Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Father Of Chardonnay

It's been awhile since I've posted anything. You can blame on the furthering of my wine education and the countless amounts of online wine tastings I've participated in for the past two months. But I'm back in full force and ready to begin this again on Father's Day...With a rather fatherly story...

Everything has a beginning. I recently struck gold when I did an online event for the winery responsible for the beginning of Chardonnay in this country, Wente Vineyards.  Founded 125 years ago, Wente Vineyards is located in Livermore, California--a town on the East Bay of San Francisco. In 1936, they were the first commercial California winery to produce wine labeled with the varietal name, Chardonnay. This Chardonnay came to be known as the "Wente Clone" and virtually every Chardonnay vine in the state of California has its origins from this clone.

Nowadays, the winemaking at Wente comes under the watchful eye and skilled expertise of Karl Wente, a fifth generation winemaker. Karl is an up and coming force to be reckoned with. As a veteran of many online events with Karl, I've come to find out that his wines are pretty special. Karl keeps us on our toes. He is a master of blending and we never quite know what he's going to do next. He makes enjoyable wines at every price point and knows how to please his audience of wine consumers.

In conjunction with Global Chardonnay Day 2012, I began my week with a plethora of Karl's Chardonnays. Each one completely different in style and price point. But each one as enjoyable and memorable as the next.

The first of the four was 2011 Eric's Small Lot Chardonnay. This is Karl's unoaked Chardonnay project and it is just lovely. I agree that there is a niche for unnoaked Chardonnay. As consumers, we like options and when the market is flooded with boring, big oaky Chardonnays, the unoaked version is very welcome and a breath of fresh air. This one, unfortunately, was not produced in large quantities so I believe the only way to get some would be to visit the winery. As of today, it is not available for purchase on the website but may be in the future. As for taste, this wine bursts with green apple, pear and citrus flavors with a crisp, mineral finish. Perfect for a hot Summer day!

The 2010 Morning Fog Chardonnay is a winery bargain. I call this the Chardonnay for those who want a little oak but also enjoy a crisp, fruit-driven wine. And the $12 price point and wide availability make this wine a must for everyday enjoyment. (Plus this has to be the best under $15, widely distributed Chardonnay on the market today!) 50% of this wine was barrel fermented and aged sur lie for 7 months. The other half was stainless steel fermented. This allows for rich, fruity taste with crisp acidity. It's very well balanced.

The 2010 Riva Ranch Chardonnay is a tropical dream come true! Buttery, with pineapple, vanilla and caramel flavors, this too is a huge bargain for around $17! I had my first experience with this wine years ago at a small little seafood restaurant in Newport Beach. The server brought it to me in a plastic glass. I remember thinking to myself, "Wow! I wonder what this wine would taste like in a real glass!" It was that good! The grapes for this one are sourced from their Arroyo Seco Vineyard near Monterey. Central Coast Chardonnays are full-flavored and tropical without being cloying. In other words, you won't stop at one glass!

OK, so I've waited a very long time to finally try this one. The 2009 Nth Degree Chardonnay. The Nth Degree tier of wines is something usually reserved for wine club members, with a small percentage of the vintage distributed nationwide. This $50 Chardonnay is elegance and finesse in a bottle. Balanced, full-bodied and barrel aged in a combination of several types of oak, it has a lush mouthfeel with intense tropical flavors and spice. It's just a gorgeous wine.

I want to thank Karl Wente and Charles Comm for providing me with these fine wine samples to kick off my week of Chardonnay exploration. The event was magnificent! If you would like to see the tutorial and event footage, here is the link:

You may access the wines of Wente Vineyards on their website at If you are interested in visiting them, they have a gorgeous winery located at 5050 Arroyo Road in Livermore, California. I hope to visiting them some day soon!

"You Saw It Here First"...This post was created solely for "Cellarmistress' Cellar Talk" by Grace Hoffman.
Grace is an Italian-born, American-bred wine blogger/educator with an all-consuming passion for wine and all it encompasses.