2012 Au Bon Climat "Historic Vineyards Collection-Bien Nacido Vineyard" Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay

SKU #1276607 95 points 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.  (11/2016)

92 points Vinous

 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)  (6/2016)

90 points 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)  (7/2016)

K&L Notes

By now it is certainly no secret how much we like the wines from Au Bon Climat. We've been inundating you with classy, structured, energetic wines from them for some time now including a Pinot Noir that we made earlier this year with them. This wine, one in a series of wines that Jim Clendenen makes to highlight the older "historic" vineyards in Santa Barbara County, is from the famed Bien Nacido Vineyard. The quality of this vineyard is not only one of the few universally agreed upon by vintners in the Central Coast but by us here at K&L as well. (Bryan Brick, K&L)

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Product Reviews:

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By: Mari Keilman | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: 11/17/2016 | Send Email
Bien Nacido produces some of the best grapes in California and Jim Clendenen makes some pretty amazing wines so when you put the two together, you know this winning combination is going to create something spectacular. There is a definite prevalence of oak on the nose with touches of toasted brioche, buttered popcorn and a faint leesiness that is coupled with soft Meyer lemon and peach aromatics. The great thing is that when you have a winemaker like Jim, he knows just how to perfectly balance any heaviness that may come from time in barrel with a refreshing, crisp acidity that can only be attributed to the cool coastal influence and Jim's decision to pick his grapes at just the right time. So rather than some flabby extracted fruity oak bomb, you're left with a beautifully aromatic and delicately orchard fruit packed Chardonnay that reminds me of a modern style Montrachet.

By: Sharon Kelly | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: 11/16/2016 | Send Email
A California Chardonnay that showcases a true expression of Santa Maria Valley fruit. There are ample notes of tropical and stone fruits, a drizzle of honey and texture that swathes the palate. Oak is present but does not overwhelm, and together with beautiful fruit and vibrant acidity the result is a wine with incredible balance and finesse.

By: David Othenin-Girard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: 11/16/2016 | Send Email
I tasted this gorgeous little bottle next to some of the world's top burgundies last week. Surprising balance and depth for the price and while it stood out as distinctly SoCal in nature, for the first time it was a good thing. Lovely aromatics on the nose with excellent integration of fruit and toasty oak. The palate is big tropical fruit and well structured without any popcorn or overt sweetness. A lovely example of what SO Cal does so well for such a reasonable price.

By: Bryan Brick | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: 11/16/2016 | Send Email
Toasted pecans and walnuts over grilled white corn and lush apricot preserves with just a touch of lime zest-these aromas alone are worth the price of admission here. 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 that is one of the best values of the year in Chardonnay and one of my top 5 Chardonnays of the year.

By: Diana Turk | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: 11/15/2016 | Send Email
What I love most about Au Bon Climat – and this Bien Nacido offering in particular – is how they capture classic Californian style Chardonnay, with all the expected toastiness on the nose and richness through the palate, but maintain enough brightness and sophistication to elevate the drinking experience. Great texture here, with Meyer lemon and subtly tropical stone fruit, hints of honey, surprisingly high acidity, and a clean finish. An elegant holiday choice.

By: Joe Manekin | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: 11/9/2016 | Send Email
Plain and simple, this is California Chardonnay done right! For fans of oak, you do have some satisfyingly toasty, buttered popcorn qualities combining with the fruit on the nose. On the palate, though, is where the wine really delivers, with rich flavors of lemon curd and delicious, tangy apricot, framed perfectly by the oak. Along with Qupe, when an Au Bon Climat Chardonnay is on its 'A' game it is quite a serious white wine, with powerful flavors and mouth watering acidity. Delicious and highly recommended.

By: David Driscoll | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: 11/8/2016 | Send Email
This is the type of California chardonnay that needs to be more readily available: a textural, yet clean and focused style that has both the subtle honeyed and faintly-rich notes of classic California goodness, but with restraint and elegance. This is a stunning wine, one that brings to mind Chassagne-Montrachet, rather than Rombauer, with its grace and elegance. The wine is deceptively round and supple, offering fruit and hints of tropicality without sacrificing its core tenets. It's a brilliant balance of two worlds, a praise-worthy achievement that stands among the finer chardonnay's I've tasted from ABC.

By: Gary Norton | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: 11/8/2016 | Send Email
This stuff is absolutely entrancing. Notes of yellow nectarines, apricots and pineapple just soar out of the glass and swirl into some richer pastry notes on the finish. One more home run from our buddy Jim Clendenon at ABC. This is an absolute game-changer for less than thirty bucks.

Additional Information:

Varietal:

Chardonnay

- 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.
Country:

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.
Sub-Region:

California

- 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