Dark ruddy garnet, definitely browning. A clean, glorious nose of spring water, Caltrans mowing, Moroccan spices on buttered cheese crackers, and the sweet beauty of dirty-baby-diaper. Even though this is Au Bon Climat’s cheapest and highest production Pinot, even at age 11 it smells–and feels–nearly timeless. The amount of refinement and pure PINOT spirit packed into this sub-20$ label has always astounded me, and it remains at the pinnacle of my supermarket recommendations. Some tertiary is naturally creeping in: dusty praline, green bark, and pond-water in summer layer velvety texture over the maraschino fruit.
In the mouth, everything smelled cascades in a shower of multi-faceted droplets all over the palate. The fruit is dense and concentrated cherry, never stooping to chubbiness and brightened with copious acid. The berry takes a white-pepper turn over the middle, where more of that Pinot funk is waiting. Calm and non-swerving, it unapologetically lays out nuances the demographic for sub-20$ wines find distasteful-and typically hate “Pinot” for– and THIS is one of the foundations of the wine 1 percent: We do NOT reduce our wines to be agreeable to an uneducated palate, but demand you rise to them. Grimy and chewy in the finish, tannin starting to make an over-powering statement against the fruit. But there’s plenty left.
ANYONE can make a $75 bottle, get 95 points and allocate it to people with more money than sense to post on their Instagram–can you make 20,000 cases of 20-dollar wine, distribute it internationally, let it age 10 years and have someone like me rave about it? THESE are the real wines and the real winemakers. There’s a lot of lessons here. People say I don’t *teach*. That I’m bad for the wine community because I’m hyper-critical and don’t *educate*. Opening bottles like this is how I teach. There’s a lot of lessons here.
I think Randall Grahm said it best. On Tuesday morning he tweeted, “The concept of a Jim Clendenen-less world is starting to sink in.”
2009 AU BON CLIMAT Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County 13.5