The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2015

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1 10  /  the tasting panel  /  july 2015 APPELLATION EXPLORATION Next up, a Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Merlot blend, 2012 The Spur. "Petit Verdot is a solid beam that holds this blend together," stated Wente, with blue floral notes, cassis, red cherry and black olive giving way to juicy, dark fruit redolent of coffee and earth. The Heritage Block Round Three: Answer: In 1912, he was the first producer to plant Chardonnay vines sourced from Montpellier, France in the Livermore Valley. Question: Who is Ernest Wente? As we walk through the vineyards, Karl explains that the Wente vines have parented as much as 70 percent of the nation's best-selling white wine varietal. In 1960, there were a mere 230 acres of Chardonnay planted in California. Today, there are nearly 100,000 acres planted throughout the state. But, the original clonal material nurtured at Wente's Livermore Valley estate isn't resting on its laurels; it's being further refined in the Heritage Block research vineyard that sits just steps from Philip Wente's front door. That proximity defines the relationship between the First Family of Chardonnay and the original cuttings selected from the Gier vineyard in Pleasanton, and those from Montpellier that together form the Wente clone. Planted on its own rootstock, the ten-acre vineyard was selected by Philip and Karl Wente to isolate specific aromas and flavors, including green apple and stone fruit. Wente describes winegrowing as "flavor farming" and, standing on a rise overlooking the Livermore Valley while tasting his 2003 The Nth Degree Chardonnay, a library wine with toasty caramelized pineapple and baked apple and a silky, lifted finish, it's easy to see why. Origins of Chardonnay After a short ride from the vineyard to Wente's barrel room, our somms joined CIA instructor Bob Bath, MS for a fascinating review of the clones and styles of Chardonnay. Bath refers to Chardonnay as "a decathlon athlete who's good at a lot of different things." He noted that the leaves of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are virtually identical due to a Inspired by Wente's seven-variety The Whip, Anani Lawson, Sommelier at Yountville's Bardessono, evaluates one of his own blends. Our intrepid Bay Area and Wine Country buyers put on their appel- lation exploration hats for a day in Livermore Valley. Left to right Nick Liang, Wine Buyer, Uncle Yu's; Jorge Tinoco, Sommelier, The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards; Les Tso, Owner, Le Cheval; Amy Hoopes, Chief Marketing Officer, Wente Family Estates; LeeAnn Kaufman, The Winemakers Studio at Wente Vineyards; Edgar Zavala, Sommelier, Palio d'Asti; D. Davis, Sommelier, Todo un Poco; Charlotte Randolph, Beverage Director, Californios SF; Karl Wente, Fifth- Generation Winemaker; Marie Mertz, Wine Buyer/owner, Todo un Poco; Mark Cartland, Sommelier, The Slanted Door; Daniel McCullough, Sommelier, Oenotri; Rob Sorenson, Senior Viticulturist, Wente Family Estates; Anani Lawson, Wine Director, Bardessono; Dustin Toshiyuki, Sommelier, Urchin Bistrot; Kevin Zollinger, EVP, Winegrowing Operations, Wente Family Estates.

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