The late, Jim Clendenen, known as the 'wild boy' and brilliant, and somewhat tousled "mind behind" Au Bon Climat, was a pioneer of the new California. It took just a a month trip to Burgundy and Champagne to convince Jim to pursue a career in wine rather than continue on his path at the time at law school and Au Bon Climat was born in an old dairy in 1982 in the cool Santa Maria Valley. At a time when much of the focus was on Napa, and to a lesser extent Sonoma, Jim, with business partner Adam Tolmach, decided to start a winery in the Central Coast focusing on Burgundian varieties and techniques. Jim, along with folk like Randall Grahm, of Bonny Doon, made the Californian wine scent a seriously fun place.
Undeterred by the attention given to the uber-ripe and overdone wines of the day, Jim's wines have changed little in the last 30 or so years - classically styled, emulating the restraint and finesse of the Cote D'Or, but with a magic touch of new world flair. Au Bon Climat sources fruit from several of the most highly regarded vineyards in the Central Coast. These include Clendenen’s own vineyards, Le Bon Climat and Rancho La Cuna, in addition to estate plantings at the legendary Bien Nacido Vineyard. Other key resouces are Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in Sta. Rita Hills, Los Alamos Vineyard (Santa Barbara County), and Runway Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley.
The void Jim left is huge, but his legacy continues. Jim had in place for many years a top notch winemaking team headed by Jim Adelman, and Jim's children, Isabelle and Knox Clendenen, are gearing up to take the reins and move forward.