Energetic Mondeuse Rosé - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Energetic Mondeuse Rosé

The mondeuse grapes used in Clendenen Family’s rosé are hand-harvested from Bien Nacido Vineyard. (Photo courtesy of the winery)

Mondeuse isn’t exactly taking over California hillsides, but back in 1997 Jim Clendenen and his team convinced the Miller Family, owners of Bien Nacido Vineyards, to plant four acres of the variety, and given its success, you’d think it should catch fire. Back then Clendenen’s interests and appetites were so voracious that his good friend Mel Knox didn’t even know what he was putting in the ground—and Knox was selling barrels to him at the time. “The thing that always amazed me about Jim,” he said in 2021, “is I could go to his house for dinner and he would pull out three amazing wines that he made twenty years ago, that I didn’t even know about. At one point he and Constellation must have been tied for the most SKUs in the wine industry.” He was only mildly exaggerating.

Au Bon Climat makes a red mondeuse in small amounts, but the variety is mostly used for rosé. It’s hard to imagine a better purpose. I tasted a couple hundred 2022 rosés and this one was by far the most sophisticated. Crisp, dry and mineral, it starts off savory, with scents of pine tips, beeswax and a bit of white-flower bitterness. Its flavors are flinty and energetic, the dry mineral tones giving off a thrilling astringency buoyed by firm, tense acidity. It’s all dust and vibrancy, electric in its texture, perfect with almost anything, but a bow-tie pasta with garlic, chicken, mushrooms and parmesan—what I had for dinner tonight—comes to mind.


Clendenen Family 2022 Santa Maria Valley Mondeuse Rosé

Every week, our editors highlight a wine that intrigued them in our blind panel tastings, expanding on their tasting note in this space. These are entirely editorial choices; there are no paid placements. Subscribers can also access the original tasting note by searching here.

Patrick J. Comiskey covers US wines for Wine & Spirits magazine, focusing on the Pacific Northwest, California’s Central Coast and New York’s Finger Lakes.

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