On a winter evening in February, members of the Cincinnati Bailliage were able to let a little California sunshine into their lives by having a virtual wine and food event with legendary wine maker Jim Clendenen. The event was organized and facilitated by Echanson Provincial Mary Horn.
Jim was born in what he describes as gastronomically deprived surroundings in Akron, Ohio (far from Cincinnati – its more enlightened neighbor at the other end of the state) in the 1950’s but made his way out to Santa Barbara where he graduated with High Honors in Pre-law in 1978. A one month stay in Burgundy and Champagne after graduation exposed him to wine making at its finest and changed his life (and many others I might add) forever.
Beginning in 1978, he served as assistant wine maker at California’s Zaca Mesa Winery and in 1981, he participated in harvests in France and Australia which convinced him to make wine his life. In 1982 he cofounded Au Bon Climat Winery (which means a “well exposed vineyard”) in Santa Barbara, California. His partner left in 1990 which left Jim at the helm of the winery where he has remained ever since.
Mr. Clendenen’s awards are too numerous to name but include Robert Parker’s 1989 and 1990 list of “Best Wineries in the World”, Food and Wine Magazine’s “Winemaker of the Year” in 2001, and his induction into the James Beard Foundation’s “Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America.” Words that have been used to describe him include articulate, well-traveled, and having a biting humor. Echanson Provincial Horn introduced our revered speaker and he spent the next 90 minutes captivating our bailliage with his uncensored and unique historical perspective of his life in wine. In advance of the dinner, members ordered their fabulous meal which was prepared and delivered by Funky’s Catering. Included with the food delivery were 4 bottles of classic Burgundian style Au Bon Climat wine: 2019 Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc, 2018 Sanford and Benedict Chardonnay, 2018 Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County, and 2016 La Bauge Au-dessus Pinot Noir.
These wines were paired with appetizers, main courses and desserts meticulously constructed by Michael “Funky” Forgus and his staff. Some of the delicious offerings were Spring Beet and Goat Cheese Salad, Lobster or Mushroom Bisque, Lump Crab meat Crusted Grouper, Wild Mushroom and Asiago Stuffed Ravioli, and 45-day Aged Steak with Truffle Butter. The wines and food were dropped off at each member’s house a couple of hours ahead of the virtual event to allow time for preparation.
At the end of Mr. Clendenen’s discussion, members were invited to ask questions and many voiced their heartfelt thanks to Ms. Horn and Bailli George Elliott for an incredible evening. Although Covid-19 restrictions kept members from physically gathering, this amazing event allowed them to escape the winter pandemic doldrums for a couple of hours of camaraderie, incredible food, and outstanding wine.
Graig Smith, Vice Chargé de Presse