Au Bon Climat

Au Bon Climat

Fine wine from Santa Barbara


The wine estate Au Bon Climat is the brainchild of James Alexander "Jim" Clendenen (1953-2021). This American entrepreneur from Ohio studied in California, in Santa Barbara county, during the 1970's. In 1974, as he was spending the school year in France, Jim discovered the Burgundy and Champagne regions. It was an absolute epiphany for the young 21 year old man, who knew nothing about wine at the time.

Back home, he began researching wine and winemaking. In 1978, he started working for Ken Brown in his Zaca Mesa Winery, in California. There, he had his first experience actually making wine. Three years later, he left the USA once again to go to France, as he had been hired by famous wine importer Becky Wasserman to film a documentary about a few Burgundy winemakers. Jim used this occasion to learn as much as he could about winemaking techniques and grape varieties. Needless to say, he would greatly profit from the experience.

He created his own wine estate, called "Au Bon Climat", in 1982. Jim and his partner Adam Tolmach founded the winery in Bien Nacido, in the Santa Maria Valley. The ultimate goal was to produce Burgundy wines in California. Wines that are balanced, with great aging potential and a strong personality. Jim was a perfectionist who threw himself into his work, doing everything he could to distinguish his products from the Chardonnays and Pinots Noirs you could usually find in the USA at the time. After 8 years of working together, Adam decided to leave his partner in 1990, to start his own wine estate: Ojai Winery. Thus, Jim became the sole owner of Au Bon Climat.

Criticized for his disruptive personality, Jim was often challenged but never beaten. He made some of the finest wines in the entire State of California. Some even go as far as claiming that he, and he alone, put the Santa Barbara region on the wine map, turning it into a fierce adversary of the famous Napa Valley. When he died in 2021, Jim Clendenen passed the baton to his dream team, led by his friend Jim Adelman. Jim Clendenen's son and daughter, Knox and Isabelle Clendenen, joined the family estate in 2022. The first one is now an apprentice winemaker and the second one is part of the marketing team of Au Bon Climat.

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