Many of the wineries here are small and highly respected, having established a reputation in the 1970s and 80s for producing excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. More recently, Syrah has also proven quite successful in the region. Many vineyards are owned by growers who sell their grapes to other wineries, so it is common to see the same vineyard name on bottlings from different wineries. Bien Nacido Vineyard is perhaps the best-known and most prestigious.
Producing full-bodied, rustic and deeply colored reds, Petit Verdot is one of the original Bordeaux varieties. Its bold structure, color and aromatics allow it to make a significant difference in blends with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc—even in modest amounts. While it isn’t planted in Bordeaux in great quantities anymore, it is showing a small revival in well-tended vineyards there. Petit Verdot can also produce phenomenal single-varietal wines in the hotter and drier subregions of Australia, South America, California and Washington State.
In the Glass
Petit Verdot makes an intriguing wine with qualities of blackberry, plum, blueberry or black cherry as well as violets and dried sage. Its thick skins result in a highly structured wine with tannins ranging from smooth to grainy, which take well to oak aging.
Roasted pork or grilled lamb kabobs, as well as barbeque and Mole dishes are wonderful. Hard and salty cheeses such as Pecorino, Manchego or aged cheddar can make fun pairings alongside Petit Verdot.
Petit Verdot finds a happy home also in some regions of Spain and Portugal. It is well regarded in Spain’s Castilla-La Mancha and Catalunya as well as in in Portugal’s Alentejo where it blends well with the regions' indigenous varieties.