Honoring Jim Clendenen’s Birthday Month


Cheers to the man, the myth, the legend—Jim Clendenen! Even though he may be sipping on celestial wine in the great vineyard in the sky, we’re keeping the party alive right here for his 71st birthday. Join us for a wild 2-day celebration on January 13-14th that even Jim himself would approve of!

Get ready to embark on a vinous journey as we uncork some of Jim’s finest creations at our library tasting. Let’s raise our glasses to the man who made our glasses worth raising. Jim Clendenen may be gone, but his spirit lives on in every bottle. Let’s make this birthday celebration as wild, fun, and easy-going as Jim would want it to be! The following Clendenen Family Vineyards wines will be poured…

  • 2014 Gewurztraminer 
  • 2007 Sanford & Benedict Riesling 
  • 2015 Rancho La Cuna Pinot Noir
  • 2004 Rancho La Cuna Syrah/Viognier 
  • 2006 Bien Nacido Petit Verdot 
$45 per person | $20 for Wine Club Members

Get your creativity flowing as we dive into tie-dye fun with the talented Nathan Burns-Sprung from SB LIQUID BURNS. Unleash your inner artist and create a masterpiece that’s as vibrant and unique as Jim’s personality. Santa Barbara Tie-Dye Maker, Nathan, will guide you through the creative process, ensuring you leave with a wearable work of art.

11:30 AM – 1:30 PM or 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM

* Limited availability, so grab your spot now and let the tie-dye magic begin!

$50 per person
  • 2-hour tie-dye workshop with Nathan
  • Your very own tie-dye t-shirt
  • Tasting of 4 wines
  • A truckload of fun and laughter!

CFV Month at Au Bon Climat

Honoring Jim Clendenen’s Birthday Month with 15% off Clendenen Family Vineyards Wines Through january 31st!

Happy Birthday to The Mind Behind! January is Jim Clendenen’s birthday month. We acknowledge and honor our iconic founder’s talent and vision, and personally miss his wit, candor, and joy of life often expressed through his colorful, loud shirts. We are celebrating Jim’s life in style featuring his Clendenen Family Vineyards wines—and we are doing it all month long!


Jim Clendenen left an indelible mark on the wine industry as wine pioneer, mentor, ambassador, and impresario. He was beyond legendary. He was a winery rock star with the hair and swagger to match. Jim didn’t just walk the walk; he paved the road. He was everything a winemaker wanted to be. He made great wines because he fiercely followed his principles. He refused to bow to fashion, making elegant wines when it wasn’t cool to be elegant. Santa Barbara County wine industry would not be where it is today without him. He mentored many, influenced even more. Articulate, knowledgeable, well-traveled, passionate, and uncensored with a biting humor, Jim was an icon that wine cognoscenti gravitated to.


Clendenen Family wines came into being in 2000 based on Jim’s concept of developing a legacy winery that would be unfettered by the demands of commerce. This opened the door to other styles and varietals beyond Chardonnay and Pinot Noir inspiring Jim to explore other options. Each new direction was thoughtfully evaluated and then given full support. Clendenen Family became a project of passion, a creative outlet. Wines were made in small quantities, with some as little as a few barrels. The portfolio of wines continually evolved as opportunities arose and shifted. It continues to do so today. This is not a secondary label. Au Bon Climat and Clendenen Family wines share Jim Clendenen’s essential principle: to create intriguing wines of balance, character, and elegance. These are wines to be enjoyed with a great meal, lively conversation, and good friends.


Clendenen Family wines embrace diversity. The range of varietals are mostly French in origin, representing the wine regions of Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rhône, Loire Valley, Languedoc-Roussillon, Savoie, and Alsace. The Italian varietals feature the wine regions of Piedmont and Friuli Venezia Giulia. Winemaking follows traditional Old World protocol creating exemplary wines with a New World twist. Essential principle: to create intriguing wines of balance, character, and elegance. These are wines to be enjoyed with a great meal, lively conversation, and good friends.

Hildegard Origin Story – Wine Fit for a Queen

When I started working at Au Bon Climat a decade ago, I was amazed at how many great wines they produced. So, when I was introduced to Hildegard, my first thought was, why would you make another wine that’s a blend? Was it a gimmick?

Once tasted, I had my answer. Hildegard immediately became one of my favorites. It has an opulent texture yet light on its feet. The fruit is expressive but reigned in and complimented by the oak. The wine also has a great story that is part of a legend and, as in all folklore, has many versions; this is mine.

Mythic Background

Burgundy’s wine history goes back centuries to the King of the Franks, Charlemagne. During his rule in the early 800s, the importance of wine and viticulture exploded. A bon vivant, Charlemagne enjoyed his wine, often having boisterous parties causing red wine to stain his white beard. This made his wife Hildegard, miffed. The solution? White wine. To appease her, Charlemagne planted white varietals Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Aligoté. Chardonnay did not come to the famed Corton Charlemagne region until centuries later.

The Spark

As a frequent visitor of Burgundy starting in his 20s, Jim Clendenen established friendships with many winemakers there, and soaked up their knowledge. These were the kingpins of Chardonnay the rest of the world looked up to, including him. France has been making wine for centuries while California had training wheels. Even so, discussions and comparisons ensued. I believe some bragging was involved. This triggered Jim to ask, ‘Can I make a great white Burgundy like Corton-Charlemagne in Santa Barbara?’ In his deep dive for answers, Jim went all the way back to Burgundy’s roots.

The Experiment

Intrigued by its history, Jim decided to recreate the original plantings of Corton Charlemagne. He sourced Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Aligoté from vines planted in the Santa Maria Valley that has terroir similar to Burgundy. Each varietal was made individually using Old World techniques with the finest barrels. The blend created a complex, creamy white wine with a fruit profile and personality separate from Chardonnay yet had similar qualities. It was wonderful. It was Burgundy-esque, but not white Burgundy. Nonetheless, a worthy name was needed and since the title Charlemagne was taken, the wine was deemed Hildegard, after his queen. An instant hit, Au Bon Climat has been making Hildegard ever since.

Moral of the Story

Great Burgundies will never be precisely replicated anywhere else. At ABC we can create world class, Burgundian-styled wine that may resemble its French counterpart, yet it will always reflect the inherent properties of our region. That is what makes it special. We can never be Burgundy, nor would we want to.


While Chardonnay and our Hildegard Estate White share similar traits, Hildegard has a more expressive fruit character and crispness that makes it incredibly food compatible. Its velvety mouthfeel and bright citrus notes are a heavenly pair with creamy, rich chicken dishes, like Chicken Gérard.

By Katie O’Hara