In California, he learned the basics at Zaca Mesa, a leading Santa Barbara winery in the 1970s. There he also met Mr. Tolmach, who would become his partner at Au Bon Climat.
Mr Clendenen left again in 1980 to harvest in Australia before traveling to Burgundy again in 1981. “I learned that everything else I had learned was a waste of time and that my life was not going to be easy, but exactly based on the Burgundian model,” he said to “I’ll drink to it. “
As the Santa Barbara wine region expanded in the 1980s, Au Bon Climat grew out of its early home. In 1989, Mr Clendenen was invited by Bob Lindquist, the founder of the Qupé winery, to join him as a tenant in a large new winemaking facility being built in the Bien Nacido vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley.
Mr Clendenen wanted to accept the offer to increase Au Bon Climat’s production capacity, but Mr Tolmach declined to move. Their partnership ended and Mr. Tolmach left to open the Ojai Vineyard.
In addition to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Mr. Clendenen grew other, lesser-known Burgundian grapes, such as Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Aligoté. He loved Italian varieties such as Nebbiolo, Teroldego and Tocai Friulano, which he grew and sold under the Clendenin Family Vineyards label. He also explored areas like the Anderson Valley in Mendocino County and Oregon and sold these wines under the label Ici / La-Bas, French for here and there.
The cooperation agreement between Mr. Lindquist and Mr. Clendenen for the division of the production facilities existed until Mr. Clendenen’s death. The winery was nothing more than a giant utility shed, nothing like the major tourist attractions that populate the Napa Valley. It wasn’t open to visitors – there was a tasting room in Santa Barbara City for them – but it was a price freeze for members of the wine trade.
Mr Clendenen was an excellent cook and while staying at the winery he prepared lunch for the staff and guests who got there just in time. When the meal was finished, the work stopped and everyone sat down at long tables inside between the barrels to eat and taste which bottles were open, whether a new vintage or a 20 year old Chardonnay.