Au Bon Climat: ABC of great wine
" a virtual wine and food event with legendary winemaker Jim Clendenen "
On a winter evening in February, Bailliage members let a little California sunshine into their lives thanks to a virtual wine and food event with legendary winemaker Jim Clendenen. Échanson Provincial (Midwest) Mary Horn organized and facilitated the event.
Jim was born in the 1950s in what he describes as the “gastronomically deprived” surroundings of Akron, Ohio - far from Cincinnati, its more enlightened neighbour at the other end of the state! Heading west, Jim graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1976 with High Honours in pre-law. A one month stay in Burgundy and Champagne during his junior year exposed him to winemaking at its finest and changed his life forever. So much for law school!
Beginning in 1978, Jim served as assistant winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery in Los Olivos. Three years later he participated in harvests in France and Australia, which convinced him to make wine the focus of his life. In 1982 he cofounded Au Bon Climat Winery (which means “well exposed vineyard”) in Santa Barbara. When his business partner moved on in 1990, Jim took the helm and has remained ever since.
The meal for our virtual event was prepared and delivered (with instructions for finishing at home) by Funky’s Catering, one of Cincinnati’s premier catering companies owned by Chef Michael “Funky” Forgus.
Along with a spring beet and goat cheese salad, participants chose either lobster or mushroom bisque for a starter. For the main course it was either a vegetarian wild mushroom and Asiago stuffed ravioli or a combination entrée of lump crabmeat crusted grouper with 45-day aged steak with truffle butter. Both mains were accompanied by crisp vegetables. The meal ended perfectly with a selection of desserts.
Four different bottles of classic Au Bon Climat wine accompanied the meal and paired well with the courses:
- 2019 Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc from the Bien Nacido vineyard in Santa Maria Valley
- 2018 Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Chardonnay from Santa Ynez Valley
- 2018 Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County (which Jim says he started making 23 years before the movie “Sideways” made it popular)
- 2016 ‘La Bauge Au-dessus’ Pinot Noir (a blend of grapes from two Santa Maria Valley vineyards: Bien Nacido and Le Bon Climat.
Jim regaled our group with his uncensored and unique historical perspective of his life in wine. Words that have been used to describe him include articulate, well-travelled, and biting humour. We found all that to be true … and more.
Bailliage members shared heartfelt thanks to Mary Horn and to Bailli George Elliott for creating the privileged opportunity for an incredible evening with Jim Clendenen. Although COVID-19 restrictions continue to keep members from physically gathering, this amazing event was a delicious escape from the winter pandemic doldrums for a couple of hours of camaraderie, incredible food, and outstanding wine.
Vice-Chargé de Presse
Photography by Jan Smith
Ed. This article is based on one which first appeared in the edition of Cuvée published by the Bailliage of USA on April 9th.