Courtesy of Liz Mitchell
Show & Tell Blog
Falling in love could not be easier!
Dining in the favorite Greg Norman’s Australian Grille in North Myrtle Beach, tasting in California wine country or shopping in any local grocery store, Wente wines are sure to catch a wine lover’s attention. The country’s oldest is at the top of the list for many wine tasters. It’s even better to taste after researching the important legacy of these wines.
Wente is the oldest continuously operated family-owned winery and today is led by the fourth and fifth generations of Wentes. The legendary California grower is 125 years old, and the 3000-acres in the Livermore Valley east of San Francisco include three Estate vineyards with a destination for fine dining, live entertainment and championship golf as well as wine tasting.
The family began planting, growing and fruit in their Estate vineyard in 1883. Their innovation in winemaking in the 1930s included the first varietally labeled Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Chardonnay. Karl L. Wente, the third-generation winemaker, began the fusion of old and new in the 1960s with the introduction of stainless steel fermentation.
The grandson of the founder and grandfather of the present winemaker Karl D. Wente is called a pioneer of Monterrey County’s Arroyo Seco district. This is a sub-appellation within the Monterrey AVA boasting excellent quality of river water and rocky soil for good drainage. The Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Merlot varieties are planted to thrive in the cooler region with an extended growing season.
The fourth-generation winemaker Phil Wente described the sloping hillsides, ancient riverbeds and valley floor of the Livermore Valley with numerous microclimates which support the production of Chardonnay as well as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The small lot micro winery is where Karl D. Wente personally oversees every step as he vinifies small quantities of grapes with gentle pressing and experimentation including traditional processes of wild yeast fermentation and weekly stirring of the barrels. The fifth-generation winemaker offers these limited handcrafted artisanal products to club members.
He holds a degree in chemical engineering from Stanford and two masters degrees from UC Davis plus training at the Peter Michael Winery in Sonoma and at the Brown Brothers Winery in Australia. He credits the success of all of the wines to the product of the vineyard.
The Nth Degree wines also are handcrafted and limited production wines which Karl D. Wente has chosen to represent both appellations. These include Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir and are bottled with only the best. These are available in the tasting room but only sold to club members and a few select restaurants.
Wente’s Heritage Block wines are named for the vineyard block where grown. The Vineyard Selection wines are named for the growing conditions of their source vineyards and include a Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Riesling, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Prices vary widely, ranging from $11.95 for the 2008 Riverbank Riesling or $12.95 for the popular 2008 Morning Fog Chardonnay to a three-liter 2006 Charles Wetmore Cabernet Sauvignon for $119.95.
The restaurant boasts dozens of awards including Wine Spectator’s Best Award of Excellence every year since it opened in 1986. The spring features include fresh seasonal herbs and vegetables from its own garden with value meals for lunch and daily dinner entrees such as duck breast, Alaskan halibut, beef filet or angus burger. Featured wines daily may be the Small Lot Pinot Blanc or the Small Lot Grenache, ranging from $46 to $56 per bottle.
The Course at Wente Vineyards, designed by Greg Norman ten years ago, currently is ranked in California’s Top 20 by GolfWeek magazine. It recently has been recognized for its environmental practices and wildlife habitat protection. Summer concerts this year at the vineyard promised such greats as Liza Minnelli, Harry Connick, Jr. or Willie Nelson.
Whether joining the wine club or the golf club for the inside values or tasting their fine wines from afar, Wente offers a few samples of the best life can offer.