Wente Vineyards is a highly successful, family-owned and operated winery founded over 130 years ago in Livermore, California. It is managed today by the fourth and fifth generations of the Wente family and produces premium wines sourced from nearly 3,000 acres of estate vineyards in the Livermore Valley (located within the larger San Francisco Bay appellation), and Arroyo Seco (located in Monterey County) winegrowing regions. Wente is perhaps most renowned for having brought cuttings from Montpelier to California in the 19th century, including the Wente clone of Chardonnay, the most widely planted in California today. All Wente wines are made from estate grown fruit.
The three Chardonnays reviewed here are produced under the direction of winemaker Karl Wente. They are sourced from Wente’s Livermore Valley vineyard and from its Riva Ranch Vineyard in Arroyo Seco. The Livermore Valley vineyard has numerous micro-climates and diverse soils and is well-suited for Chardonnay. The Morning Fog Chardonnay and the Nth Degree Chardonnay both benefit from valley floor parcels exposed to marine influences from San Francisco Bay. The Chardonnay Riva Ranch is from an even cooler growing area with well-drained rocky soils and longer hang time. The Nth Degree Chardonnay is handcrafted and sourced from the best small lots and individual vines and is fermented separately in a special micro-winery.
Wente wines are widely distributed in the US and around the world. Information on where they can be purchased is provided at www.wentevineyards.com
Wente 2012 Morning Fog Chardonnay Livermore Valley, San Francisco Bay ($15) 89 The Morning Fog Chardonnay offers aromas of orchard fruit and lemon curd. It’s 50% barrel fermented in neutral oak and 50% in stainless steel and is fresh tasting on the palate with crisp acidity and a fine finish.
Wente 2013 Chardonnay Riva Ranch Arroyo Seco ($22) 90 The Chardonnay Riva Ranch from Wente’s Arroyo Seco vineyard is medium yellow gold in color and displays a warm, waxy hazelnut and golden tropical fruit nose. Aged for 8 months in oak, it has lovely mouth feel, full and rich in lanolin, good flavor and toasted oak. Refined and rich tasting.
Wente 2011 The Nth Degree Livermore Valley, San Francisco Bay ($60) 90+ The Nth Degree Chardonnay is sourced from special blocks of the Karl Wente and Herman Wente vineyard. It offers aromas of orchard fruit, light vanilla cream, and a hint of orange. Barrel fermented for 11 months and aged sur lie with weekly battonage, the wine reveals fresh fruit flavors, hints of smoke and good mouth feel. It also displays excellent balance, focus and persistence on the finish.
Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler