Other winemakers, friends and family joined Jim Clendenen to fete the owner of Au Bon Climat in front of more than 150 guests at the opening of the Fourth Annual Chardonnay Symposium Friday evening. The historic adobe at Bien Nacido Vineyards east of Santa Maria was the setting for the evening — and the weather was nearly perfect, with only a hint of a breeze and no fog.
Chardonnays, pinot noir and syrah filled glass after glass, and Chef Rick (Rick Manson) prepared his always scrumptious coconut shrimp and more delights for appetizers, as well as the entrees and dessert.
Starting with Chris Slaughter, executive director of the Santa Maria Valley Wine Country Association, several people stood to praise Clendenen's groundbreaking efforts to tirelessly promote Santa Barbara County, the Santa Maria Valley, Bien Nacido and other local vineyards and the grape varietals for which the region is best known: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Chris Hammell, vineyard manager of Bien Nacido, shared tales of Clendenen's passion for both the site's grapes, and for the people who work year after year to cultivate and harvest the fruit.
Hammell and young winemaker Gavin Chanin applauded Clendenen for mentoring them in vineyards and in the cellar. Chanin, only 18 when he first worked with Clendenen and Bob Lindquist at the winery they share, paid tribute to his mentor for everything from "teaching me to order sushi" to traveling to crafting sought-after wines.
Lindquist shared with the crowd the opt-repeated story of how he was fired from a gig for attending a Kinks concert but snapped up by then-managers at Zaca Mesa less than 48 hours later, thanks to the efforts of his friend Clendenen. Both men were in their early 20s at the time. It's clear they've been comrades ever since.
Others sharing heartfelt accolades included Frank Ostini, co-owner/winemaker of Hitching Post Wines and owner of the famed Hitching Post in Buellton; Lane Tanner, winemaker at Sierra Madre, and Chef Rick.