The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2012

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Page 70 of 124

Wente Vineyards Takes Front and Center with THERE ARE ADVANTAGES TO 129 YEARS OF PRESCIENT WINEMAKING by Randy Caparoso W ente Vineyards makes kick-butt wines. That statement may not exactly square with the winery's current marketing positions—celebrating the fact that Wente is family-owned, representing five gen- erations and is laudably certified sustainable—but still, let's not lose sight of what really matters to today's restaurant, hotel and retail wine buyers: The fact that this venerated the 1880s. Carl H.'s sons, Ernest and Herman (the original "Wente Brothers"), imported additional clonal material from Montpellier in 1912, and continued the long, painstaking process of cultivation and field selection through Prohibition and the Second World War. The work continued into the '50s and '60s, when latter-day pioneers such as Louis Martini, Fred and Eleanor McCrea of Stony Hill, James Zellerbach at Hanzell and Harold Olmo and Austin Goheen at U.C. Davis began to draw Chardonnay cultivars from those heritage plantings in Livermore Valley. First to Bottle Varietal Chardonnay Karl Wente tells us, "Ernest and Herman were bottling varietal Chardonnay, as well as Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, in the 1930s, decades before anyone in Napa Valley or Sonoma thought to do that. That's amazing. What's also amazing is what my grandfather, Karl L. Wente, started doing in 1962. He planted Chardonnay, as well as Pinot Noir and Riesling, further south, in Salinas Valley. He found a cooler-climate site with perfect conditions—the type of Innovation The second- and third-generations Wentes: Karl, Ernest, Herman and his wife. brand is now producing contemporary style wines that are as good as, or better than, those of any California producer. So let's talk about that. First, it certainly helps to have had one continuous line of fully invested people named Wente managing every phase of vineyard, winery and marketing operations since 1883, when Carl H. Wente purchased his first 48 acres in Livermore Valley. Today much of that responsibility has fallen into the more than capable hands of Karl Wente, the family's Fifth-Generation Winegrower and Winemaker, who is Senior Vice-President. Twenty-First Century Karl Great wines start with great vineyards, and Karl Wente has been making the most of that since taking the reins in 2004, including the responsibility of managing approximately 3,000 acres of primo vineyard property. The Wente name, for instance, is given to the clonal selec- tions of Chardonnay accounting for a large amount of all the Chardonnay grown on the West Coast today. It was the first Carl Wente who planted budwood obtained from Meursault in France through pioneer winegrower Charles Wetmore in 70 / the tasting panel / march 2012 Fifth-Generation Winegrower Karl Wente. extremely rocky, well drained, yet rich, loamy soil that wine grapes love—where he thought he could produce a wine with the higher acidity and pure fruit character closer to true Chablis from France." Karl L. Wente's historic plantings are located within what is now identified as Monterey's Arroyo Seco AVA (along the southeastern flanks of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA). Although the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grown in Arroyo PHOTO: RANDY CAPAROSO

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