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Au Bon Climat Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Chardonnay 2015

Synopsis, Our Opinion: An exceptional lean California Chardonnay that’s both unique and refreshing.

Producer/Winery: Jim Clendenen, Au Bon Climat; Santa Maria, California.

Grape Variety: Chardonnay.

Geographic Appellation: Sta. Rita Hills AVA1; Santa Ynez Valley; Central Coast California.

Vintage: 2015

Price: $35.00

Purchased From: Au Bon Climat tasting room; Santa Barbara, California.

Paired With: Seared swordfish flavored with basil, thyme, oregano, butter and lemon juice; squash and tomatoes cooked with anchovies, parsley and garlic; cucumber salad with rice vinegar and dill.


    In his book The New California Wine Jon Bonné describes winemaker Jim Clendenen’s deviation from traditional California Chardonnay… “a craving for sweet oaky Chardonnay demanded shortcuts like using oak chips that imprinted the buttery style on cheap, under flavored grapes harvested at eight tons per acre or more. These approaches were simply counterpoint to what Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat terms the ‘bombastic style’ of Chardonnay. A Burgundy fanatic, Clendenen had remained true to the style of Chardonnay he created in the early 1980’s. As buttery Chardonnays gained in popularity, he stuck by the grape’s subtler charms, even when his stubbornness made him unpopular among his neighbors in Santa Barbara, a part of California that had become a major engine for cheap, overwrought Chardonnay.” And, today his Chardonnay has characteristics of Old World white Burgundy and Chardonnay grapes grown in the cool Sta. Rita Hills of California. Here’s what we thought about his 2015 Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Chardonnay…

    Chilled before drinking. Clear, pale wheat straw color. Whiffs of baked apple and vanilla aromas. Smooth with just a touch of creaminess, unusually fresh and lean, medium-body and 150-grit texture. Flavors of Granny Smith apple, cooked Keiffer pear and just a few drops of lemon, but we would NOT call it fruity. Plenty of vibrant acidity from start to finish, glimmers of tart fruit and an acidic finish with a sedimentary mineral aftertaste that’s highlighted with vanilla. Absolutely delicious paired with the lemon and herb swordfish. It was an exceptional lean California Chardonnay that’s both unique and refreshing.

Jim Clendenen
Photo from Au Bon Climat.

Comments: Learn more about Jim Clendenen and his Au Bon Climat wines.

Alcohol Content: 13.5%

Closure: Natural cork.

UPC Code: 8 50755 00021 9

Imported by: NA

1. American Viticultural Area located in Santa Barbara County, California.