The day that Jim\u00a0Clendenen, owner of\u00a0Au Bon\u00a0Climat, took full ownership of Vita Nova is one that\u00a0Doug\u00a0Margerum\u00a0admits may be steeped in hyperbole by now.\r\n\r\nVita Nova was the brand that the two men developed in 1986, along with\u00a0Qupe\u2019s Bob\u00a0Lindquist, who still shares winemaking space with\u00a0Clendenen\u00a0in the middle of the Bien\u00a0Nacido\u00a0Vineyard. The red-and-white wine portfolio was a hot seller through Margerum\u2019s Wine Cask retail shop and restaurant in downtown Santa Barbara, as well as under private-label\u00a0bottlings\u00a0for restaurants across the nation owned by\u00a0Emeril\u00a0Lagasse, Roy Yamaguchi and the Patina Group.\r\n\r\nWhen\u00a0Clendenen\u00a0decided to buy his partners out in 1998,\u00a0Margerum\u00a0wanted to continue making wine on his own. As\u00a0Clendenen\u00a0shook Margerum\u2019s hand to close the deal, the burly Au Bon\u00a0Climat\u00a0legend put on the extra squeeze, asking (or warning)\u00a0Margerum, \u201cYou\u2019re not going to make Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, right?\u201d\r\n\r\nWhether that scenario was true or not,\u00a0Margerum\u00a0obliged for more than a decade. He started\u00a0Margerum\u00a0Wine Company in 2001, and focused mainly on\u00a0Rh\u00f4ne\u00a0varietal wines. He earned accolades and commercial success for blends like M5 and single-vineyard expressions of Syrah.\r\n\r\nIn 2012,\u00a0Margerum\u00a0moved from a facility behind the former Curtis Winery on\u00a0Foxen\u00a0Canyon Road to warehouse space on Industrial Way in\u00a0Buellton, a short walk from the Santa\u00a0Ynez\u00a0River.\r\n\r\nHis second-story office window looked directly out to the west at the Sta. Rita Hills, the undulating, cooler-climate appellation that extends from\u00a0Buellton\u00a0to\u00a0Lompoc\u00a0and is world-renowned for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The\u00a0Burgundian\u00a0varieties began calling.\r\n\r\n\u201cThat was 17 or 18 years ago,\u201d says\u00a0Margerum\u00a0of the infamous\u00a0Clendenen\u00a0handshake. \u201cI figured it\u2019s okay now to make Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.\u201d\r\n\r\nTo do so,\u00a0Margerum\u00a0would launch a new brand. He decided to use his middle name, which he was christened with during his\u00a040th\u00a0birthday party years ago. (He didn't get one at birth.)\u00a0During that bash, Margerum\u2019s friends (including\u00a0Clendenen) offered up names like \u201cFir\u201d (as in "Douglas Fir") and \u201cOmicron" (in which his initials would be DOM).\r\n\r\nBut they all agreed when his blind 89-year-old grandmother, Ruth Barden, suggested keeping her own last name alive. And the old English word, which means \u201cone who lives near boar dens,\u201d works well for the new venture: it's a reminder of the wild pigs that roam the Sta. Rita Hills, so the minimal\u00a0Barden\u00a0labels feature a boar illustration.\r\n\r\nUsing fruit from the renowned Sanford & Benedict Vineyard (the Sta. Rita Hills\u2019 original planting in 1971); the adjacent La\u00a0Rinconada\u00a0and La\u00a0Encantada\u00a0properties; and Hilliard Bruce, John\u00a0Sebastiano, and\u00a0Zotovich\u00a0vineyards from the northern side of the appellation, Barden\u2019s full slate was released in September. The lineup includes a\u00a0Pinot Noir ($80, 93 points),\u00a0Syrah ($50, 92 points), Chardonnay\u00a0($48, 93 points), and a white blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc called\u00a0Fonte\u00a0($36, 92 points).\r\n\r\nIt\u2019s no surprise that\u00a0Margerum\u00a0could deftly handle the red wines, but he\u2019s most exuberant about the whites. The\u00a0Fonte, which means \u201cspring\u201d or \u201cfountain\u201d in French, is a nod to a rare blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and\u00a0Aligote\u00a0by Henri Gouges in\u00a0Nuits-St.-George.\r\n\r\n\u201cThat\u2019s one of my favorite wines,\u201d says\u00a0Margerum. \u201cIt\u2019s almost impossible to get.\u201d He admits that\u00a0Fonte\u00a0is also a tribute to\u00a0Clendenen, one of the few American winemakers to make a white\u00a0Burgundian\u00a0blend.\u00a0Au Bon Climat\u2019s\u00a0Hildegard\u00a0($35,\u00a092 points)\u00a0is a blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and\u00a0Aligote.\r\n\r\nChardonnay, though, is what has\u00a0Margerum\u00a0most\u00a0googly-eyed. Upon its release, he penned an explanatory \u201cPrologue to Chardonnay\u201d in which he laments leaving the grape so long ago and reports on the serendipitous finding of a \u201cDear Chardonnay\u201d letter\u00a0that he penned in August 2001. \u201cI know the counselor said we shouldn't contact each other during our \u2018cooling off\u2019 period, but I couldn't wait anymore,\u201d wrote\u00a0Margerum\u00a0back then. \u201cThe day you became $40 a bottle, I swore I'd never drink you again. But that was just the wounded little boy in me talking.\u201d\r\n\r\nNow apparently grown up,\u00a0Margerum\u00a0is making wine that was clearly worth the wait.\r\n\r\n\u201cI was afraid of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay because the standards are so high, especially for the wines I like,\u201d says\u00a0Margerum. \u201cSo I entered with trepidation. But I knew what I wanted to make, and it\u2019s met that goal.\u201d\r\n\r\nAs for his former Vita Nova partners\u00a0Clendenen\u00a0and\u00a0Lindquist? \u201cWe\u2019re all still friends, which is amazing,\u201d says\u00a0Margerum.