Au Bon Climat is a French term for “a well exposed vineyard site.” Being that the winery is situated in one of the preeminent vineyards in Santa Barbara County on the outskirts of Santa Maria – The Bien Nacido Vineyard – the name certainly fits. It is the brain child of master winemaker Jim Clendenen.
Born in Akron, Ohio to gastronomically impoverished parents during the culinary Dark Ages of the American 1950s, Jim went on to graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara, with High Honors in Pre-Law in 1976. It was during his junior year abroad in 1974, while turning 21 in France, that he discovered life beyond tacos. After graduation, a one month stay in both Burgundy and Champagne convinced him to attempt a career in wine than to continue on to law school. In 1981 he found a way to work 3 harvests in one year – directing the crush at wineries in Australia and France as well as on his home turf. This masochistic feat convinced him he was ready to start his own winery, and he launched Au Bon Climat the following year.
Jim began working with his now ex-partner Adam Tolmach in a leased space. He quickly cultivated a reputation for making some of the best Burgundian-style Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the country. He also made a delicious Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. By 1989, Robert Parker included Au Bon Climat on his short list of Best Wineries in the World. The honors and accolades have kept coming ever since.