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.
Producer Note: "Jim Clendenen was the most important and influential figure in Santa Barbara prior to his passing earlier this year just a few days before I was scheduled to see him. To be sure, a number of Clendenen’s peers, notably Rick Longoria, Adam Tolmach and Bob Lindquist, have made compelling wines for decades, but Clendenen’s outsized personality amplified everything. His death leaves a huge void for the wine community. I had a hard time concentrating during my tasting with General Manager Jim Adelman and Clendenen’s daughter, Isabelle, as the conversation brought back so many memories. In the end, I tasted all the wines again back home in New York. As I have written in the past, the Au Bon Climat and Clendenen Family Vineyards wines, once regarded as very restrained, often taste quite opulent today because of how much styles have shifted. That is especially true of the Chardonnays, which can come across as pretty opulent, especially for readers who have been taught that ‘Burgundian’ in white wine is a synonym for lean and austere. The Pinots also see a fair amount of new oak but are also done with a significant number of whole clusters. All the wines remain reference points for high-end, site-specific Santa Barbara wine." - Antoni Galloni