Au Bon Climat Tasting Room Review
Address: 813 Anacapa St., Suite 5 Santa Barbara,California 93101.
Phone Number: 805-895-4084
Tasting Hours: 12:00-6:00
Region: Santa Barbara County, California
Review Date: 3/23/2013
There are many places in the town of Santa Barbara to taste better than average vino and generally enjoy an hour or two. Then there is Au Bon Climat (ABC). Welcoming you to the historic El Paseo – next door to tasting rooms for Grassini and Margerum – this tasting room is a vinophile stop, not merely a party hop. Jim Clendenen, the winemaker, weaves together a tapestry of adventurous award-winning bottles with insanely knowledgeable service in an environment that is meant to do one thing: explore masterful wine. If youre serious about wine, put ABC on your map.
If you are open enough to the idea of time travel, the old Spanish adobe of El Paseo will transport you back to 1826 when you might find the wine and the west to both be quite wild. The ABC tasting room resides in the recent addition to the historic landmark on the National Register, added in 1922. Even if you arent interested in flexing your flux capacitor, youll find that this place has never hosted as much fine wine and food as it does right now in our current time. A courtyard in the center of the building is anchored by the highly acclaimed Wine Cask Restaurant. You may want to make ABC your pre-dinner warm-up round with one of their two tastings (ABC Classic, or Pinot Reserve) that includes some of the most interesting wines I tried along the Central Coast. In fact, this is one of only two places among a dozen visits that I actually bought a bottle (and I bought two) – I have a wee humble wine rack and must therefore be selective.
I walked in right at the buzzer, and instead of shutting the door in my face like anyone might consider, the tasting room associate welcomed me to the edge of the bar and casually began my first pour. Lane, it turns out, carries an encyclopedia in his brain from which he references vast knowledge of wines, vines, and valleys from the region.
He starts me on the 2011 Clendenen Family Sauvignon Blanc from Santa Ynez. It is light and refreshing with bright acids and some chalk near the end. This is a pretty standard lead in that wakes up the palate. Its good, not great, not overpowering in any direction. I happen to love this shade of Sauvignon Blanc, so I was quite happy to begin.
The second taste is the fantastic Hildegard. This Pinot Beurot (a clone of Pinot Gris), Pinot Blanc, and 5% Aligote blend is outstanding. The lees lend more weight in the mouthfeel, nice balance of acidity, and great late caramel toffee to go with the lavender nose. A bit of insider trivia: in Beaune (Burgundy), there is a vineyard called Corton Charlemagne, where its said that Charlemagne planted white grapes (Beurot, P. Blanc, Aligote) at the request of his wife Hildegard – who didnt want red grapes to stain his beard.
Next up is the 2010 XXX, sourced from Bien Nacido and Le Bon Climat. This warm day Chardonnay is citrus fruit underneath layers of toasted oak, butter, and vanilla. Nice acidity keeps you coming back for more of one of Clendenens best Chardonnays.
Next came the reds, beginning with two Pinot Noirs, the strongest being the ICI/La Bas. The hot, concentrated fruit was a canvas for the 75% new French oak to deliver toast, cheese, and tannins. Following the Pinots is the Syrah/Viognier, which brings high aromas of mint, pine, and cactus, with a palate full of peppery pimiento.
Finally, the most interesting of the reds is the 2005 Teroldego. This grape is native to northeast Italy and a genetic uncle to Syrah. It is ripe and fruit-forward but has a snappy acidity that reminds me of a good Zinfandel, and should make it a versatile food pairing wine. This treasure has been in a bottle for 8 years and it still has room to age… so I bought a couple bottles and intend to see for myself.
With the tasting over I perused the shelves, studied maps of the valley, and noted the many awards around the room. Theres so much quality to try here, you really cant go wrong with any of the tastings at ABC.