2012 Au Bon Climat "Bien Nacido Vineyard" Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
Wine & Spirits
*Voted Top United States Chardonnay of the Year and the Top Best Buy in United States Chardonnay of the Year* Jim Clendenen made his first Bien Nacido Chardonnay in 1989. He knows his way around the sprawling hillside and benchland vineyard better than just about anyone, and makes this exclusively from K Block, a bench of shale-laced gravelly loam that was planted in 1973. The block was grafted over to Chardonnay in the 1990's, leaving the roots intact, so the grapes continue to benefit from some of the oldest root systems in Santa Barbara County. The wine spent 18 months in new oak barrels, but you'd hardly know it - the intensity of the fruit is the first and last impression, fresh and clean as a breeze through an orchard, suggesting orange blossoms, peach pits and pollen. The wood polishes the fruit into a satiny, harmonious form. This is a California chardonnay that will last ten years or more in the cellar - vinous, energetic, and deep.
The 2012 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard captures the essence of this great site in its textured, multi-faceted personality. Orange blossom, mint, chamomile and peach are beautifully delineated, but it is the wine's focus and saline-infused finish that stand out most. The more phenolic side of Bien Nacido emerges as the wine sits in the glass. Although not an obvious wine, the 2012 Bien Nacido Chardonnay has it all going on. Jim Clendenen moves from strength to strength with this superb range of wines. Clendenen seems to be enjoying a sort of late career Renaissance now that he is making wines again in his own, personal style while so many of the values he has long championed have been adopted by today's younger generation. This is an impressive set of wines to say the least. Best of all, prices for most of these wines remain very fair in today's world. I can't recommend these new releases highly enough. (AG)
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
The ripe, sexy 2012 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard (fermented and aged in 100% new French oak) gives up lots of juicy citrus, buttered orchard fruits and a touch of saltiness in its medium-bodied, rounded, lively personality. It’s another impeccable white from Jim and should drink nicely for another 2-3 years. (JD)