The SOMM Journal

August / September 2018

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Page 67 of 124

{ } 67 Defining the Wente Clone The term "Wente clone" is commonly used in discus- sions involving Chardonnay, as the primar y source of material for these clones was procured either direct - ly or indirectly from Wente Vineyards. While numer - ous clones are considered to have a Wente heritage, there are two designations between these families of clones: The source for much of the Chardonnay planted in the 1950s and 1960s, "Old Wente" Selections, aka clone 2A, refer to vines whose parentage is linked to some of the original selections made by second- generation growers Ernest and Herman Wente. They're often characterized by a "hens-and-chicks" morphol - ogy (irregular berry size leading to uneven ripening of a cluster) and low yields with intense flavors. Single Wente Clones, aka clone 4, refer to vines cultivated through formal grape programs like the aforementioned UC Davis Foundation Plant Services (FPS). The heat-treated mother vines of these clones—including FPS 04, 17, and 72—have been selected for specific charac - teristics and can trace their lineage to Wente Vineyards. Expressions of Wente Chardonnay As the nation's "first family" of Chardon- nay, Wente Vineyards produces four distinct offerings—including the Nth De- gree Chardonnay, a small-lot expression from its heritage sites—and has recently released a fifth bottling in celebration of its 135th anniversary. The winery farms more than 3,000 acres of sustain - ably grown estate vines throughout the Livermore Valley and Arroyo Seco AVAs. According to Karl Wente, the Livermore estate contains alluvial, well-drained soils with lower nutrient content he feels can express more minerality. Arroyo Seco, meanwhile, has more nutrient-rich, grav - elly soils, yet its cooler climate encour- ages a fuller fruit profile. Wente Vineyards 2016 Morning Fog Chardonnay ($18) This Chardonnay from the Wente estate in Livermore is fermented and aged in 50-50 stainless steel and oak barrels. Fleshy yellow stone fruit and toasted cashews along with green apple and orange blossom complete the profile of this crowd-pleasing wine. Wente Vineyards 2016 Riva Ranch Chardonnay ($22) This single-vineyard bottling from the Riva Ranch estate vineyard in the Arroyo Seco AVA is fermented in 90% oak and 10% stainless steel before it's barrel-aged sur lie for eight months. Tropical aromas of dried pineapple and a touch of cardamom roll across the palate, where they're heightened by the wine's juicy acidity. Wente Vineyards 2017 Small Lot Eric's Chardonnay ($30) Hand-harvested from select blocks, this wine is fermented and aged sur lie in stainless steel barrels for four months before bottling. Vibrant, tingling aromas of fresh green apple, lemongrass, and chalk yield a wine with tantalizing verve and texture. Dominant flavors include Meyer lemon and pear with palpable minerality. Wente Vineyards 2016 135th Anniversary Celebratory Chardonnay ($40) This limited-release bottling features a blend of Chardonnay grapes from the family's estate vine - yards in both Livermore Valley and Arroyo Seco in Monterey. The vintage label pays homage to the country's very first varietally labelled Chardonnay, produced by the Wente Brothers in 1936. Aromas of yellow pear and elderflower mingle with just a whisper of oak. Fleshy tropical fruit, green apple, and sweet corn flavors balance the lingering crisp and flinty minerality, imploring another sip. Wente Vineyards 2016 Nth Degree Chardonnay ($70) Hand-harvested from select heritage blocks in the Wente Livermore Vineyard, this wine is barrel-fermented and aged in a combination of new and neutral French oak for 14 months. Only 21 barrels are produced. Crusty French bread and lemon curd transport the senses to a Parisian bakery as the voluptuous mouthfeel conjures yellow nectarine, macadamia nut, and papaya. A beet salad with nectarines, frisée, and microgreens on a bed of herbed goat cheese prepared by Mike Ward, Executive Chef for The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards.

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