An unmistakable presence with his large stature and long wavy hair, he achieved a mountain of success in his craft, as a pioneer in California, in general, and Santa Barbara in particular, where he proved to the world that Pinot Noir and Chardonnay could be made in a leaner more Burgundian style despite the constant Cali sunshine and warm weather.
By 1990, his winery Au Bon Climat was considered one of the best in the world and the awards flooded in. Winemaker of the Year by Food & Wine, Winemaker of the World by Wein Gourmet, a James Beard Award in 2007. You name it.
Up until his passing, Jim Clendenen was making some of the best Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays anywhere. I was lucky enough to lock into a small quantity of two of his classic Santa Barbara County wines.
His Pinot Noir has long represented some of the best Burgundian style Pinots in America, flush with clean, vibrant fruit that’s not over-extracted like much of Napa’s bottlings, instead it’s got great acidity and tension making for a complex and ever evolving Pinot Noir that continues to get better with time. Don’t miss a great bottling from the end of an era.