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Wente Eric's Chardonnay 2016
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Wente Vineyards is the country’s oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery, founded in 1883. Today, the winery maintains its leadership role in California winegrowing under ownership and management by the fourth and fifth generations of the Wente family. Blending traditional and innovative winemaking practices, the winery draws from nearly 3,000 acres of certified sustainably farmed vineyards to create an outstanding portfolio of estate grown wines. Located just East of San Francisco in the historic Livermore Valley, Wente Vineyards is recognized as one of California’s premier wine country destinations featuring wine tasting, The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, summer concert performances, and a Greg Norman designed golf course.
Today, Fifth Generation Winemaker Karl D. Wente carries on the family winemaking tradition. The Estate Grown wines are named after the unique growing conditions of the vineyards in which they are sourced. The Single Vineyard wines are named for the specific blocks in the premier estate vineyards located in the Livermore Valley and Arroyo Seco, Monterey regions.
A warm sub-appellation of the greater San Francisco Bay AVA (American Viticultural Area), Livermore Valley mainly hides behind the shielding effects of the bay’s eastern hills. However, its west to east orientation makes it unique among northern California wine growing regions. When summer daytime heat rises from the Central Valley to its east, this pulls the cold, foggy, bay air inland. This cooler air permeates the coastal range and creeps into Livermore Valley's foothills. Late afternoon winds cool down summer nights, making this an ideal environment for the development of phenolic ripeness and concentration in its wine grapes.
Aside from the favorable climate, Livermore Valley's soils of gravel and rocks provide excellent drainage for vineyards.
The Livermore Valley is one of California's oldest wine regions and has played a crucial role in shaping California's wine industry. Its wine growing history dates back farther than most. Spanish missionaries planted the first wine grapes in the Livermore Valley as far back as the 1760s. Then in the mid 1800s, a man named Robert Livermore planted the area’s first commercial vineyards. Winemaker pioneer C. H. Wente arrived a few years later; today the Wente Chardonnay clone is the source of a majority of California Chardonnay. Furthermore, James Concannon and the Wetmore brothers recognized the virtues of the area’s Bordeaux-like gravel soils and dedicated themselves to making high quality wine from Bordeaux varieties. Today the area is also known for high quality Petite Sirah.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it is grown and how it is made. While practically every country in the wine producing world grows it, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. As far as cellar potential, white Burgundy rivals the world’s other age-worthy whites like Riesling or botrytized Semillon. California is Chardonnay’s second most important home, where both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines enjoy great popularity. Oregon, Australia and South America are also significant producers of Chardonnay.
In the Glass
When planted on cool sites, Chardonnay flavors tend towards grapefruit, lemon zest, green apple, celery leaf and wet flint, while warmer locations coax out richer, more tropical flavors of melon, peach and pineapple. Oak can add notes of vanilla, coconut and spice, while malolactic fermentation imparts a soft and creamy texture.
Chardonnay is as versatile at the table as it is in the vineyard. The crisp, clean, Chablis-like styles go well with flaky white fish with herbs, scallops, turkey breast and soft cheeses. Richer Chardonnays marry well with lobster, crab, salmon, roasted chicken and creamy sauces.
Since the 1990s, big, oaky, buttery Chardonnays from California have enjoyed explosive popularity. More recently, the pendulum has begun to swing in the opposite direction, towards a clean, crisp style that rarely utilizes new oak. In Burgundy, the subregion of Chablis, while typically employing the use of older oak barrels, produces a similar bright and acid-driven style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy its lighter style.