On the Trail

Teaming Up with Au Bon Climat

Bryan Brick

We couldn't be more excited to bring you another installment in what hopefully will turn out to be a long, fruitful project with wineries from around the United States, working with us directly to make exclusive bottlings for our customers. The Domestic team here at K&L has spent a great deal of time kicking around the idea of approaching wineries or winemakers we love, and asking them to work with us to create exclusive wines to our specifications. Furthermore we wanted to not only promote these outstanding wines, but the wineries behind them (rather than putting them in a private label with no winery attribution). We hope that you think that these wines offer a tremendous value and a slightly different expression of wineries that you are already familiar with. The one I want to tell you about today is the pinot noir expression we recently worked on with California winery Au Bon Climat, one of our favorite producers in the state.

While this isn't the first pinot noir project we've worked on with ABC, we wanted to improve on the last batch and bring our customers something even tastier. This year we incorporated the same blocks as previous vintages, Block 11 and Block 2 from Bien Nacido, but in different proportions and with a different clonal selection. Block 2 dominates this year, making up 90% of the blend, and within that are equal percentages of three parcels: one a mixture of clones 113 and 103—this was the nose and structure of the wine—and another is all clone 115, which added texture and power, while the other equal parcel was all clone 113, which made the finish of this wine something special. The other 10% came from Block 11 and is a mix of Swan and clone 115 that was whole-cluster fermented. This is the glue that holds the wine together, with snappy red fruits, warm spice, and a juicy feel that we think is wildly enjoyable. This is a plush, fresh and rich Pinot that has a little bit of something for everyone: Meaty spice—check. Ample, delicious fruit—check. Earthy savor—check. But possibly the best thing about it is the price. For $30 it is just an insane value—there is simply no other Bien Nacido-based Pinot Noir on the market for this price, or anywhere near it, honestly. As this was bottled in July 2016 I'd dump this in a decanter for an hour or two to really let it open up if you were going to drink it over the next six months to a year and I think this is going to be great five to seven years down the road.

Of course, it goes without saying that working with Au Bon Climat's mastermind Jim Clendenen is a true pleasure, both for me and the rest of my colleagues. Jim is one of the true pioneers of California pinot noir and we look forward to hanging out with him each time we travel down the coast to put this project together. This last time around he opened up a bottle of 1990 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay that was simply incredible. “Who said 1990 Chardonnay is dead? Tell them Jim said it’s still very much alive!" he said with a smirk. It goes without saying that our new ABC/K&L pinot noir belongs on your Thanksgiving table this coming Thursday, but if you need a white to go with it we just got the 2012 vintage of the Bien Nacido Chardonnay, one that I think has even more potential than the wine we tasted with Jim. It's simply one of the best values of the year and one of the top five Chardonnays I've tasted in 2016. One in a series of wines that Jim Clendenen makes to highlight the older "historic" vineyards in Santa Barbara County, all the fruit (like our pinot noir) is from the famed Bien Nacido Vineyard, and the quality of this vineyard site is universally agreed upon by vintners in the Central Coast. As this is a 2012 there is also just a touch of bottle age starting to creep in on the nose as well with a ribbon of caramel and an edge of torched sugar. However, the palate is fresh as can be, dare I say even electric at this point with superb entering flavors of lemon meringue, Clementine, marzipan and a wealth of floral material that reminds me of white roses and carnations. Soft and lush on the finish with vigor at its edges and a delicious white peach fruit that sings on this is a lovely, complex and serious Chardonnay. 

Au Bon Climat is the real deal. We're thrilled to be working directly with them.

-Bryan Brick