Au Bon Climat Pinot Blanc/Pinot Gris 2020
The Au Bon Climat 2020 Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc is a versatile wine. It is light and refreshing making a good choice for an aperitif. It has enough body and intensity to go with food as well. The minerality and acidity make this a great wine for shellfish of any kind but it is also delightful with roast chicken, turkey or pastas with a light béchamel sauce. The aromas are salty, mineral with a lemon-lime note. In the mouth the wine is rich and textural, from the time spent on lees in the barrel. Au Bon Climat makes a longer barrel aged version of this wine called Hildegard which is Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Aligoté, with more oak influence and more barrel and bottle age.
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
The lighter, crisper qualities of Pinot Gris are met by the somewhat richer traits of Pinot Blanc here, and the result is a fascinating effort that smacks of ripe peaches at one moment and at minerals and citrus the next. The wine is a bit more serious than either of its two varieties predict, and, while it can serve as a thirst-quenching quaff, it is something we would reserve for drinking with the likes of a well-seasoned roasted chicken now and for more than a few years to come.
In 1982, Jim Clendenen decided, along with Adam Tolmach, to start a winery dedicated to Burgundian varietals in leased quarters. Adam left in 1990 to pursue his own efforts leaving Jim solo at the helm. Through careful re-investment from its own production, Au Bon Climat (which means "a well exposed vineyard") has grown to over 50,000 cases annually.
Au Bon Climat sources fruit from several of the most highly regarded vineyards in the Central Coast. These include Clendenen’s own Le Bon Climat Vineyard and estate plantings at the legendary Bien Nacido Vineyard – both in Santa Maria Valley, along with Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in Sta. Rita Hills, Los Alamos Vineyard (Santa Barbara County), and San Luis Obispo County's Talley Vineyard.
The winery has cultivated an international reputation for its Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. Jim Clendenen, the “Mind Behind” Au Bon Climat, is recognized worldwide for his classically styled wines. In addition to his Burgundian-focused Au Bon Climat wines, Jim also established another brand, Clendenen Family Vineyards. This project of passion allows him to make artisan, small lots of distinctive wines from a wider spectrum of varieties in styles conducive to small lots. He has received high acclaim for Italian varietals particularly his Nebbiolo that has a five year aging regimen in barrel.
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 Central Coast wines like 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.
With hundreds of white grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended white wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used in white wine blends, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a soft and full-bodied white wine blend, like Chardonnay, would do well combined with one that is more fragrant and naturally high in acidity. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.