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Jim Clendenen, Santa Barbara Winemaking Pioneer, Dies at 68

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 work harvests in Australia before another trip to Burgundy in 1981. “I learned that everything else I’d learned had been a waste of time, and that my life was going to be not loosely but accurately based on a Burgundian model,” he said on “I’ll Drink to That.”

As the Santa Barbara wine region expanded through the 1980s, Au Bon Climat outgrew its early home. In 1989, Mr. Clendenen was invited by Bob Lindquist, the founder of Qupé winery, to join him in becoming a tenant at a big, new winemaking facility being built at the Bien Nacido vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley.

Mr. Clendenen wanted to accept the offer in order to increase Au Bon Climat’s production capacity, but Mr. Tolmach opposed the move. Their partnership ended, and Mr. Tolmach departed to start the Ojai Vineyard.

Beyond chardonnay and pinot noir, Mr. Clendenen grew other, lesser-known Burgundian grapes, like pinot gris, pinot blanc and aligoté. He loved Italian varieties like nebbiolo, teroldego and tocai friulano, which he grew and sold under the label Clendenin Family Vineyards. He also explored areas like the Anderson Valley of Mendocino County and Oregon, selling those wines under the label Ici/La-Bas, French for here and there.

Mr. Lindquist and Mr. Clendenen’s cooperative agreement to share production facilities endured until Mr. Clendenen’s death. The winery was no more than a giant utilitarian shed, nothing like the grand tourist attractions that populate Napa Valley. It was not open to visitors — there was a tasting room in the city of Santa Barbara for them — but it was a prize stop for members of the wine trade.

Mr. Clendenen was a superb cook, and when in residence at the winery he prepared lunch for the staff and whichever guests happened to arrive in time. When the meal was ready, work stopped and everybody took a seat among the barrels at long, indoor tables to eat and sample whichever bottles were open, whether a new vintage or a 20-year-old chardonnay.

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