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Au Bon Climat Knox Alexander Pinot Noir 2011

Pinot Noir from Santa Maria Valley, Central Coast, California
  • W&S92
  • RP91
13.5% ABV
  • WW92
  • RP90
  • WE96
  • WW95
  • RP92
  • RP92
  • WE92
  • WS91
  • RP90
  • W&S92
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13.5% ABV

Winemaker Notes

This wine, named after Jim Clendenen's son Knox Alexander, represents only the finest lots of Pinot Noir from Le Bon Climat or Bien Nacido Vineyards. These two vineyards, separated by the Sisquoc River, produce really distinctive Pinot Noir. Both vineyards struggle to yield much most years, but the small amount that is harvested is of amazing quality. The wine has a firm structure with undulating richness that become more prominent as it ages.

Critical Acclaim

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W&S 92
Wine & Spirits
This is a supple pinot noir - mostly from hillside blocks at Bien Nacido - with plump curves of red fruit held against savory tobacco tones, carrying its bright acidity into a long, gentle, umami-laden finish. Decant it for braised duck.
RP 91
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
All three of the Pinot Noirs were outstanding, and have classic, slightly Burgundian profiles, with notable structure and bright acidity. First, the 2011 Pinot Noir Knox Alexander is a beautiful Pinot Noir that has a clean, layered and classic feel. Possessing plenty of black cherry, rose petal, sappy flowers and earthy nuances, enjoy this medium-bodied, refined and elegant effort over the coming 5-7 years.
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Au Bon Climat

Au Bon Climat

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Au Bon Climat, Santa Maria Valley, Central Coast, California
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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.

Santa Maria Valley

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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.

Pinot Noir

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One of the most finicky yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is a labor of love for many. However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. In fact, it is the only red variety permitted in Burgundy. Highly reflective of its terroir, Pinot Noir prefers calcareous soils and a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality and demands a lot of attention in the vineyard and winery. It retains even more glory as an important component of Champagne as well as on its own in France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions. This sensational grape enjoys immense international success, most notably growing in Oregon, California and New Zealand with smaller amounts in Chile, Germany (as Spätburgunder) and Italy (as Pinot Nero).

In the Glass

Pinot Noir is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry and cherry with some heftier styles delving into the red or purple plum and in the other direction, red or orange citrus. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and a lively acidity. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount) it can develop hauntingly alluring characteristics of fresh earth, savory spice, dried fruit and truffles.

Perfect Pairings

Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon and tuna but its mild mannered tannins give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry: chicken, quail and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, Pinot noir has proven it isn’t afraid of beef. California examples work splendidly well with barbecue and Pinot Noir is also vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.

Sommelier Secret

For administrative purposes, the region of Beaujolais is often included in Burgundy. But it is extremely different in terms of topography, soil and climate, and the important red grape here is ultimately Gamay, not Pinot noir. Truth be told, there is a tiny amount of Gamay sprinkled around the outlying parts of Burgundy (mainly in Maconnais) but it isn’t allowed with any great significance and certainly not in any Village or Cru level wines. So "red Burgundy" still necessarily refers to Pinot noir.

WWH134332_2011 Item# 138241