2013 Au Bon Climat "Bien Nacido Vineyard" Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay

SKU #1324475 94 points Vinous

 The 2013 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard is terrific. Added time in bottle prior to release has helped the wine come together very nicely. Exquisite, layered and super-expressive, the Bien Nacido shows all the pedigree and nuance of this Santa Maria site. A long, understated finish only adds to the wine's personality and character. In a word: superb. (AG)

93 points Wine Enthusiast

 Jim Clendenen's winery has sat in the middle of Bien Nacido for decades, so it is no wonder he nails the vineyard's expression with this bottling, beginning with flinty and woody aromas that accent an orange custard creaminess on the nose. The palate also shows cedar-like oak, followed by waves of brioche, preserved lemon and orange marmalade flavors. (MK)  (8/2017)

90 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

 The 2013 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard has gorgeous honeyed apricots, pineapple and buttered popcorn notes with hints of marzipan and ginger. Medium-bodied, elegantly fruited and refreshing in the mouth, the palate is understated and savory with a spicy kick to the finish. (LPB)  (9/2017)

K&L Notes

Jim Clendenen's team has been producing this wine for decades and, according to the winery's notes, "we have our winemaking protocol down to a point where we know exactly what to do to maximize the potential of this grape from Bien Nacido Vineyard. We have identified the best locations where Chardonnay is grown and have locked in our committment. The grapes were hand harvested, whole-cluster pressed (to minimize tannin extraction from the skins), totally barrel fermented in 100% new François Frères barrels, aged for 18 months, then bottled unfiltered. The aroma reveals this is obviously Chardonnay made in an old world style. Sweet barrel spice mixes nicely with a lemon limey note from the fruit. It is rich on the palate, and the classic Chardonnay flavors of apple, citrus and vanilla go on and on. This lively wine will go with wide assortment of foods. Seared scallops in butter with a touch of orange, roast chicken with rosemary are just a couple of favorites with this Chardonnay."

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Staff Image By: Mari Keilman | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: 10/31/2017 | Send Email
California Chardonnay has gotten a bad rap over the last few years, and while some producers have done a complete 180 and are producing high acid, minerally Chards to rival Chablis, they are some producers that chose to stay true to the Cali Chard style but just make them "right." Au Bon Climat is a producer that has ​always stayed true to its SoCal style but with a strong French influence. The Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay is exactly what a Cali Chardonnay should taste like; ripe but balanced, toasty but fresh, textured but lifted. This Chardonnay knocks it out of the ballpark and has set the standard for what other producers should be striving to achieve!

Staff Image By: Blake Conklin | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: 10/26/2017 | Send Email
Au Bon Climat never ceases to please with their chardonnay, and the 2013 Bien Nacido is no exception. While it possesses many notes of a classic California chardonnay, the acidity on this is also very well balanced and refined, and I can honestly see this Chardonnay only getting better with some age. Worth a peek for those who love Chardonnay.

Staff Image By: Ryan Woodhouse | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: 10/26/2017 | Send Email
It's a pet peeve of mine when people keep harping on about Burgundy when tasting Pinot and Chardonnay from other parts of the world...but this wine would be pretty much impossible to pick out of a lineup of top notch white burgundy. It's a beautifully refined, elegant, understated expression of the varietal. There is nothing big or brash about it, but the intricate detail of its craftsmanship is paramount. There's a fine balance of crisp fruit, nutty, yeasty tones, saline minerals and crystalline acidity. The line, length and persistence on the palate the key marker of this heralded site. If you are looking for a subtle, nuanced expression of California Chardonnay this is right on the money.
Drink from 2017 to 2023

Staff Image By: Stephanie Vidales | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: 10/24/2017 | Send Email
This is California Chardonnay with an old-world finesse. The energetic aromatics of brioche, vanilla, stone fruit and citrus are perfectly integrated with the minerality and bright acidity that follows on the palate. Oak is apparent as well, adding another complex element of spice and robustness. This wine is absolutely lovely, elegant and spot-on with what I love in Chardonnay.

Staff Image By: David Driscoll | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: 10/24/2017 | Send Email
Along California's Central Coast, midway up the Santa Maria Valley, sits one of the state's most historic vineyards: Bien Nacido. Known as a cool climate site due to the fog that rolls in off the coast, cooling down the grapes and helping them to retain their acidity, the vineyard is a natural fit for delicate Burgundian varietals like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. White wines from Bien Nacido have acidity and finesse, unlike those from warmer parts of California that can be ripe and creamy. With a slower ripening time, the grapes have time to develop concentration and complexity rather than simply sweetness from the sugar. It's the perfect habitat for a winemaker looking to replicate the wines of Burgundy, those coveted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir expressions that showcase not only delicacy, but the individual conditions in which the grapes were grown. It's here that winemaker Jim Clendenen, a man who called his first winery Au Bon Climat as an homage to Burgundy, got the fruit to make this incredible Bien Nacido Chardonnay, a decidedly Montrachet-like white wine in both its mild richness and elegance. Barrel fermented and matured in oak, the toastier elements come forward, accenting the fruit and creating lush textures of brioche and toasted almond, but with plenty of classic Chardonnay fruit to bolster it. The result is somewhere in between California and Burgundy, which I think was Jim's intent. It's a damn fine bottle of wine.

Additional Information:



- 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.


- 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.
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