Stellina’s annual outdoors series of “UNDER THE STARS!” wine tastings arrives on THURSDAY JULY 25 at 6:30 with a Dinner designed to showcase the award-winning wines of California’s AU BON CLIMAT.
Weather-permitting, the dinner will take place under the grape arbors in Stellina’s Italian garden. If Mother Nature intervenes, in an unpleasant way, the dinner will be held indoors.
“Au Bon Climat is very, very different from the California norm… For more than three decades Clendenen and his team have been producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the image of Burgundy, ignoring California’s late-20th-century love affair with alcohol, oak, sweetness and mass.”-Jancis Robinson, Master of Wine
We will taste five of AU BON CLIMAT’s latest releases, paired with a five-course menu. Cost for this dinner is $65 per person, including all food and wine. RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED! Please call Stellina in person at 617-924-9475 to insure prompt confirmation.
AU BON CLIMAT & JIM CLENDENEN:
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.
In 1989 and 1990 Au Bon Climat was on Robert Parker’s short list of Best Wineries in the World, and in 1991 was selected by Oz Clark as one of fifty world-wide creators of Modern Classic Wines. Dan Berger of the Los Angeles Times named Clendenen the “Los Angeles Time Winemaker of the Year” in 1992; Food & Wine magazine named him “Winemaker of the Year” in 2001. Germany’s leading wine magazine, Wein Gourmet, in 2004 name Clendenen “Winemaker of the World;” and in 2007, Jim was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s “Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America.
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, Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in Sta. Rita Hills, Los Alamos Vineyard (Santa Barbara County), and San Luis Obispo County’s Talley Vineyard.
NAMED 4th BEST WINERY IN AMERICA!
For 35 years, Jim Clendenen’s pioneering Santa Barbara County winery has been producing wines — above all chardonnays and pinot noirs — that set the standard for the region, and for California in general. Sourcing grapes from the legendary Bien Nacido Vineyard and from other top plantings in the area, including his own organically farmed Le Bon Climat property, Clendenen makes memorable wines with skill, wit, and, above all, remarkable consistency.
From its offhandedly gorgeous non-chardonnay white blends (pinot blanc and pinot gris, sometimes with aligoté added) to its range of complex and addictively drinkable chardonnays to the superbly structured Talley Vineyard–Rincon pinot noir, which pretty much defines pinot from this region, Au Bon Climat’s wines are top-flight.
THE WINES THAT WE WILL BE POURING:
2017 Chardonnay Los Alamos Vineyard
Historic Vineyards Collection:
Very fruit forward and unctous, this Chardonnay is rich and complex with a tropical coconut, pineapple character. It shows abundant fruit, oak, and viscosity along with a nice mineral component. Beautiful.
Vineyard: The Los Alamos Vineyard is roughly 500 planted acres, most of which is on flat bottomland of the Los Alamos Valley that is sandwiched between the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Maria Valley appellations. The best grapes from this vineyard are found to the north on the gentle slopes of the hills.
We source from grapes grown at the top of the wind-swept slopes of the Solomon Hills. On this hilltop the wind and shallower soils keep the yields low and the grapes struggle to ripen. Even though it is a struggle, the small crop ripens early. This is the first Chardonnay to arrive at the winery for the last 10 years. The small crop on these hardy vines is concentrated.
Au Bon Climat and Los Alamos Vineyard share a lot of history. The first Au Bon Climat winery was a small barn on the Los Alamos Vineyard property. That was in 1982. Since then Los Alamos Vineyard has changed hands a few times and Au Bon Climat moved from that property in 1989. Most of the owners of Los Alamos have been interested in farming cheaply and setting and ripening a lot of grapes. This sort of viticulture was of no interest to Au Bon Climat. In 2004, the farming of this vineyard was “handed over” to Tavo Acosta. Tavo is one of the new generation of viticulturists in the Santa Maria area. This group of grape growers are motivated to grow the best grapes to make the best wine and they drink wine, too. This newer farming is more hands on and expensive than the earlier methods, but the quality difference is huge. The improvements at Los Alamos vineyard are ongoing and this vineyard will be a large part of the Au Bon Climat portfolio going forward.
Score: 91 Points – Wine Enthusiast Magazine
“Warm almond, white peach and sweetoak aromas show on the nose of this wine from legend Jim Clendenen. There is solid tension to the palate, where edgy flavors of lemon skin are balanced by the warmth of hazelnut.”
Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc/Aligoté – Blue Series
Named after an Empress, this exquisite blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Aligote is barrel fermented and aged in all new French oak. It emulates the pre-phylloxera plantings on Corton Charlemagne revealing notes of buttered apples, preserved citrus, pear, toasted macadamia nut, all framed in toasty new oak. Score 94 points/Editor’s Choice Wine Enthusiast Magazine; Best of Class-Six Nations Wine Challenge.
We started making Hildegard in 1998. The Pinot Gris planted next to the winery (Block 12 of Bien Nacido Vineyard) was amazing. The yields were small and the grapes were intense. The wine made from this Pinot Gris was more like a Burgundian Pinot Gris or dry Alsatian Pinot Gris than a light, insipid Pinot Grigio style. This rich oily Pinot Gris, blended well with the flinty minerality of Pinot Blanc and the mouth watering acidity from the Aligoté. These three lesser known Burgundian white grapes were aged for two years in new French oak barrels, blended and then released with the name Hildegard. Now that is Crazy!
The name Hildegard is a salute to the history of Burgundy and to her husband the King of the Franks, Charlemagne. During his rule in the early 800s the importance of wine and viticulture exploded. The Catholic Church and Charlemagne ruled most of Europe and both were interested in wine and viticulture. The Church needed wine for the Eucharist and under Charlemagne more and more vineyards were planted in Burgundy. Charlemagne brought civilization and order back after the dark ages. Part of this rebirth was wine production.
A wine named after an Empress has to be exquisite. This distinctive blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Aligoté is barrel fermented and gets extra barrel and bottle time. The barrels for this program are all new Francois Frères French oak. Combining a unique blend with long term barrel aging made something special. The lovely aroma of vanillin and hazelnuts from the oak and the mouth-coating richness makes for a wine that seems like a top-notch Chardonnay. The fruit profile is more melony than Chardonnay and the aromas are more flowery than Chardonnay. Food matches that work with Chardonnay would work fine with Hildegard.
2015 Pinot Noir La Bauge Au-dessus
Santa Maria Valley
A classic Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir from a great Pinot year, it is a wine of great aromatics and character showing cherry/cranberry fruit, rose petal, earth and spice. The key word is balance. Score 92 points from Wine Enthusiast.
The fruit comes from the Bien Nacido Vineyard and Le Bon Climat Vineyard, both in the Santa Maria Valley. The wine shows off complex aromatics and layered flavors of cranberry, red berries, rose petals, and spice, signature characteristics of this wine growing region.
As with all out Pinot Noirs, we are “hands-on”. Every Pinot Noir is fermented in 5 ton open-top fermenters, which are punched down once or twice daily. These punch downs breakup the cap of skins that rises to the surface into the juice so the fermentation process extracts the best part of the Pinot grapes. The wine is pressed to complete dryness and goes to barrel with moderate lees. Our “La Bauge” Pinot Noir is aged in 50% new French oak barrels made by cooper François Frères in the heart of Burgundy in the small village of St. Romain. The wine was carefully racked in the spring and then aged another 20 months (24 months total). It was lightly fined with 4 egg whites per barrel, and then bottled unfiltered. A wonderful accompaniment to thick, oak-grilled pork chops, wild game, or Coq au Vin.
Score: 92 “Rusty and gamey aromas of blood meet with light cranberry and charred wood nose of this bottling by Jim Clendenen and team. The body is light yet carries immense waves of flavors, including sarsaparilla, pomegranate and smoke.”
2014 Pinot Noir Knox Alexander
Santa Maria Valley – Blue Series
Bright, focused and beautifully delineated. A layered wine of intense aromatics, precision and focus that exudes energy from start to finish. The 2014 is striking. It’s as simple as that. Named after Jim Clendenen’s son. Score: 94 points Antonio Galloni’s Vinous; 90 points Robert Parker
Named after Jim Clendenen’s son Knox, this wine is from the finest lots of Pinot Noir from the estate Le Bon Climat and Bien Nacido Vineyard since 1998. These two vineyards, separated only by the Sisquoc River, have slow growing vines planted in well drained poor soils, which produce really distinctive Pinot Noir. Both vineyards struggle to yield much most years, but the small amount that is harvested is of amazing quality.
Vineyards: Knox is a blend of our two “estate” vineyards, Bien Nacido and Le Bon Climat. Both vineyards are in the Santa Maria Valley, with Le Bon Climat being located on the southern edge of this appellation. Le Bon Climat was planted in 1998 with low vigor rootstock in some well drained poor soil. This combination of low vigor plants and poor soil limit the crop size and slow ripening. The two blocks selected to be used in Knox are Block 2 and Block 11. Block 2 was planted in 1994 with a wide mix of clones, which are 103, 113, 114, 115, 2A, Mt. Eden along with some Pinot Meunier. Block 2 has a south/west exposure which is good for morning sun though many mornings during the growing season the sun is blocked by our Santa Maria fog. Our other premium block of Pinot Noir at Bien Nacido is Block 11 which is planted with clones 667, 777, 115, 2A, Swan and Jackson in 1997. Block 11 is a steep, hillside block with north/west exposure.
Antonio Galloni’s Vinous
Score: 94 “The 2014 Pinot Noir Knox Alexander is distinguished by its intense aromatics and layered, vibrant personality. A wine of focus and tension, the 2014 will benefit from another year or two in bottle, although it is incredibly attractive today. A dollop of whole cluster influence adds tension and aromatic top notes in this super-expressive, impeccably balanced Pinot Noir from Jim Clendenen at Au Bon Climat.”
Robert Parker – Lisa Perrotti-Brown
Score: 90 Pale ruby-purple colored, the 2014 Pinot Noir Knox Alexander conjures notions of red currants, Bing cherries and violets with touches of mossy bark, wild thyme and tilled soil. Medium-bodied, with a pleasant chew to the texture, the subtle flavors offer lovely purity and an appealing herbal lift on the finish.”
2015 Pinot Noir Isabelle
Part of our elite “Blue Series”, Isabelle is comprised of only the best cuvees each vintage. Consequently, it is consistently our top performing Pinot Noir year to year. Dark, rich, and layered, this regal wine is remarkable now, but will be even more integrated and complex in time. Earned 94 points Antonio Galloni’s Vinous; 95 points Jeb Dunnuck; 91 points Connoisseurs Guide to CA Wine; 90 points Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.
Au Bon Climat has made Pinot Noir in Santa Barbara County for 30 years. Our winemaking philosophy and winemaking practices have changed little over that time. Older equipment has been replaced by newer technologies, but better equipment improved the wines and allowed for gentler processing. We still hand pick and sort heavily in the vineyard. We still use open top fermenters allowing us to “punch down” by hand. Our top Pinot Noirs are never pumped, only moved by gravity. These high end Pinots are aged in new French Oak. Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir is basically the same since 1982, only better.
Isabelle is unlike any other Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir. Our top Pinot Noirs prior to making Isabelle in 1994 were all single vineyard wines. Isabelle was the first top end Pinot Noir that was a blend from different locations. After the birth of his daughter in 1995, Jim Clendenen wanted to make a special wine in her honor. Isabelle has developed into a unique young woman and her wine is unique for Au Bon Climat, a blended, high end Pinot Noir. We blend the best barrels from at least six different vineyards. These vineyards range from two vineyards in northern California, one in the Anderson Valley in Mendocino County, and another in the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, along with five or six of the top vineyards from the Central Coast. Making the best wine from our best barrels is the goal, so the blend has varied over the years. After tasting the best lots, we go through the barrel selection process. This tasting process takes a few days, after the initial selection, the barrels are reevaluated a few months later just prior to putting Isabelle together.
Antonio Galloni Vinous
Score: 94 points “The 2015 Pinot Noir Isabelle is a selection of the best barrels in the cellar. Undeniably flashy and ripe, the Isabelle is another success from Au Bon Climat in 2015. Time in the glass brings out the wine’s depth and substance, both of which carry through to the resonant, expressive finish. I would give the 2015 a few years in bottle to come together fully. There is more than enough brightness to ensure a number of years of very fine drinking.”
Connoisseurs’ Guide to CA Wine
Score: 91 points** “Au Bon Climat’s Isabelle cuvées are comprised of lots drawn from what winemaker Jim Clendenen considers his best barrels each year and rely on multiple sites ranging from Mendocino to those close to the winery’s Central Coast home, and, in this incarnation, the wine is a bit more substantial than its many cellarmates while still reflecting its producer’s concern for balance and measured richness. It is not a bold or blustery wine, yet it is complex and characterful stuff with a sure center of cherry-like fruit judiciously enriched with creamy oak and near-subliminal hints of dried herbs, and it is surprisingly light on its feet for the ample wine that it is. Fascinating now and certain to reveal more layers with time, it is a wine with a lengthy life ahead.”
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate
Score: 90 points “The 2015 Pinot Noir Isabelle reveals pretty aromas of raspberries, herbs, rose hip and orange rind, framed by spicy new oak. On the palate, the wine is full-bodied and succulent, with an ample chassis of tannin and a lingering, savory finish. My only reservation is that this is quite strongly marked on the palate by its time in new oak.