2011 Au Bon Climat "Pioneering-Nuits Blanches au Bouge" Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay (Elsewhere $40)

SKU #1268951 93 points Vinous

 Au Bon Climat's 2011 Chardonnay Nuits-Blanches au Bouge is quite overt within the style of the year. Yellow stone fruit, honey, mint, butter, spices and wild flowers flesh out in a supple, expressive Chardonnay endowed with notable depth and intensity. The finish alone is utterly exquisite. Jim Clendenen makes a wide range of wines across several distinct labels. I was only able to taste a smattering of representative wines, but what I saw was terrific. There are plenty of gems among these new releases, but none is more surprising than the 2006 Nebbiolo, which is probably not the wine most people associate with Clendenen, one of the true pioneers in Santa Barbara. (AG)  (6/2014)

91 points Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar

 Bright yellow. Ripe tangerine and melon aromas show very good clarity, with an exotic spicecake note coming up with air. Minerally and energetic, offering fresh orchard and citrus fruit flavors that show very good clarity and lift. The gently sweet, sappy, persistent finish trails notes of honeysuckle and lemon curd. As the trend toward more graceful, low-octane wines moves ahead in Santa Barbara County and elsewhere, Jim Clendenen has emerged as perhaps the eminence grise of the movement. That probably rubs him the wrong way a bit as he says that "since (he's) never really changed path since the beginning, everything still seems like it always has" and that he definitely doesn't feel like he's slowing down and moving into his dotage. The Burgundy-trained (back in the late 1970s) Clendenen is definitely as opinionated, emotive and charmingly cantankerous as when I first met him in the late 1980s—even his hair's the same, just greyer–and he's more than happy to take well-deserved credit for paving the way for this generation of winemakers who are trying to make wines "that speak, not yell" at the drinker. But he doesn't see himself as a recipe or dogma follower and, for example, isn't afraid of using new oak "if the wine wants it." He's made many different wines with different expressions over the years, he says, but he hopes that they all have a common theme of reflecting where they're from and what each vintage "gave the fruit." (JR)  (12/2014)

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Price: $27.99
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- It's hard to believe that up until about 30 years ago, this extremely popular varietal hid behind the veil of geographical names like Chablis and Puligny-Montrachet. Now grown all over the world and bottled by its varietal name, Chardonnay has achieved a level of branding unlike any other wine. Surprisingly, though, what you get when you buy Chardonnay can differ greatly from country to country and even within one country, depending on the climate where it's grown and how it is vinified and aged. From fresh, crisp and minerally with apple and lemon notes to rich and buttery with tropical fruit overtones, Chardonnay runs the gamut. In France's Burgundy, Chardonnay is the source of the prized wines of Chablis, Corton-Charlemagne, Mâcon, Meursault and Montrachet. It also the foundation of exceptional Champagne, where it is blended with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier or vinified on its own into Blanc de Blancs. It is also extremely popular in California, and is gaining popularity in Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Spain and South Africa.

United States

- When people consider domestic wine, they normally think about the state of California. The fine viticultural Region within California, including the Napa Valley, Sonoma, Santa Cruz Mountains, Mendocino and Santa Barbara, are capable of growing grapes of world-class quality. But there's plenty of fabulous wine coming from other states, too. Oregon, Washington and New York are also causing eyebrows (and glassware) to be raised around the world. Click for a list of bestselling items from the United States.


- With the explosive growth that California's wine industry has seen the past several years, it's easy to view winemaking and grape growing in the Golden State as a recent phenomenon. And while it's true that California's viticultural history is brief compared to several European countries, this state's roots date back well over 200 years. Due to the enormous response to California wine within the United States and worldwide, there are thousands of excellent and diverse wines being produced within the state each year. For our entire selection of California wines, please visit this link.
Specific Appellation:

Santa Maria/Santa Barbara

- Santa Maria and Santa Ynez make up the two AVAs of Santa Barbara County, an area known for its natural beauty and temperate climate. The best grape-growing areas, however, are located on the very coastal reaches of these two appellations, and are cooled by ever-present fog and ocean breezes (it is even cooler and foggier here than Carneros!). As expected, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir thrive while the more inland zones lay claim to Bordeaux varietals and some Rhône blends.
Alcohol Content (%): 13.5