Tag Archives: Au Bon Climat


I’m spending ten days in London, a favorite city, and have been exploring some of the more unique small restaurants. I like to find places where the food is good and the wine list is, if not voluminous and filled with the usual suspects, is well-selected and has some surprises for a couple of Wine Explorers (LINK) like Dorianne and me.

This visit, we have found a few:

RABBIT, Chelsea (LINK): Rabbit is a farm-to-table operation with a sister restaurant, The Shed, in Notting Hill. It is run by the three Gladwin Brothers (LINK). They source most of their ingredients from Nutbourne Farm in West Sussex, including their wines. The menu at Rabbit is made up of small bites (Mouthfuls) and small plates (divided into Nutbourne Cures, Slow-Cooked, and Fast-Cooked). The menu varies by what is available and in-season. They do their version of a Sunday Roast on weekends. The food we had (a couple of Mouthfuls and three small plates) were all delicious, as well as very inventive. The service is friendly, professional, and helpful.

There are crafted cocktails, a few beers and ciders, and a medium-sized but well-chosen wine list featuring four wines from Nutbourne Vineyards (LINK).

One is a NV Nutbourne Sussex Reserve, a  white blend of Bacchus, Huxelrebe and Reichensteiner grapes. After tasting, we chose this wine to have with our dinner.

Another white is the 2015 Bacchus, (LINK to Bacchus varietal info), a very dry and crisp white wine is a good sense of terroir, and a slight chemical sense on the nose.

A 2014 Blush, a rosé wine made from Pinot Noir and Schönburger grapes.

And a 2013 Nutty Brut, a sparkling wine made with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and some Reichensteiner grapes.

The rest of the wine list is mostly Old World and a smattering of New World, including two surprises from California, a 2013 Uvaggio Vermentino from Lodi and a 2013 Au Bon Climat, Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir from our friend Jim Clendennon. I’ve seen a few Au Bon Climat’s on London wine lists.

PACHAMAMA, Marleybone (LINK): This was our second visit to Pachamama, a Peruvian Restaurant with a twist. Again, small plates are the rule (there is a leg of lamb for two). What you get here is foodie-quality ingredients, preparation, and presentation – very inventive; not traditional Peruvian food.

The bar features great hand-crafted cocktails featuring Piscos (Peruvian liquor) – either Papa’s or Mama’s (about 6 of each). It’s a good idea to arrive early and have a drink at the bar and watch the bartenders in action.

The wine list (LINK) is small but nicely selected. There is only one Peruvian wine, a 2008 Picasso Tempranillo, which I have ordered for the table on both of our visits (after cocktails, of course). The wine is rich and fruit-forward, with a nice balance of minerality – very nicely crafted. The rest of the list is much like you see elsewhere in London, only with a greater emphasis on South America, mostly with the reds.


Andalucia is a good spot for pre-theater dinner – authentic, inexpensive, and good. There are lots of higher-end tapas places in the area, especially over toward SoHo, but if you want authentic, this is the place.

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London is a great city, and a wine-lover can find a full range of experiences. These are just a few of the many “off-the-beaten-path” experiences that this great city offers. I’d love to hear about your experiences here in the comments section.

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

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Your Scribe – Getting With the London Look (LOL)


On Saturday, I joined a group for a wine tour of four wineries in the Santa Rita Hills Appellation (LINK), near Santa Ynez, California. The four were: Tyler, LaFondMargerum, and Ken Brown. I will blog about each separately, beginning with Ken Brown Wines (LINK). The Santa Rita Hills are located about 30 miles north of Santa Barbara. A unique geological area, they are on a circular land mass that separated from the North American tectonic plate about 12 million years ago. Since then, that circle of land has been turning about 1/4 inch per year, so that now, the mountain ranges and valleys run east to west instead of north to south. This provides a “chute” for cool breezes and moisture from the Pacific Ocean to come farther inland and created one of the perfect places on earth to grow Pinot Noir. The film “Sideways” (LINK) was filmed here (before the appellation was established), and the rest is, well, a rich history.

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Ken Brown is a legendary winemaker in the Santa Rita Hills area. He began at Zaca Mesa Wines. His first name is actually Byron, and after Zaca Mesa, he started Byron Winery in 1985, selling it to the Mondavi Family in 1990. He said that both of those wineries got to the level of 80 to 90,000 cases in annual production, and by that point, actually before that, it was no longer fun for him. The current annual production at Ken Brown Wines is just about 3,000 cases in total.

Along the way, Ken Brown has trained a number of winemakers in the area, including Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat and Bob Lindquist of Qupé Winery. His tasting room is in Buellton, CA, just off the 101 Freeway. It is very nicely appointed, with a corkwood floor that got a lot of attention from some of the women on the tour.

Ken Brown Holding forth about his Wines.
Ken Brown Holding forth about his Wines.

Ken was very expansive in describing his process of winemaking and each of his wines. We tasted one Chardonnay, five Pinot Noirs and one Syrah. My general comment is that his wines are amazingly well-crafted in a Burgundian style, not big fruit bombs like many California wines. In fact, some in our tour group thought his wines were not big enough.

I found them to be nuanced, balanced, and each had different characteristics. I just about fell in love.

The Chardonnay was beautifully made, and very oaky – not to my taste, but you could readily smell, taste, and see the quality of the wine. Several bottles of this were purchased by tour members.2015-02-07 15.43.28 2015-02-07 16.11.47

Each of the five Pinots, one a blend of two Santa Barbara appellations, the rest from Santa Rita Hills, two blends of vineyards and two single-vineyard wines, had a strong sense of place and a very nice blend of fruit, mineral, and spice.

I won’t go into all of the individual wines in detail – mainly because it is unlikely you will be able to get any! All are small production, and available only through the winery (LINK to wine shop site).

I purchased the 2012 Zotovich Vineyard Pinot Noir (LINK), a very complex Pinot; the 2012 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir (LINK), his most approachable Pinot – fruity and very refreshing; and the 2012 Watch Hill Syrah (LINK), a rich fruit-forward Syrah with great complexity. If we were not moving soon, I would have bought more.

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If you are in the Santa Rita Hills area any time soon, put Ken Brown Wines on you list of places to visit, You will not be disappointed (unless you only like the big, big wines. Then you better stick to Paso Robles).


Last night, we spent some time and had dinner with Brad Kieffer and Karen Oxrider, our good friends and wine buddies.

Initially, Karen came over to our house where she and Dorianne did some work for a non-profit they are involved with. During this time, we opened a bottle of 2007 Au Bon Climat Hildegard White Table Wine, the wine, from the stable of the great Jim Clendenen, is an amazingly well-crafted white wine; made from 55% Pinot Beurot (Pinot Gris), 40% Pinot Blanc and 5% Aligote inspired by the composition of the Corton Charlemagne vineyard in Burgundy as it was believed to have been planted during Charlemagne’s reign as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (Parker). I have blogged about this wine before (Link).

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It made the non-profit work go very smoothly!

Unfortunately, it was our last bottle of this great wine.

After the work was done, it was time to meet Brad for dinner. We chose Galetto’s Grill in Westlake Village, one of my favorites – a mixture of Brazilian and Italian cuisine with an excellent wine list.

But tonight, we would be bringing a couple of bottles.

Brad and Karen had a bottle of Hungarian wine that they brought back from a trip to Europe a few years ago. The wine, a 2002 Sandor Pince Egri Pinot Noir, was an unknown quantity. Would it still be good in 2015? Was it a good wine to begin with? An internet search revealed next to nothing about this particular wine.

A bottle of 2010 Clos Pepe Estate Pinot Noir would serve as a back-up.

Our conversation ranged from travel, past trips and future plans, to wine to food, to our impending move away from California and our extended stay in Europe. It was an evening of good company, good food, and good and interesting wine.

2015-02-02 18.35.21The waiter opened the bottle of Sàndor Pince and poured a taste for Brad. He sniffed and swirled and very slowly tasted. After a pause, he said, “Interesting.”

The wine was very earthy – mineral on the nose, terroir (dirt) with a hint of rust was evident in the wine – not in an unpleasant way, but there was a nearly total absence of fruit on the nose and in the mouth. I liked the wine more than the others, but I agreed that we should see what it would be like in a few minutes. So we ordered.

I ordered a Brazilian style rib eye stake that would come with black beans and rice, pico de gayo, and other spices. Dorianne had a fish dish, Karen had salmon, Brad a skirt steak prepared much like my rib eye.

I will say that the Hungarian Pinot Noir was a good compliment to my steak with the dry Brazilian spices. The mineral nature of the wine was a good pairing. It’s relatively high acid and medium tannins went well with the dish. The others were ready to turn to the Clos Pepe, however.

Wine - Clos Pepe LabelAs always, the Clos Pepe Pinot Noir did not disappoint. Smooth, with a wonderful balance of mineral and fruit on the nose and the pallet, with a hint of pepper and spice. It was a nice finish to the evening after the harsher Hungarian Pinot Noir.

In fact, that wine was book-ended by two splendid wines from the California Central Coast. Our experiment with the rare (for us) Hungarian Wine from the “Valley of the Beautiful Women,” was really not all that dangerous, as we were definitely working with a net, as it were.

So it was the best of both worlds – a chance to try something new and also to enjoy two well known wines that never disappoint.


Last week, our friend Mary Stec held the first of a series of cooking classes at her home. Dorianne went over to do dishes as the evening progressed. I, of course, offered to be wine steward, assuming that we would be pouring Richard (Mary’s husband and our wine co-op winemaker) Clark’s wine.

Dorianne and I arrived a bit before the students and I examined the bottles of wine co-op red wine that Richard had set out. There were red blends, a Merlot, a Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Syrah. Once everyone arrived, I poured them each a glass and Richard and I headed down to the den to await further instructions, expecting that as each course (Tuscan Autumn Cooking) was completed, we would receive a sampling.

Did I mention that Richard and I were drinking, well, let’s say different wine from the folks upstairs. I brought a 2007 Au Bon Climat White Table Wine, which was not chilled and had been stored in the refrigerator. Richard told me to select a wine from several cases that he had recently obtained – cases of VERY nice wines. I pulled a 2009 Kistler Cuvee Elizabeth Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, Bottle #16586; you know, something nice, but not at the top level of what was in those cases, so as not to appear greedy.

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The Au Bon Climat & the Kistler.

So we opened the Kistler – heaven! We sat back to watch a football game. The wine went down smoothly, but, after a glass or two, I began to wonder when the morsels of food from the cooking class would arrive. I asked Richard about it, but he was clearly on orders not to disturb the goings-on in the kitchen for ANY reason. So we finished the Kistler.

After a few minutes of sitting with empty glasses, I boldly went up to the kitchen, circled through the living room so as not to walk through the class, and entered the back near the refrigerator. Nothing resembling completed food was in evidence. Coolly, I slipped the Au Bon Climat from the refrigerator and retraced my circuitous steps to the lower den. We opened the bottle and basked in the explosion of perfectly aged wine with strong fruit, great structure, and nearly perfect balance. Food, what food?

Oh, food – getting hungry – it’s almost 8:30. Not even an appetizer in site. A friend, Keith, taking the class, passes through the den on the way to the rest room. “Food?” we ask. “You want some food? Sure.” So after completing his mission, Keith goes upstairs and gets us some crackers and a kind of cheese dip. We are in good shape.

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Au Bon Climat – Back Label.
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Kistler – Back Label.

The Au Bon Climat is soon almost gone, and we are called upstairs to pour wine for the dinner. After completing that duty, we again retire to the den with plates heaping with amazing Tuscan delicacies. We finish the white wine and the evening is declared a success.

Oh, I’m fine with no one at the cooking class knowing that we did not drink the co-op wines. AND I want to stress, that my commentary in no way indicates anything negative about Mary’s Cooking Classes – they are amazing.


This past weekend, Dorianne and I visited Manhattan to see our daughter, Heather. During our short visit, we had three dinners with wine and went to a rooftop bar atop our hotel – The Indigo Hotel on W. 28th Street in Chelsea.

Friday, Heather made reservations at Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina, known as Rana, located in the Chelsea Market (a must visit in NYC). Known for their fresh pasta and other Italian fare, the restaurant is bustling and noisy – in a good way. We had reservations for three and they put us at a table for six, which was fine because it was in a corner and allowed for our conversation to be heard without too much trouble.

We ordered a 2012 Guado al Tasso Vermentino from Tuscany – a white wine to go with seafood pasta. It was the second Vermentino I have had – oddly enough the first was the night before at a friend’s home where we had a Vermentino from Tablas Creek in California’s Central Coast to begin the evening. I did not take a photo of the Sicilian bottle – both wines were light and crisp with a hint of spice. The Tablas Creek was perhaps a bit spicier, and the Guado al Tasso had more of a green apple taste, but they were very similar. I recommend both the restaurant and the wine.

Saturday we went to the RoofBar at the top of our hotel (17th Floor) and watched the sun set and the lights of the city come on. Our wonderful bartender, Costa from Greece, showed us around the fairly spacious rooftop area, some covered and some open. The wine list is short, and features a number of Greek wines (the owner is Greek, we were told). We ordered the French Sauvignon Blanc – a “Lulu” 2013 from Touraine. It was everything you would want in a Sauv Blanc – crisp and fruity, with hints of citrus and lemongrass, but very well contained, unlike the wines from New Zealand, for example that tend to be heavily citrus based. We returned to the Roof Bar on Sunday evening for a repeat performance of the sunset and some more Sauv Blanc.

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Costa behind the bar at RoofBar in Chelsea.
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Manhattan sunset.
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Night Falls on the City.

Saturday dinner was at the Petit Poulet on 33rd Street off of Avenue of the Americas. The food was classic French (I had steak frites) and we chose a 2012 Les Jamelles Pays d’Oc Merlot, which was recommended by our waiter, a classic New York waiter who treated you grandly if you looked like you knew what you were doing and were also appropriately subservient to his opinion. The wine and the food were both wonderful.

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The French Merlot at Petit Poulet.
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Steak Frites at Petit Poulet.

Sunday afternoon, we had lunch at BoludSud, a Daniel Bolud restaurant across from Lincoln Center, next to Bar Bolud. As you would expect, food, wine and service were impeccable. It was warm enough to dine alfresco, which was a bonus. I had a glass of 2012 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay while Dorianne opted for tea. Jim Clendennon would have been half-happy.

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Dorianne making her selection at BoludSud – my Au Bon Climat in the foreground.

Sunday dinner, after our second stop at Roof Bar (which by the way, does not even have nibbles, which is unfortunate), we opted for the John Dory Oyster Bar at 29th and 6th Avenue. This is a beautiful restaurant with a very limited menu – shellfish based, as you might imagine. It is also the first restaurant that I have ever been to where I did not recognize a single wine on the wine list. The list is short, to be sure, but not a familiar winemaker in sight! There are four house wines that are “on tap.” The wine prices were, shall we say, sky high, so we opted for one of the on-taps and ordered a ½ carafe of Vinhos Verde (at $34). The wine was a fairly typical Vinhos Verde in my experience, young and raw – not very pleasing. It was ok with the oysters and clams that we ordered. This might be a good place to bring your own bottle.

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Where the Magic Happens at John Dory Oyster Bar.
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Waiting for our somewhat disappointing Vihno Verde at John Dory.

Oh, and we went to Eataly – which may require another post even though we did not drink any wine. So a quick trip into town, a bit hit or miss on the wine scene (we did not plan around the wine), some good food, and uniformly good service. I look forward to a more wine-centric visit to this great city in the future.