Tribute to a Wine Legend: Jim Clendenen (Au Bon Climat)

Posted on May 18, 2021

Santa Barbara Wine Country

Jim Clendenen, Allison & Bob Lindquist.

Earlier this week, the news that Au Bon Climat Winemaker Jim Clendenen had passed away sent shockwaves throughout the wine industry. His name is synonymous with wine from Santa Barbara county, but his legacy reaches well beyond the state of California. We had the good fortune of meeting him in late February of 2020—our last AdVINEture outside of Canada before COVID-19 closed the Canada/USA border. We had made several trips to Santa Barbara wine country prior to then but due to his extensive travel overseas, our schedules never managed to sync. Just over a year ago the stars aligned, and our patience was rewarded with a most memorable afternoon as guests of one of his infamous long table lunches. A lunch that happens daily at the winery for staff, with Jim at the kitchen helm when he was in town. We described him at the time as “Plain-speaking, intelligent, witty, iconoclastic and maybe a bit irreverent too, but unmistakably charming.” We hope you’ll enjoy revisiting our time with him this week as we honour a true pioneer:

Jim Clendenen

Jim Clendenen with winery dog Emmy.

As the tributes pour in from around the world, the stories of his generosity, humour, mentorship and talent, remind us that we got to see firsthand what an unpretentious legend really looks like.



    We were once lucky enough to stay at his home during a press trip. He was in France and had offered it to the Santa Barbara Vintners Association as a place for press to stay during a weekend event. His niece Marisa, was so generous in making us feel at home for our short stay.
    I remember a large stuffed bear (grizzly, or brown? I don’t remember) in his living room wearing a beret. That kind of sums up his personality, big, gregarious, but with a charming bit of class and humor.
    We attended one of the ABC open houses at the winery. I was amazed, there he was cooking and feeding people with such joy. No fancy catered event, this was like being at a cookout with friends.
    I have heard him speak on several occasions and he was such a great story teller. I sadly never had a chance to know him personally. Regardless, I feel the loss and can’t imagine the loss for so many who knew him better.

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    • Thank you for sharing that story…what an experience! Just like you we were surprised when we walked into the winery and the long table was set up and while we were being shown around, there he was over to the side cooking away. And oh the stories he told! Though we know from the many tributes pouring in that we are far from the only ones who experienced his warm hospitality, we feel no less special.

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