Jim Clendenen, the Mind Behind Au Bon Climat, is one of the founding winemakers in Santa Barbara County. He has been making benchmark wines under his own label since 1982. Although Jim owns two of his own vineyards, Le Bon Climat at the Southern end of the Santa Maria Valley, and Rancho La Cuna in Los Alamos, he also sources grapes from many of the most historically significant vineyards throughout Santa Barbara County and beyond. Invited to occupy a winery facility built for him in 1988 by the Miller family situated in their expansive Bien Nacido Vineyard, Jim has planted choice sites in this vineyard to various varietals that he manages much in the same manner as his own estate vineyards. At Au Bon Climat, Jim specializes in crafting well-balanced artisan quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Jim Clendenen created the Clendenen Family Vineyards label in 2000 as a vehicle to bring many of his most artisan and experimental wines to market. All are produced in very small quantities, many of these wines are crafted from unique varietals grown primarily on his sustainably farmed Le Bon Climat and Rancho La Cuna Vineyards. The project has expanded to include special plantings at Bien Nacido Vineyard as well. While two of the jewels from this project are Jim’s best expressions of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this “varietal playground” also includes benchmark examples of Nebbiolo, Tocai Friulano, Viognier, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc, and an amazing Syrah/Viognier blend. As always, the hallmark of Jim’s wines is balance.
The Fowles Wine vineyards and winery are located in the bucolic, windswept, super cool-climate Strathbogie Ranges of Central Victoria, Australia at an elevation of over 1600 feet. The soil there is nutrient poor and extremely well drained, comprised of a granitic base rock mixed with sand, quartz, and ironstone gravel, making it exceptional for viticulture, but little else. Fanatically committed to ethical and sustainable viticultural practices, as well as hunting and living off the 800 acre expanse they occupy in this remote region, Matt Fowles launched the Farm to Table range of wines to help promote this deep connection to the land. All of the wines are sourced from Fowles estate vineyards in the Strathbogie Ranges and express clean and vibrant varietal character. The “minimal intervention” approach to winemaking they employ, coupled with the cool climate terroir of the Strathbogie Ranges, result in wines that are subtle and refreshing on the palate. Fowles Wine is the only winery in the Strathbogie Ranges currently awarded the distinction of a five star rating from James Halliday.
The Heitz family produces a portfolio of nine wines including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and Port. All of their wines are classic in style, reflecting a careful restraint that allows the true character of each varietal to be revealed in the complexity of the wines. The winery’s agricultural operation includes a remarkable diversity of acreage in six of Napa Valley’s finest appellations. All of Heitz family vineyards are organically farmed, and the majority of them have been certified (CCOF).
Laurel Glen Vineyard is a jewel of a site located on top of Sonoma Mountain. Originally founded by Patrick Campbell in 1981, the torch was passed to Bettina Sichel in 2011. Bettina comes from a historic European wine family with roots in both Germany and Bordeaux. While conserving the legacy of this historic estate, Bettina has been working hard to take this gem to new heights by converting to certified organic viticulture and hiring David Ramey to guide her in her cellar decisions. One of his best cellar decisions was to hire Randall Watkins as winemaker.
Eric Lemelson left a successful practice in environmental law to create a “no compromises” artisan Pinot Noir Estate in the late 1990’s. His deep commitment to environmental conservation has carried forward in his practice of certified organic viticulture. A strong believer in clonal diversity, Eric has planted several Dijon as well as heritage clones in the six vineyard sites he owns. Fully appreciating the mercurial climate in the Willamette Valley, he has planted these sites at varying elevations (200-1,000 feet) and they are spread strategically among 3 different AVAs: Dundee Hills, Chahalem Mountain, and Yamhill-Carlton – where their state-of-the-art winery is located. Carrying on in the tradition of his father who was a legendary inventor, Eric’s fanatical attention to detail led him to create a “one of a kind” mobile sorting table to ensure that only perfect fruit clusters make it into one of his cuvees. Though Pinot Noir is still the focus here, small quantities of high quality Chardonnay, Riesling, and Pinot Gris have been added to the line up as well.
Long Shadows is a “dream project” conceived by Allen Shoup, former CEO of Chateau Ste Michelle in Washington State. Allen’s vision was to showcase the world class quality of the fledgling Columbia Valley wine region. To achieve this lofty goal, he set out to partner with some of the most prominent winemakers in the world, each of whom specialized in a varietal or blend of varietals that grow exceptionally well in the Columbia Valley. Each winemaker would establish their own brand, comprised of just one wine, made “without compromise”, and sourced from some of the best vineyards in the region. The results have spawned a love affair with critics and consumers alike from their inception. Poet’s Leap Riesling (Armin Diel), Feather Cabernet Sauvignon (Randy Dunn), Pedestal Merlot (Michel Rolland), Sequel Syrah (John Duval), Pirouette Bordeaux-style blend (Phillippe Melka & Agustin Huneeus Sr.), Saggi super-Tuscan-style Sangiovese blend (Ambrogio & Giovanni Folonari), and Chester-Kidder Cabernet/Syrah blend (Gilles Nicault & Allen Shoup) make up the heart of the portfolio.
Established in 2000 by Dezso Kekessy and his daughter Katinka, Patricius has emerged as a winery at the vanguard of the new “dry wine” movement in the historic “desert wine” region of Tokaj. They are presently the only producer in the market with a dry Furmint, Harslevelu, and Yellow Muscat (Sarga Muskotaly). Of course they also make classic Aszu dessert wine as well. Everything at Patricius is produced from estate owned, sustainably farmed, “Grand Cru” (First Class) vineyards.
Master winemaker Patrick Campbell began making artisan quality Cabernet Sauvignon on Sonoma Mountain in 1979. In a never ending quest for great value he was the first North American to make a Malbec in Argentina where much of his passion is now focused. Patrick also produces two extraordinary Zinfandel based wines from ancient vineyards in Lodi, California (REDS and !ZaZin). When Patrick is not busy working on one of his many wine projects, he can be found either racing kayaks or playing the fiddle.
Louisa Lindquist began the Verdad project in the late 1990’s, out of a love for Spanish wine. Growing up and attending University in the midst of the spawning Long Island wine industry in the 1980s, planted the seeds for Louisa’s dream. Over a decade and 3,000 miles later in California she decided to make her dream a reality with Verdad. Starting with budwood from two of Spain’s most celebrated producers of Albarino (Bodegas Morgadio) and Tempranillo (Bodegas Allejandro Fernandez “Pesquera”), Louisa crafts artisan quality jewels from these two varietals. Her eponymous Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard is Demeter Certified Biodynamic. Though Louisa takes the lead here at Verdad, she shares her vision and the project with her husband Bob Lindquist, the legendary Rhone Ranger, one of the founding winemakers of the Central Coast.